A Sip of Beauty: Bella Terra Vineyards

Jay and Joanna Bell are living the dream at Bella Terra Vineyards. The couple lives on 17 acres of beautiful land that they’ve transformed into a winery and weddings/events venue. Currently they are renovating the winery/tasting room and will have their grand opening on September 17, 2016. I was privileged enough to sit down with the Bells and talk to them about their experiences opening up their own business. As we started the conversation it was easy to see that the couple loves wine and honestly has a blast working every day on Bella Terra. My first question for the couple was about their motivation to be entrepreneurs and work for themselves. “The opportunity fell in our lap when we bought the property,” Joanna explains. Jay and Joanna bought their 17 acres with the idea that they wanted to capitalize on the amount of land they had. Jay has a strong background in horticulture so they knew that they wanted to do something with farming the land. As they were deciding what industry to go into they started noticing a strong demand for wine in the area and loved wine themselves. At first they were just going to have the vineyard as an added benefit to the wedding/event venue, but as they started to experiment with making their own wines they knew they had to open the winery. It was the perfect venture for them and it’s something they love doing. In regards to the wedding/event venue, currently it is an outdoor venue only, but will be expanding into a building in the next 2 years or so. The wedding/event venue was something they decided to launch because they realized that there was a shortage of places like this in the area. “The difference between getting married in a ballroom at a hotel and a barn is huge. We wanted to have something that was in between,” Joanna said.

I asked Jay and Joanna if they had faced any challenges in starting Bella Terra Vineyards. Jay smiled and started telling me about their contractor. “We had everything set up with our loan for building the wedding/event venue, redoing everything and had the contractor ready to go. Then he called us to tell us he was going out of business.” Jay said that they had to try to find a new contractor and started getting a flood of phone calls wanting the business. As they met with different contractors they started to hear a lot of new ideas about the building and different plans they could be implementing. Jay says that it turned out to be a great thing as they decided to hold off on the building for a few years and take those ideas into consideration. This way they will get a building they love right from the start. Joanna sums up the situation perfectly, “these were terrible things that made us pull out our hair… but they turned into this is what we should be doing. All of those challenges have led us to where we need to be. We don’t even see them as challenges anymore.”
As we continued our conversation I grew more and more curious about the wines themselves. All of these wines I will describe will be available to sample and purchase at their grand opening. Bella Terra has 3 dry wines for the 2015 year, the Reserve, Raspberry Cabernet, and Peridot. Their Reserve Cabernet is described as a smooth oak flavor with a peppery bite and a lingering black cherry finish. Make sure to swirl the Reserve to release all of the flavors. Their Raspberry Cabernet is a surprisingly dry fruity cab that has raspberry and blackberry flavors. Jay and Joanna say that the Raspberry Cabernet has been a surprise hit. The Peridot is a dry Riesling with zesty grapefruit and pear that is described as a mellow drink.
Bella Terra has one semi-sweet wine and 3 sweet wines for the 2015 year as well. The semi-sweet wine is called Riesling which has notes of honeydew and vanilla and is more of a classic Riesling. The sweet wines are Sunday Afternoon, Duvall, and Sweet Finley. Sunday Afternoon is sweet with notes of berry and peach and is known for its beautiful color. Duvall is slightly tart with hints of lemon and plum, and has medium notes of black cherry for balance. The last sweet wine is Sweet Finley and is their most popular wine to date. Sweet Finley has deep, rich flavors of Concord and the subtle, earthy notes of Niagara that gives a sassy and sweet all-around flavor.

