The City of Long Beach offers microloan options for startups and small businesses with five or fewer employees, but what about established businesses that want to expand their operations? The Grow Long Beach Fund makes it possible for these businesses to receive up to $2 million in financing.
The program dates back to 1997, when the city entered into a partnership with the National Development Council (NDC), a private nonprofit corporation that serves as a Small Business Administration lender. Through its Grow America Fund (GAF) program, the NDC supports community development throughout the United States by offering financial assistance to small businesses. GAF enables the City of Long Beach to “leverage its lending capacity,” according to Economic Development Officer Seyed Jalali, by providing $10.13 in loans for every $1 the city invests in the program.
To date, Long Beach has invested $1.15 million in its Grow Long Beach Fund and provided $8,494,800 in loans to local businesses. “The program has proven to be a great venue for us to be able to help those businesses that need anywhere from $150,000 to $2 million,” Jalali told the Business Journal. The city gives out about three to four of these loans per year, he continued. Recent loan recipients include Fingerprints, a record shop and music venue located on 4th Street; ETA Agency, an advertising firm based in downtown; and Rose Park Roasters, an artisan coffee bar.
Founded by Nathan Tourtellotte and Andrew Phillips in 2009, Rose Park Roasters began as a wholesaler of gourmet coffee. When a retiring client offered the partners the opportunity to take over his establishment, the business added retail to its wholesale operations. “Having direct interaction with the customers drinking the coffee is something we were missing the entire time,” Tourtellote said. “The idea of hospitality and caring for people is important to us, so it created a much more tangible way that we can do that.”
The first Rose Park Roasters café was established at 3044 E. 4th St., and, in time, Tourtellote and Phillips were ready to expand with a second location and a roastery. The 4th Street location was not large enough to accommodate a roasting facility, so the business rented space at an Orange County establishment.
Tourtellote and Phillips were already developing their second location at 800 Pine Ave. when they approached the Long Beach Economic Development Department about a GAF loan. City staff put them in touch with Andria Martinez, a loan officer with NDC. As Martinez explained it, Rose Park Roasters was in a catch-22 situation: to expand, the business needed revenue from a roastery and the new location, but its cashflow without these assets was not enough to qualify for a traditional bank loan.
“That’s the kind of uncomfortable situation that small businesses find themselves in all the time,” Tourtellote said. “You’re at the point where you’re outgrowing your infrastructure and you think you can grow into the next tier . . . but in order to get there you need financing of some sort.”
With help from the city and Martinez, Rose Park Roasters qualified for a loan based on its projected revenue and the positive impact it could have on the community, Jalali said. “When you go to a bank, the way they look at it is very different than a community development lender,” he commented.
Ultimately, Martinez was able to obtain a $335,000 loan for Rose Park Roasters, which enabled the business to refinance the development on their Pine location and a new roastery at 7th Street and Cherry Avenue. With this set up, Rose Park Roasters is able to finetune the quality and volume of its coffee, Tourtellote said. The roastery will also serve as a training space and food preparation space. And with the larger downtown location, Rose Park Roasters is offering its customers more food options than before. “There’s multiple new fronts that we’re just starting to hit,” Tourtellote said.
In the middle of the Business Journal’s interview with Tourtellote, Mayor Robert Garcia strode into the Pine Avenue café to order a coffee. “They’re the best,” he said. “I go here all the time, at least two or three times a week.”