To read our full newsletter please click here: winter-2016-newsletter
To read our full newsletter please click here: winter-2016-newsletter
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.”
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.