Through all of this discussion I also became very curious as to how the Bells found Enterprise Bank. Jay describes that we were referred to him through the 504 Company, who they initially started working with on the loan. Jay gave the impression that the loan process was very quick and thorough. “The experience has been easy… they’re easy to get ahold of and easy to get stuff done.” Jay and Joanna have been working closely with their relationship manager, Jay Murgi, for any of their needs. Jay and Joanna have only nice things to say about Jay Murgi and their experience with him specifically. “We like him!”
My last question for the Bells was if they had any advice for those looking to start their business. “Make sure your business plan is completely bulletproof and looked at by many, many people.” Jay and Joanna strongly hit on the fact that you have to have people look at the business plan that will be completely honest with you. Constructive criticism will only help you. Their last piece of advice from Joanna was, “as cliché as it sounds, make sure you do something that you love.” A lot of hard, tiresome work goes into starting your own business so you have to make sure that you love what you’re doing. That’s what makes it all worth it.
After my discussion with Jay and Joanna Bell, I went off to have a discussion with their relationship manager Jay Murgi to talk about his experience with the Bells. The first thing I wanted to know was his first impression of the Bells. “It was positive. They were very motivated… they’re good people and hard workers, they go after what they want.” Jay Murgi speaks very highly of Jay and Joanna Bell, and after speaking with them myself it is all too obvious that he speaks honestly. The most important opinion that Jay Murgi can have is, of course, of the wine itself. I asked him of his first impression right after his first tasting so that his thoughts were fresh in his mind. “I was surprised, I thought it was very good and they had a wide selection.” Jay Murgi specifically brought up the uniqueness of the different wines available and that he was incredibly impressed with the variety. As we continued to discuss Bella Terra we started talking about how Jay helped them with their loan needs to get them where they are today. Jay Murgi echoes Jay and Joanna’s earlier discussion about how they had to change their business plan completely and that he helped them transition from the larger loan to the smaller one. “They had to change their plan and instead of giving up they just said we can make this work.” The overall experience so far has been very positive and it is obvious that Jay Murgi works well with the Bells. Jay said that he can’t wait to see how Bella Terra grows in the next few years and is excited for the event center to open up. You can tell that he has a lot of pride in his work with Bella Terra and genuinely cares for the business and the people behind it.
The grand opening is on September 17, 2016 from 11am-6pm. There will be food, drinks, and a beautiful day of fun. There will be an acoustic band playing from 1pm-4pm, and the event is completely open to the public. If you are interested in attending, or just would like more information about the winery, you can call Jay Bell at (724) 331-7210 or visit Bella Terra at http://www.bellaterravineyards.com.

Messin’ With That Hoodoo: Voodoo Brewery

When Matteo Rachocki was brewing beer with his brother, Curtis, in college they dreamed about starting their own brewery. They experimented with different ideas and recipes, loving the creativity that came with creating their own beer. Fast forward to 2010 when Curtis started working at Voodoo Brewery and found out that the business was struggling. Matteo describes, “One day when my brother had come to work there were several shutoff notices and the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County and the Meadville Redevelopment Authority had filed for repossession of the assets.” Noticing an opportunity, Curtis introduced Matteo to the owner of Voodoo and worked out an agreement to become a controlling investor in the company. His brother and a team of family and friends also became investors. Saving a brewery and turning it into an absolute success may never have been what Matteo dreamed, but he can certainly say that he loves the way everything turned out.
I asked Matteo to give me a brief description of Voodoo and what they sell. He responded, “We brew artisanal ales and lagers right here in Meadville, PA. Our beers are “higher gravity” and carry a larger ABV then most other craft brewed beers. Our process begins by selecting only the finest ingredients from all over the globe. We source ingredients from Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Canada, and the USA, to name a few. This includes everything from our grain, hops, and yeast, to orange peel, raspberries, cherries, chocolate, and bourbon barrels. No sacrifice is ever made in the quality of our beer to save time or money. We firmly believe the purest and best ingredients make the best beer. We operate on a steam-jacketed 10-barrel (310 gallon) copper brew house manufactured by the Pub Brewing Company. We currently have four 10-barrel fermenters, one 20-barrel fermenter, and six 10-barrel brite tanks. Additional holding capacity is achieved through the use of bourbon barrels that we age some beer in. We currently have 80+ barrels in use from multiple distilleries.” This is a far-cry from where the company was when Matteo became the owner in 2012. For those interested in learning more about the exact beers that Voodoo Brewery has to offer, I have listed out some of their more popular brews. Voodoo brewery is known for their beer, Cowbell, which is a double chocolate oatmeal stout on nitro. Voodoo also has very popular IPAs, such as their Hoodoo which has a citrusy taste with not as much of a bitter aftertaste. Voodoo makes a point of creating craft beers that have different tastes to them so that you’re always getting a unique experience. Most of their beers are somewhere between 7 and 9.5 percent alcohol content.

