SBA Microloan Program Raises Dough for Restauranteur; Dinners being Dished up at Claysville’s Main Street Café

ribbon-cutting ceremony

CLAYSVILLE, PA – For four years, baker Lori Polan created homemade, delectable desserts at Claysville’s Main Street Café. When the 56-year-old kneaded some dough to purchase the eatery, she turned to the Washington County Council on Economic Development (WCCED) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Within two months, Polan promoted herself from baker to owner. Her recipe for success: meals made from scratch, a business plan and an SBA microloan. Microloans are an SBA program providing very small loans, up to $50,000, through nonprofit intermediaries to business owners. Last year in Pittsburgh, approximately 41 entrepreneurs received more than $1.34 million in microloans for working capital or any business-related expense.

“This program is enabling Lori to live the American dream of small business ownership sharing her family’s favorite dishes and pies with patrons from the tri-state area,” said SBA Pittsburgh District Director Dr. Kelly Hunt. “The nice feature about microloans is once the process is initiated, financing can be obtained in as little as two months.”

“I never thought of owning a business until the former owner wanted to sell and I knew I could handle running the café which seats 45 comfortably,” Polan explained. “I cook family meals for 15, so I’m used to the challenge.”

Since taking over the café, her grandmother’s home-style favorite dinners, like liver and onions and lasagna, often draw 25 customers each night.

“All of the small business owners call and order takeout meals,” she proudly stated. “This is a labor of love. I have a local clergy group and card club that meets regularly and a couple recently got married in the front room of the cafe. They met here, got engaged her and decided to have their wedding here. I cooked and served the food and dessert for their reception.”

That slice of Main Street America, small-town cafes and ethnic restaurants producing a faithful following, is keeping Daniel Reitz, WCCED executive director, and his loan officers busy with funding requests.

“We are the largest financer of mom and pop and ethnic restaurants here and in West Virginia,” he added. “We’ve helped more than 18 bistros in the past five years and they’re mostly located in small towns.”

According to Reitz, Polan’s experience at the same business really helped her package move forward. “I always ask applicants if they can cook and cook for a lot of people,” he explained. “No matter the type of restaurant, potential borrowers need to have a working understanding of the business.”

Hunt added family eateries can have an advantage over the larger chain restaurants. “They offer those homemade, family recipes, special desserts and dressings you can’t get anywhere else.”

Those eateries, like Claysville’s Main Street Café, consistently earn five-star ratings on internet review sites. Reitz now is offering additional advertising support to his clients via free Facebook and website set up and maintenance training sessions.

“We kicked this program off in July, where a web designer works with our businesses to setup and show them how to update websites and Facebook pages,” Reitz added. “They use a user-friendly program for upkeep, including adding new items, specials and pictures, which are essential to increase sales. For instance, when I place a great food photo on the council webpage people actually will try that restaurant.”

According to Hunt, WCCED’s extraordinary customer service consistently places them as one of Pittsburgh’s top microlenders. “It’s easy to see why: they truly care about their clients and the many small towns in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.”

From her vantage point in an open kitchen, Polan has a birds-eye view of her customers as she whips up a pie or the meal specials. “Not only can I see who comes in, I take the time to personally greet and thank everyone,” she added. “We get a lot of travelers and recently a couple from Hawaii stopped in. They liked the food so much they came back again.”




Company Name: 
Claysville Main Street Cafe