Restaurateurs Joshua Suggs and Coretta King have always kept a watchful eye on the operating budget and overall finances of their chic bar and restaurant—Deltas’ in New Brunswick, NJ. Since opening the business more than 10 years ago, Suggs and King have developed a savvy marketing strategy of bringing a Southern style cuisine to the upscale and professional crowd of the central New Jersey college town. With an established track record and a litany of anxious investors, the talented twosome will open a second eatery in Charlotte, N.C. later this year.
Suggs and King opened Delta’s in December 1999 while they were engaged. Despite a sour economy and the breakdown of their marriage and eventual divorce, they continued to maintain a booming business relationship—-revenues for Deltas’ topped $2.2 million in 2010—roughly the same as 2009 figures.
Prior to the couple taking it over, Deltas’ was a small local restaurant that was struggling financially. The owner eventually put the place up for sale and Suggs and King bought it for the asking price of $900,000K. With the help of personal savings and contributions from family and friends, they put a 20 percent down payment – about $180,000 – on the place. They obtained a loan for the remaining balance from the Small Business Administration (SBA). “Neither one of us had any formal training in how to effectively run and operate a small business,” King, 38, said in a recent interview with TNJ.com. “The original business plan we submitted to the bank for the SBA loan was only four or five pages long,” she said. King is a native of California and relocated to New Jersey during the mid 1990’s—her experience as a small business owner was limited. “My mother owned rental properties out West,” she said. “I remember helping her out with paperwork and managing the properties.”
Suggs’ background was about the same as he also had no formal training on how to run a small business. After graduating from Rutgers University back in the mid 1990’s, Suggs said, “I shoveled snow, did yard work, sold things and worked a bunch of part time jobs just to make ends meet.” It was actually King’s mother who put up one of her four rental properties in California and Arizona as hard collateral for the SBA loan. Add to the mix, a compassionate banker willing to take a chance on the young and inexperienced couple and the restaurant was born.
Suggs and King are steadfast and committed when it comes to creating a budget and sticking to it. The words “frugal” and “spend thrift” are constant buzzwords. “Every nickel is accounted for and we shop around for the best deals and buy in bulk,” King said. “As business owners, we have to be aware of how and where revenues are being spent and getting the best deals for the business,” she said. Suggs and King each earn a modest salary from profits generated by the restaurant. Their biweekly salary varies and sometimes depends on how well the business does.
“We pay our employees before we pay ourselves,” King said. “Unfortunately, we have had to forgo a paycheck or two in order to meet payroll or pay an unexpected expense for the restaurant.” Deltas’ has 15 full time employees and 30 part timers. The biweekly payroll averages about $30,000K. As for the upcoming move to Charlotte, Suggs and King contend the decision to set up shop in North Carolina came after months of research. African-Americans comprise about 26 percent of the population in the city and there are few, if any upscale soul food restaurants in the city. “We found a place on the main street in the city, put together a solid business plan, raised capital and put funds in an escrow account,” Suggs said. “We signed the lease to the property late last year,” he said.
Lastly, advice for potential entrepreneurs—“Research, research and be willing to make personal sacrifices in order to keep the business afloat,” Suggs said. And King suggests that married couples planning to start and run a business together full time—think twice before doing it. “Running a small business with a spouse can definitely put a strain on a marriage,” she laughs—adding, “I wouldn’t recommend it!” To find out more about Deltas, visit the restaurant’s Web site at www.deltasrestaurant.com