It is undeniable that Matteo is a strong businessman and has created something that he can be proud of. The advice that he has for those looking to start their own business is to build a strong team around you. He also makes a point to say that you have to reward/compensate them appropriately because “your business will only be as strong as those who make it up.” When Matteo was following his own great advice and setting up an ESOP for his team, he met ESOP advisors Ambrose Advisors. This connection was how he was connected to Enterprise Bank. Matteo has only kind words to say about his relationship manager and the relationship that they now share. “It was a breath of fresh air to work with a bank that truly takes a stance on “financial partner” the way Enterprise Bank does. We value this new and blossoming relationship and look forward to what is to come.” The last thing I wanted to know was how Matteo felt about the overall experience he had with Enterprise Bank. He replied, “Simply put, the best dealings I have ever had with a bank in my personal or professional life, EVER! I continue to recommend them highly to anyone who is looking for a true financial partner in their business.”
If you’d like to learn more about Voodoo you can visit them at http://www.voodoobrewery.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Voodoo-Brewery. If you’d like to purchase Voodoo beer you can purchase at any of their four locations (Meadville, Homestead, Conneaut Lake or Erie – coming this fall) as well as beer distributors, bottle shops, restaurants, and grocery stores in all of PA, as well as parts of NY, NJ and OH.
Interested in experiencing the grand opening of the new Erie location?  The grand opening of the new Brew Pub is Saturday, September 17th at 101 Boston store place at the corner of State and 8th Streets, Erie PA .  We hope to see you there!

Justin’s Last Day

Today is Justin’s last day with us as our summer intern and it’s a bittersweet moment. We’ve enjoyed having him here and it will be difficult to see him go. But we are so proud of him and can’t wait to see all that he accomplishes in his senior year of school. We only have amazing things to say about Justin and all that he has accomplished here with us. I wanted to speak with Justin one last time before he left to get his reflections on the summer months. “It was an amazing and unique experience,” he says. He told me that he couldn’t imagine getting the same kind of experience anywhere else.  While at Enterprise, Justin was able to work with each department to get a hands-on perspective of our operations.  “If I were at any other bank I would’ve been stuck in one department doing unimportant work, but at Enterprise I was able to work in every department and do real work that mattered.”  Justin was also able to see the concept of how the information flows through our bank and how each department works with each other to make things happen.  But, the greatest thing that Justin talked about was how much he loved the people here.  “They welcomed me with open arms and really helped me out.”  Justin describes our staff well and says that they took time out of their schedule to work with him and make him feel like they were there to support him.  “I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without them.”  Thank you Justin for choosing to intern with us, we will miss you, and we wish you all the best in the future.



