I continue to be amazed at the fearless attitude many small business owners exhibit in the face of a daunting economy.
Take Paul Mattison, for example.
The restaurateur recently invited friends to view the newly renovated ballroom atop his Mattison’s Riverside restaurant along the waterfront in Bradenton. The room, which has spectacular views of the Manatee River, has been spruced up to the tune of $100,000.
There are textured beige walls, iron and crystal chandeliers, luxurious draperies, revamped bathrooms with granite and upscale lighting, and travertine tile in the stairwell.
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“The upstairs has now caught up with the downstairs,” said Mattison, who spent about $300,000 renovating the former Twin Dolphin restaurant when he moved in about three years ago.
Mattison, like other successful business owners I’ve met, is focused. He knows the current economy is not his friend, but he doesn’t let that dissuade him from his goal: running a quality restaurant that offers great food and continues to grow.
He also owns Mattison’s Forty-One and Mattison’s City Grille in downtown Sarasota, which is also doing well despite the fact that others around him haven’t fared as well. When you ask him how, he tells you everything he’s doing and then pauses ... and shrugs his shoulders. What can he say? He just knows what he is doing seems to work.
When he entered into a licensing agreement with Hugh Miller, owner of the Twin Dolphin Marina and restaurant, both men wanted to bring an upscale operation to the spot. In the first year, Mattison saw revenues rise 40 percent. It has since leveled off, but he said he believes 2010 will see it go up again.
“In October we saw a dramatic increase, and right now we are on target to continue to grow in November and December,” he said.
Mattison and others like him prove it can be done. You don’t have to let stumbling blocks like a negative economic environment deter you from your goals.
Werner Beck, owner of Cool Beans on East Manatee, is another business owner who has forged ahead, making his longtime dream of owning a restaurant come true.
He opened a coffee shop in May 2007 with the idea of selling great coffee and pastries. It wasn’t long before he added sandwiches, soups and salads with the help of his wife Ursula — “a great cook,” Beck says.
And his dream continues to grow. The Becks, along with son Michael, a partner in the business, have just moved a couple blocks west into a larger building with a bigger kitchen. Cool Beans is now offering dinner three nights a week and has a beer and wine license with an extensive wine list.
Customers nudged Beck into growing the shop, suggesting he expand their offerings. He was quick to comply.
He attributes his success to offering something different and doing it with first-class products.
“We have a very unique environment, everybody who comes into our restaurant says this is almost like home,” he said. “My wife is the heart and soul of this place. Our most important thing is our food. We offer healthy fare, there’s no fryer in the kitchen and we buy the highest quality of food.”
Beck has seen his revenues continue to grow and plans to open a second location on Main Street in mid-January.
He, like Mattison, is focused.
“We found our niche and we are going forward,” he said.
Jennifer Rich, Business Editor, can be reached at 745-7087.