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How One Funky Restaurant
Creates Opportunity

By Elaine LaMontagne
What do you get when you join a successful restaurant concept with a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan? You get a significant economic boost to a community, with a side order of jobs and an enhanced streetscape for dessert.
PURE Taqueria opened its newest restaurant in Roswell September 17 at 1143 Alpharetta Street in what has come to be called Midtown Roswell. PURE, how it’s predominantly referred, is a funky, shining star on an ever-improving boulevard. The dramatically renovated space, which was formerly a one-level doctors’ office, is located on a stretch that has sections of abandoned and dated property directly alongside freshly modernized retail and eatery establishments. The gourmet Mexican restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining is considered an “adult playground”—hip, loud, sophisticated, and fun.
The rising of the newest PURE is partly due to an SBA loan provided by Renasant Bank, one of the South’s oldest financial institutions and known to be dedicated to traditional community banking. In essence, this is a partnership between two dependable companies which capitalize (pun intended) on business, creative, and culinary talents to spawn a myriad of jobs that ultimately enrich a city’s economy. Since 1953, the SBA has delivered millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions, and other forms of assistance to small businesses.
Chris Sedgwick and Michele Sedgwick (no longer married but impressively happy and linked in their careers) are the founders and co-owners of PURE Taqueria. Longtime Alpharetta residents and successful restaurateurs via the Sedgwick Restaurant Group (Aspens, Bistro VG, Vinny’s on Windward, and Theo’s Brother’s Bakery), the Sedgwicks entered the franchise world about five years ago, shortly after receiving a continuous flow of requests after the opening of the original PURE further north in Alpharetta. The new Roswell PURE is a franchise with owner interest, and accompanied by Chris Blauvelt, the new franchisee/General Manager/Proprietor.
$1.7 million was the initial investment launching PURE. The funds encompass many industries and people. Approximately 60 employees will be receiving regular paychecks, paying taxes, and spending money in their individual communities. Certainly substantial resources were infused on property, architects, designers, food and beverages, insurance, art and furnishings, and governmental licenses. The tentacles are amazingly far-reaching for one simple restaurant. The expected annual return is 20% of the bottom line.
“We were able to help fund this project with confidence because of the solid track record and experienced management team in place at PURE, plus franchise concepts are preferable lending risks over independent start-ups,” said Jim Brown, Renasant Bank vice president and SBA loan program director. “Statistically, they are, more reliable.” Brown emphasized that when reviewing SBA loan candidates, they look at the overall package and background, case by case. Ownership of real estate, tangible collateral, uniqueness of concept, and opportunity for job creation all score strong points.
Now for some financial jargon. SBA loans are optimal loans for many small business ventures. Renasant Bank provided the SBA 504 Program to PURE. A typical scenario for such a loan might include the following approximate benefits to the borrower: (1) 20-year fixed rate on real estate projects that are below market rate on the second mortgage loan, approved by a local Certified Development Company with a SBA loan guarantee; (2) Reduced down payment requirement for the borrower; (3) Borrower is able to reserve capital for company growth. The lead bank holds a first mortgage for 50% of total costs of project; the certified development company holds a second mortgage for 30-40% of the total costs; and the borrower injects 10-20% equity into the project based on total costs.
Incidentally, the Renasant name is loosely named after the Renaissance era which represents a “rebirth and time of vigorous artistic and intellectual activity.” Seems appropriate.
“I prefer to lead, not follow,” said Chris Sedgwick, who has certainly not shied away from taking some chances on his restaurant concepts and locations throughout his 20 years as a successful North Atlanta restaurateur. Case in point, the “Pano Karatassos of the Suburbs” established white tablecloth restaurants like the Bistro VG and Vinny’s on Windward in areas where residents previously preferred more casual options. Both restaurants continue to experience consistent popularity and have for many years. Instead of finding a locale for the newest PURE on perhaps the more obvious Canton Street—one of the hottest restaurant rows in the state— Sedgwick chose to go near the energy but a couple of blocks away to give customers more space and parking. The PURE concept stays away from strip malls, desiring a “stand alone facility allowing its own personal vibe.”
Sedgwick noted he searched metro Atlanta for just the right spot for the sixth PURE Taqueria and unexpectedly found himself closer to his original location.
“The Roswell City officials, with special props to the Community Development staff, were extremely accommodating and helpful,” he said. “And I do like the idea of catering to a familiar clientele. Plus I’m impressed with all the city is doing to advance and refurbish the Midtown Roswell area with new sidewalks, brick-enhanced roadways, as well as procedures welcoming to new businesses.”
PURE was recently featured on a TV news program for its participation in Roswell’s Opportunity Zone. This program
offers a $7,000 tax credit for investing in new businesses in certain areas of a township. Sedgwick indicated that while the incentive was not the reason they chose this site, it certainly was an appreciated and admirable perk.
To further nurture business and economic opportunities, the Roswell PURE has two potential additional phases to come—a rooftop dining patio, estimated to open by Cinco de Mayo in May 2013, and later, a New York style gourmet butcher shop and bakery selling goods to the public will be evaluated. Using good old-fashioned business sense, Sedgwick believes that consistent hands-on, owner operators are quantifiably more successful— whether franchisees or independents—and ultimately serve the community best.
Notably, while many industries across the country are stagnant and struggling, the hospitality industry is generating more jobs than many others. When asked about the general state of the economy from their vantage point, both Sedgwick and Brown expressed “cautious optimism” and noted some markets are thriving more than others. Both anxiously await the results of the November election and how they will affect healthcare costs, as those decisions dramatically impact their budgets and growth plans.

Bottom line, a committed restaurateur financed properly can significantly impact a community’s economy. It bolsters assets for those who design and build the project and to those who operate it daily, which generates the buying power that the population involved can spend and trickle down. A well maintained restaurant provides curb appeal and aesthetics to any street and creates momentum for a community’s energy, growth, and quality of life.