Family Entertainment Center: The Lightning Bug

When you walk into The Lightning Bug you’re immediately greeted by the happy sound of arcade games. The Lightning Bug is filled to the brim with games of all different kinds that are sure to bring out your inner child. What is The Lightning Bug exactly? It’s a family entertainment center, opened February 20th of this year that is constantly adding new attractions and arcade games. Currently they have laser tag, bumper cars, black light glow golf as well as a large free playground. It is the perfect place for your child’s next birthday party or to stop by and have lunch or dinner any day of the week. As a matter of fact, they also have homemade food that is sure to make your mouth water. But what of the man who created The Lightning Bug from the ground up, Nick Morlino? He is a business man with a long history who decided to open up his own business so he could control his destiny. When asked what his motivation was to start his own business he says very plainly, “my motivation was to be my own boss.” Nick Morlino wanted to start a project of his own and be able to stay in one place for an extended period of time. Morlino’s work experience had him travelling constantly and he began to want to have the freedom to settle down. Morlino is proud to be running such a family-oriented business that brings people together. “I read the positive reviews on Facebook… and it makes me feel proud to be bringing a family entertainment center to Adams Township.” I asked Morlino if there was anything he would have done differently when starting up The Lightning Bug and he was very honest. “There are a few little things that I might have changed… But I surrounded myself with a team that was very knowledgeable and made sure to extensively research the FEC (Family Entertainment Center) industry.” As a business owner, there will always be little things you may want to change or wish you could’ve done differently. But as Morlino expressed, doing your research should prevent you from making any significant mistakes and is essential to ensure your vision becomes reality.
When Morlino started there was just an empty patch of land, which means that he was able to build completely from scratch. I asked about this process and learned some valuable lessons in what Morlino told me. “It was essential to explain the vision clearly to the zoning authority… once you get past that your focus shifts to financing and the selection of a general contractor.” He says that obtaining good value is important when selecting the general contractor but that it’s also incredibly important to have a good initial rapport with them and throughout the construction period. Morlino is very satisfied with the contractor he chose, Rossman Hensley Inc., which made the process easier overall. It seemed to me that Morlino’s journey was a difficult but rewarding one. The best advice he gave? “If you want the building to turn out the way you want, you have to be on site every day.” He stressed that being involved in every aspect of the process is the only way to stay informed of everything that’s happening with your project.
I wanted to ask Morlino about what his advice would be to those looking to start a business. He smiled and said, “Make sure you know about the business, make sure you know how to explain the financials, make sure you have a feasibility study… and then go talk to Randy (at Enterprise Bank) and see if he can help you out.” Morlino found Enterprise Bank through Eric Lamm, who is one of the partners that sold the plot of land to Morlino. Morlino says he found the experience of working with his relationship manager, Randy Davidson from Enterprise Bank, to be very good. Morlino describes Randy as, “Very helpful, very honest and supportive when I encountered some hurdles.”

I could tell what sort of man Nick Morlino was just by walking around The Lightning Bug and speaking with him about his experiences. He gave examples of working 10 hours a day doing whatever job is necessary at the time, even working in the kitchen. Morlino is dedicated, hard-working, and genuinely cares about his business and his customers. He’s already thinking two steps ahead for his business. He said that he will be adding outdoor attractions, including mini-golf, for the spring 2017 season and is also looking to expand the attractions inside. After my discussion with Morlino I walked around The Lightning Bug so that I could get a general feel of the place. The Lightning Bug is filled with games, attractions, food, and a big playground in the middle.
The first thing I noticed was the restaurant area, which Morlino has put a lot of thought into. “I make the pizzas fresh… we use 100% certified angus beef for the burgers and we’re getting great feedback.” The menu itself is extensive which makes this a great place to stop for lunch or dinner. In the pictures you will see a sampling of the games that The Lightning Bug offers as well as the prize wall where you can spend the tickets that you win. The ticketing system works a little bit different here than at other places. You’ll get a card when you come in which you will load with money and then go play the games, when you win and gain tickets they will be loaded onto the card. No more fumbling around with tokens and tickets as everything is stored on the card to make things simple and easy. The three main attractions that are inside include black light mini golf, bumper cars, and laser tag. The bumper cars and laser tag are exactly what you remember from when you were a kid, but the black light mini golf is quite unique. The entire course is filled with original artwork on the walls and statues of animals you can find in Pennsylvania. The course is beautifully designed and the black lights make everything pop. This place will bring out the kid in you and bring out the smiles on your children’s faces.

