From Servings One’s Country to Serving Homemade Diner Cuisine
At Lou's, customers are served a slice of American history alongside a homemade slice of their favorite pie.
In 1947, a Hanover institution was born and for more than 30 years, Lewis J. Bressett (Lou), a decorated U.S. Marine and World War II veteran, began each morning baking a variety of goods to sell throughout the day. It’s only fitting that a fellow Marine carries on the tradition 75 years later.
Building a successful business takes hard work and dedication – traits that are not in short supply among military members, veterans, and military spouses. Who knew that these top 5 chain restaurants founders, Ray Kroc with McDonalds, Colonel Sanders with KFC, S. Truett Cathy with Chick-fil-A, Glen Bell with Taco Bell, and Dave Thomas with Wendy’s were military veterans? This year National Veteran Small Business Week (NVSBW) will be celebrated from Oct. 31-Nov. 4th to recognize veteran business owners and military spouses marching toward #VetBiz success with the help of SBA programs and services. Locally, we are honoring our own NH veteran-owned business that demonstrate how veterans can utilize their military experience as a true recipe for success as entrepreneurs.
Jarett Berke, also a decorated combat veteran, purchased ‘Lou's Restaurant & Bakery’ on Main Street in Hanover in 2018. Berke grew up in New Rochelle, NY and has been around the restaurant business much of his life. For more than 30 years his father and uncles have owned and operated a treasured Mexican restaurant in the heart of Greenwich Village.
Although he had the opportunity to participate in the family restaurant, Berke had different ideas when he was a teenager. He was influenced by family members who fought in World War II and set his sights on a military career. In his senior year of high school, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and upon completion he was off to flight school as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. After completing his flight school training, Berke reported to Marine Heavy Helicopter (HMH) Squadron 464 in New River, NC where he piloted a mammoth Sikorsky CH-53E heavy-lift cargo helicopter while completing four combat deployments to Africa, Afghanistan, and throughout the Middle East.
After 11 years on active duty, he left military service and used the GI Bill to attend the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. While at Tuck, he began looking at strong businesses in New Hampshire or Vermont with retirement-age owners that were positioned to transition to new ownership. Berke said his family background in restaurants influenced him to consider that industry specifically. Shortly after he graduated, Berke and wife Cailin obtained an SBA 7(a) loan from Ledyard Bank to purchase ‘Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery.’ Berke utilized the loan to purchase equipment and inventory. As a second phase, Berke acquired the business real estate using an SBA 504 loan with the help of their lender and Granite State Development Corporation (GSDC).
Within a year and a half of taking over Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery, news of the pandemic started to emerge. With a loyal staff, Berke made a commitment to do everything he could to avoid layoffs. Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery had to temporarily close its dining room due to the emergency order. Luckily Berke was able to utilize the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to keep his staff on payroll with 16 weeks of forgivable funding. Berke explained, “The day the restaurant dining room was shut down, we quickly shifted to 100% takeout and delivery and never completely shut down. We began making "family-style" meals, the servers became delivery drivers, and we put up a tent and tables on the street and began outdoor dining when the weather warmed up. “
Also, during the pandemic, Berke and several other restaurateurs and local leaders joined forces to offer their own delivery service because at that time third party delivery companies were taking advantage and hurting businesses. Collectively the group shared responsibilities and managed the co-op for about a year before eventually closing it when business returned to normal and labor shortages made it difficult to staff.
“Ultimately, it was two years of pivoting and new business ventures. It was hard, but it paid off. To this day we still have most of the same staff, while remaining a stalwart for the community. We are continuing to grow and make improvements and have expanded the bakery into a new space next door,” said Berke.
In addition to operating Lou's, Berke also serves on the Hanover Planning Board, Master Planning Committee, and volunteers with several non-profits.
The sale to Berke marked the third time in Lou’s 75-year history that the restaurant changed hands. Today, several original black and white photos of the restaurant filled with patrons over the years adorn the walls and serve as a reminder of the decades of American history witnessed at Lou’s. Lou’s Restaurant has come full circle and Berke is optimistic and excited to continue using his 'can-do attitude' to ensure the landmark continues to serve patrons for years to come.
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About National Veterans Small Business Week (NVSBW)
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) celebrates, connects, and empowers service member (including National Guard and Reserve), veteran, and military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners – past, present, and future – during National Veterans Small Business Week (NVSBW). NVSBW 2022 will take place on October 31-November 4. This year, we will focus on celebrating the strength and resilience of the veteran and military small business community as they continue to march beyond the events of the pandemic and use what they’ve learned over the past few years to propel their businesses forward. Marching Toward #VetBiz Success
About the U.S. Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow, or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit sba.gov.