Small Business Finance – Operator buys iconic Tibruon watering hole

May 6th, 2011

Small Business Finance – Operator buys iconic Tibruon watering hole

As published in: San Francisco Business Times

After 33 years of leasing Sam’s Anchor Cafe, owners Steve Sears and Brian Wilson wanted to buy.

The Tiburon cafe property didn’t come cheap, so Sears turned to an SBA-backed loan for a portion of the larger loan he took out. The lower interest rates appealed to Sears, and the SBA also offered a higher lending limit for investing in energy efficiency. Seventy-seven solar panels and a $2.99 million loan later, Sears is now the proud owner of not just Sam’s, but also the waterfront spot on which it sits.

Sears worked with San Francisco-based TMC Development, which specializes in SBA lending, to walk him through his first loan through the SBA.

As a certified development company, TMC bridged the conventional real estate mortgage from Presidio Bank through the SBA 504 product. TMC saw the loan as a good idea because the investment would give more control to Sears and the business.

Presidio Bank CEO Steve Heitel said the long-standing success of Sam’s made it an ideal fit. “It’s an iconic Marin destination. They’ve got great visibility.”

Sears started the process last summer and will tie up loose ends in the next month. One of those final steps includes getting the solar panels plugged in, which only PG&E can do. Installing the solar panels had been stymied by winter rain, but a little sun has helped the project out, and it will continue to help Sam’s Anchor Cafe by cutting energy usage by at least 10 percent — the minimum savings required for a loan boost from the SBA.

As the deal comes to a close, Sears said the most important benefit from owning the property will be control. “We’re not beholden to someone else,” Sears said.

Should Sears decide to sell, he said, it’s important that they can sell both restaurant and property in one, tidy package.

Upkeep duties won’t change — Sears says Sam’s has taken care of the building all along.

When asked about the one aspect of land ownership he’s not looking forward to, Sears replied, “How about property taxes?”

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