After my time at The Lightning Bug, I went to go find Randy Davidson to get his perspective on Nick Morlino and the experience of working with him. Randy’s initial impression of Morlino was that he was very organized, and came across as very intelligent with a high business acumen. Randy also said that the coffee at The Lightning Bug was phenomenal. Morlino’s wife had managed 3 or 4 Starbucks cafes in the past and Randy says that she has made sure that the coffee is exceptional. Randy describes the overall experience with Morlino as very positive, “he was well organized and very business smart, worked his vendors to get good pricing and he was on top of the project.” When asked how Randy feels being at The Lightning Bug knowing he helped Morlino with his dream, Randy takes a moment to collect his thoughts. “It’s always unique to see a growing and thriving business starting from ground up construction… to see what is accomplished and how well they’re received in the community.” You can tell that watching these businesses thrive is what Randy loves about his job.
The Lightning Bug is a wonderful place to bring your family for some quality time and fun! More information about The Lightning Bug can be found on their website at http://www.thelightningbugatmars.com and on their Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thelightningbugatmars. If you would like to contact them directly you can call them at (724) 900-2808.

Enterprise Bank Subsidiary Spotlight: EBC-Bookkeeping

When you think about Enterprise Bank, the first thing you will probably think of is the banking aspect; financing, accounts, loans, and all sorts of financial tasks. What you probably don’t know is that Enterprise Bank has many different subsidiaries that operate within the bank, but also outside of the bank. One such subsidiary is the Bookkeeping Subsidiary, which is part of Enterprise Business Consultants, run by our very own Michael Drop. I asked Michael to describe what they do, “In short, we provide timely and accurate financial information to small businesses so that they can make informed business decisions. The work can be done at our offices or at the client’s site, whichever they prefer. We enforce the Relationship Manager Concept by providing clients of the bank who use our services with financial information that they can discuss with their RM, which enhances the RM’s role as a trusted advisor. But what really sets us apart from other bookkeeping firms is our ability to utilize different software programs and integrations to help clients gain information more efficiently, accurately, and at lower cost, which in turn adds value to their business.” Clients can access our bookkeeping subsidiary whether they are a client of the bank or not, which makes this a truly unique concept.


To learn more about the bookkeeping subsidiary you have to learn more about the people that work there. The man who makes it happen is Michael Drop. Michael has his undergraduate degree in accounting from IUP and just recently finished his Masters of Accounting at Chatham University. Michael developed his love of helping small businesses during an internship at a small firm he says, “After working with the firm’s clients I realized I enjoyed helping small businesses and knew that’s where I wanted to go with my accounting career.” Michael has been with the subsidiary for almost 2 and a half years. Over that time he’s gotten to do accounting work for clients in a vast array of industries and recently expanded his abilities into business development and client prospecting. Michael doesn’t operate the ship alone, though, he has a strong team that works with him. When asked about his team he said, “There are 4 people that work for the bookkeeping sub, including myself. We have Linda Hall, who has been working for the company for almost 8 years and has over 30 years of accounting experience in various roles for different companies. Our newest addition, Ryan Sweeney, is a recent graduate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He’s been working hard for the past couple months and is eager to take on new clients! Last, but not least we have Debbie Kirk, who works out of the Kuzneski & Lockard office in Indiana. Debbie is a valuable asset to our firm as she has over 20 years of accounting experience.” Kuzneski & Lockard is a real estate subsidiary of the bank that operates out of Indiana, Pennsylvania. I asked Michael if he could tell me a bit about some of his newer clients that he’s been working with. Currently he’s doing some part-time controller work for a non-profit school that teaches infants to 6th grade. While the school has a full-time bookkeeper, sometimes a person in that position may not necessarily have the accounting knowledge needed to prepare accrual based financial statements. Michael also assists the school in a number of smaller projects when they need his help. I asked Michael what he’d like for potential clients to know about the bookkeeping sub. He responded honestly, “I want people to know about the value that we can add to their businesses. I’d like to not be ruled out as a good fit for a potential client since our service packages are fully customizable we can be a good fit for almost any client’s unique situation. The only way to find out if we’re a good fit is to schedule a FREE consultation, call (412)753-8956 if you know someone who would benefit from our services, and if you’re not sure if they will benefit don’t hesitate to call me and we can discuss what we can do to help them!” To learn more about Enterprise Bank please visit us at www.enterprisebankpgh.com or give us a call at (412)487-6048.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name: The Oak Arbor Grille

