The Laurel District in East Oakland has been called the city’s “best completely re-imagined neighborhood.” In recent years, it has developed an identity as a culturally and economically vibrant enclave, with an assortment of businesses and attractions that reflect the city’s essential charm and rich diversity. TMC Financing is proud to have played a part in this transformation, helping four small businesses along MacArthur Boulevard, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, establish themselves thanks to SBA 504 loans.
For Dr. Mussie Sibhatu of Laurel Smile Dentistry, at 3630 MacArthur, opening his practice in the Laurel District was something like a homecoming. He had lived in Oakland before going to dental school and receiving certification in the specialization of prosthodontics. After practicing for a few years in Arizona, he wanted to come back. When the opportunity to purchase the practice on MacArthur Blvd presented itself, Dr. Sibhatu jumped at the chance.
“I always heard about the SBA loans they provided to small business,” he said. He began his process by approaching Wells Fargo Bank and, after considering an SBA 7(a) loan, he chose to go with the 504 instead due to its lower down payment. Wells Fargo referred him to TMC. “The first person I met was Kurt [Chambliss, TMC senior vice president], a great guy – very, very helpful,” Dr. Sibhatu recounted.
Owning is cheaper than renting, Dr. Sibhatu observed. He also values the control he has over his premises; he and his architect are working on remodeling plans now. Laurel Smile Dentistry already occupies two of the four units in the building, and the doctor intends to expand into a third unit as well. Business has tripled in the six years he has had the practice, and he expects more growth to come.
4505 Meats was started by chef/butcher Ryan Farr in 2009. It began as a whole animal meat company, and steadily grew. In 2014, Farr opened 4505 Burgers & BBQ in the Alamo Square neighborhood of San Francisco. 4505 serves the highest quality BBQ from animals raised humanely and with care. His second location of the same name will be opening down the street from Laurel Smile Dentistry. TMC helped him purchase the site after the previous owners decided to retire.
Now that he owns the building, Ryan is adding renovations such as outdoor seating and a smoker, but is also dedicated to preserving the restaurant’s appearance and its historic sign from the 1950s. 4505 Burgers & BBQ has already been awarded many accolades, including being voted one of the best burgers in the Bay Area. Ryan is hoping to replicate their San Francisco success in Oakland’s Laurel District.
Laurel Ace Hardware is run by Jeff and Michele Leopold and their business partner Troy Welch. The hardware store has been in business since 1921, and the new management team has big plans for a complete store renovation this fall. In the meantime, they are “working on expanding our weekday hours even longer as we hire and train our expanded helpful team!”
This isn’t the first building the Leopolds have purchased, or the first time they worked with Dave Griffis at TMC. Their San Rafael store, Marin Ace, was also purchased with the help of an SBA 504 loan from TMC Financing. The team also owns Standard 5&10 Ace in San Francisco’s Laurel Village Shopping Center, an old-fashioned variety and hardware store that has been around since 1939.
Sequoia and Andrew Vennari have opened the Sequoia Diner down the street at 3719 MacArthur. The site had been an eatery since the 1940s, but the couple “wondered why no one in Oakland opened a breakfast restaurant where they served eggs from pasture raised hens.”
“We use some really high quality organic produce and make a lot of things in house for such a small space,” they said. Those foods made on site include baked goods, jams, sausages and bacon, and they hope to grow produce in their back garden. “Our goal is to become a Community Food Producer and grow food for the restaurant. Food security is a very important issue for our future and I hope that the garden can provide delicious and fresh ingredients as well as help get people from the community engaged and excited about local produce.”
Vennari described buying the diner as a rare opportunity. “We both had over a decade of experience working in restaurants before we set off on our own. We knew that we probably wouldn’t get the chance ever again and wanted the long-term security that our lease would never be in jeopardy.”
The Vennaris came to TMC on their own, without a referral from a bank. “I learned about the SBA 504 program from some other local business owners I look up to,” Vennari said, “and found out about TMC from my research into CDCs. I got a really good feeling from them right away. And they had moved to Oakland – a smart move.”
“They were exceedingly patient with me as I learned about the loan process,” he continued. “I felt like they really believed in our business and were an advocate for our success.” The Vennaris also worked with TMC’s SVP Kurt Chambliss.
“I find it rewarding to help our clients buy their property because, when a business can fix their building cost, it allows them to be a more successful business,” Kurt said. “If a business leases their property, they are faced with increases in rent and/or being displaced when their lease is up. Now that these businesses have their own properties, they don’t have to worry. This allows them to have more capital to hire employees and put more money back into their business and community. We are proud to help businesses like these and are amazed to see how getting a 504 loan from TMC can completely revitalize an entire neighborhood like the Laurel District in Oakland.”
What Will Your Success Story Be?
TMC works with all kinds of small business owners to help them buy their own buildings. Whether you are hoping to expand a successful business or start a new one, TMC has the experience and dedication to create the 504 loan package that best meets the entrepreneur’s needs.
TMC Financing is one of the top Premier Certified Lenders with the SBA. “The main benefits of 504 loan financing are low down payments and a low long-term fixed rate. Other CDCs have the same exact terms, but our expertise and dedication to being the business owner’s advocate by looking at all possibilities to get a deal done is what separates us,” Kurt observed.
Feel free to reach out and speak to a TMC loan expert to find out more about the SBA 504 loan program.