On Saturday July 23rd, the Oak Arbor Grille in Bridgewater, PA was celebrating a big achievement. It was their grand opening, and I was lucky enough to have a front seat – literally. I arrived at 5:30 and was seated immediately in the large dining room in full view of the bar. The well-stocked bar had all of the classic drink options that you could want while not becoming overwhelming. The restaurant was casual and inviting with an industrial décor. There were seats at the bar as well as booths and regular tables, which were inside and outside on the beautiful patio. While the grand opening was going on there was also a high school reunion happening in their private room, so it was quite a busy night. Even though they were busy the restaurant didn’t feel crowded or uncomfortable, it was a very relaxing atmosphere. Our waitress came over quickly and was incredibly kind, a consistent smile on her face. As we waited for our drinks I started to notice a theme that I would continue to be aware of all evening; everyone knew each other. There were very few groups of two, most of the groups there were bigger and were socializing with other groups. I also began noticing that whenever someone would walk in they would always be waving to someone they knew and someone would come up and grab them. It seems as though this is a neighborhood hangout where truly “everyone knows your name.” At 6:00 the band, the Vince Anthony Trio, began to play and they were scheduled to play until about 9:00. The band played jazz outside on the patio on the warm summer evening. Once my meal arrived, a burger that was cooked exactly as I asked with a side of fries, I was very pleased. While I was eating I was checked on by my waitress more than once and also checked on by a different waiter. It was obvious that making sure their customers are comfortable is a high priority for the wait staff. As the night continued I found myself looking through the three huge windows that showed the view overlooking the Beaver River. Since it was such a wonderful evening there were boats on the river and the view was spectacular. The evening seemed like a good night for the Oak Arbor Grille.

I am lucky enough to have had the chance to speak with one of the owners, Bill Sluder, about his experience starting Oak Arbor Grille and his thoughts on the opening. Bill, and his partner Luke Boehm, have been neighbors for almost 30 years. As Bill describes it, “One day we sat down and decided to go into this venture together over a glass of wine.” When Bill was younger he actually bartended at the Oak Arbor Grille before he and Luke bought and renamed it. Before he started the Oak Arbor Grille, he was managing restaurants and bartending for many years. When I asked Bill what his motivation was to open this restaurant he said, “I’ve always been in food service and this was an opportunity I just couldn’t say no to. I see the potential in this place and this business.” His goal for the Grand Opening was to get all of the remodeling done, and while they didn’t get it all done, Bill couldn’t be prouder of the splash they’ve made. “The grand opening was amazing… it was the busiest we’ve ever been. We had no issues even though it was our first night with live entertainment and we had our first event in the banquet room. It was the perfect grand opening.” I wanted to see what Bill’s goal was for the Oak Arbor Grille and he knew exactly what to tell me. “I want it to be a destination restaurant.” There’s a revitalization of the area coming with the cracker plant that is moving in soon right down the street. Bridgewater is going to be turning around and Bill wants the Oak Arbor Grille to be a big part of that. Luke and Bill have done some great renovations to the restaurant to make it feel better. They’ve painted the entire interior as well as placed new hardwood in the dining room. They increased the seating on the patio as well as built on the aesthetics of the place and made it less cluttered than it used to be.
I spoke with Bill about his experience with Enterprise Bank and his relationship manager, Joe Novitski. “Joe’s been great. This is the first time buying a business of this kind and he was there to help every step of the way.” Bill prides himself on being straight forward and honest, and he can honestly say that he highly recommends Enterprise Bank and Joe Novitski. My last question for Bill was what his advice was to those looking to start a restaurant. “Don’t!” he laughed, “Owning a restaurant is more of a lifestyle than a job.” Bill explained that this not a normal 9-5 job, and it is a major step to take in your life. If you aren’t willing to commit to being there whenever you are needed, it’s not something you should pursue. “It’s not something to be taken lightly.” On that note, I could tell that Bill cares deeply about this place and has a strong connection to it. He cares about the attitudes of his staff and the attitudes of the customers that come there.
After I spoke with Bill Sluder I went to go find his relationship manager, Joe Novitski, to ask him a few questions about working with Luke and Bill. I asked Joe what his first impression of Luke and Bill was and Joe smiled at the question. “They had a sense of community, they wanted to open this restaurant because they liked where they lived.” I got the impression that Joe knew that Luke and Bill were genuine right off the bat. Joe also told me that Luke frequented the restaurant often before he owned it and came to Joe with a plan to turn this into a successful business. Luke and Bill bought the restaurant on June 10th, 2016 and have been able to turn the place around fast enough to have a successful grand opening! Of course, I had to ask Joe the most important question, how is the food? “It’s very good. You get good sized portions… it tastes very good.” Joe got connected to Luke and Bill through the mortgage broker Tom Kuban, with Ace One Mortgage. Luke and Bill were working with Tom to create a package to purchase the building and the restaurant. Tom and Joe had done work together for a long time and Tom knew that Joe was the right choice for the project. Joe helped Luke and Bill finance the buying of the property and the renovations. While the process was long, 6 months, Joe thinks of his time working with Luke and Bill as very positive. “It was great working with both Luke and Bill, they’re very easy to work with and get along with. They’re very passionate about the restaurant and they want to see it succeed.” Being able to go to the Oak Arbor Grille and see the initial success of the restaurant makes Joe feel very proud. “It’s the best part of being a lender… when you help people realize their dreams.” Talking to Joe you can see that working with people is something he loves doing and he genuinely cares about his clients.
If you’d like to find out more about The Oak Arbor Grille you can visit them at http://www.facebook.com/OakArborGrille or call at (724) 774-0400.

Family Business In Full Swing: Birdsfoot Golf Course

Walking into Travis Lindsay’s office, I see a room full of family photographs. I felt like I was at home surrounded by family as soon as I walked into the clubhouse. Family is the foundation of Birdsfoot Golf Course and it is obvious when you speak with Travis. The land (which is over 180 acres) was originally Travis Lindsay’s grandmother’s and was where the family would gather. Travis comes from a large family of 8 uncles and aunts, 7 of which lived within a mile of each other while Travis was growing up. This connection to family is ultimately where the motivation came from to start Birdsfoot. First things first, what is a Birdsfoot? The birdsfoot trefoil, which you will find throughout the course, is a lush, green ground cover with small yellow flowers. “The golf course is located on a part of Buffalo Creek Farms, which was owned by the late Alexander H. Lindsay and his wife Betty G. Lindsay. Alexander H. Lindsay was a practicing attorney and was active in a number of civic causes, including the promotion of the Allegheny Valley Expressway. He was also a farmer and was fascinated with agronomy. When it came to raising hay, his favorite was birdsfoot trefoil, not only because it produced green, high quality hay, but also because it was a perennial performer, that would return year after year, often having a life far beyond the two or three year span of other forage crops, such as clover and alfalfa.”

The Lindsay family wanted to build something together on this piece of land and that is where Birdsfoot came from. Travis’s family owns the course and Travis runs the day to day operations, which he says is a great experience. He says, “Overwhelmingly it’s better (to run the business with family) because there’s closeness there.” Travis spoke about their open communication, commitment, and desire to work together as a family. The desire to succeed and make things work well is shared amongst the family members and drives Birdsfoot to success.

When asked if Travis would’ve done anything differently, he immediately says no. He says, “You can look back and think maybe I would’ve done this differently… but I don’t try to look backwards… I try to think of where we are today and what the next steps are.” You can hear the pride in his voice when he speaks about his experience starting Birdsfoot and the lessons that he’s learned. Travis said that his biggest learning opportunity was when he visited other golf courses, and spoke with their owners, when he was just starting out. He spoke with those owners about their experiences and was able to learn from their mistakes. Travis also says that “time can be a blessing”. Originally, Birdsfoot was supposed to start out after only 6 months of development time. It ultimately took 3 years to put together, and Travis couldn’t be happier, “We were able to plan and make contingencies.”

I asked Travis what his advice would be to someone looking to start a business, his response was simple and elegant, “don’t try to swim upstream.” What he means by this is that you shouldn’t try to impose your idea of how you think things should be onto your customer. You should listen and find out what they’re looking for then roll with it. Sometimes you’ll begin with one idea and find out that you need to change things to meet the needs of your customer. Being able to “go with the flow” allows you to make these changes and meet the demand.

Travis and I then spoke about what it is like owning a golf course. Travis describes it as a very “happy and positive” experience. Customers come to play golf and have a good time, so generally everyone is in a good mood. Don’t let that get the best of you though, Travis says that “you can’t get too swept up in it because you have to always be looking a week in advance to make sure everything is on track.” When you love golf you can get swept up in the game, but you have to remember to run the business side of it and keep a level head.

Travis came to find Enterprise Bank through our Loan Development Officer, Dave Miller. Dave had been working at the Small Business Association and contacted Travis when he moved to Enterprise Bank. Travis decided to refinance through Enterprise, with the help of his relationship manager Randy Davidson, because we were real with him from the start. “Other banks will give you a lot of false hope… Enterprise was not that way, you could see that you were dealing with people that were part of the decision making process.” Travis describes his experience with Enterprise Bank in a very positive light saying that Enterprise was open-minded and really saw, and understood, what he was trying to do. Too many banks didn’t understand what he was trying to do and weren’t listening to him. “I didn’t think a bank like this existed.”

While working with Enterprise Bank Travis became close to his relationship manager, Randy Davidson. Randy speaks very highly of Travis, and the relationship that they share. “They’re a good, honest family. I had a good character read on Travis and his whole family when I met them.” Randy has golfed on the course many times and says that the design is absolutely beautiful. The course itself was designed by Brian Ault and Jim Cervone of Ault Clark and Associates. When you’re golfing there you see the mountains and beautiful scenery, and the greens are beautiful, he describes. Randy has worked with Travis to refinance their loan for the golf course. Randy echoes Travis’s earlier statements that the experience is positive, saying that Travis has “good character and is a good business man.” Randy is happiest when he can develop a good relationship with a client, and Randy speaks of Travis as a friend. Watching Randy speak about Birdsfoot, and Travis, you can see the happiness in his eyes. “The best part of my job is helping a business… I’ve done this for 30-something years and watching someone formulate their business and succeed is the best part of banking.”

Travis also worked with the Enterprise insurance subsidiary, specifically Julie Perez. Julie mainly helped Travis with title insurance, which helps protect Travis. Julie also coordinated the closing with Travis and his family members to make sure that everything went off without a hitch. When you start to ask Julie about her experience with Travis, she gets a huge smile on her face. “Travis is definitely one of the best customers I’ve ever worked with… when I go out to play (golf) he’ll join my husband and I.” She talks about how family-oriented he is, and that she felt welcomed like part of the family. “He’s just an amazing guy.” Julie and her husband go out to the golf course often and she can’t say enough good things about the course. “It’s challenging and always in great condition… the greens are beautiful.” In fact, Travis had a local artist carve faces into a tree by some of the holes to give that interesting and unique touch to his course. Travis describes him, “His name is Paul Shutters, and when he was younger he worked with my uncles and aunts on the family farm.  Over the years he developed a skill of wood carving and sold carved items at craft shows.  When we were building the course he asked if he could carve a tree on the course.  He did the face on nine and now we have 13 or so out there.” When asked how Julie feels whenever she plays at Birdsfoot she started beaming. “There’s definitely some pride there… knowing you helped a family business.”

After speaking with Travis, Randy, and Julie, I get the sense that Enterprise is a part of the family. Family is everything for this business and it’s plain to see that they wish to share this feeling with those who visit their golf course. When you walk in, you will feel like family. To learn more about Birdsfoot Golf Course, you can call them at (724)-295-3656, or visit them at www.birdsfoot.com. They are located at 225 Furnace Run Road in Freeport, PA and their Facebook link is www.facebook.com/birdsfootgolfclub.