Monday, November 3, 2014

Aberdeen SBDC advisor helps new pub owner set sail

By Hope Belli Tinney, Small Business Development Center

OCEAN SHORES, Wash. – James Edwards loved the Pirate’s Cove Pub & Grill in Ocean Shores from the moment he first stepped inside. “You know,” he said, to no one in particular, “I want this place.” “Well,” said the woman working the bar, “it’s for sale.”

Edwards, 62, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, had retired from Boeing in 2010, had never owned a business and lived nearly three hours away. But over the next week he kept thinking about the possibilities.

When he mentioned to his wife that he’d found a pub he really liked, she said, “That’s nice.” The third time he mentioned, in a phone call, that he really liked the pub – and it was for sale – his wife said, “Do I need to come home?”

SBDC offers no-cost advising

Small business owner Edwards, left, and
SBDC advisor Stewart outside the Pirate’s Cove.

With his wife on board, things moved fast because the business was struggling and the owner wanted out. Edwards had to negotiate a purchase price and then write a business plan so he could get approved to assume the two existing loans on the place.

Scrambling to pull everything together quickly, he followed up on a friend’s recommendation and called Erik Stewart, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Aberdeen, Wash.

The Washington SBDC ( receives support from Washington State University, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other institutions of economic development and higher education. SBDC certified business advisors provide no-cost, one-to-one confidential advising to small business owners who want to start, grow or transition a business.

What Edwards expected might be a 10-minute conversation leading nowhere instead lasted nearly two hours, he said.
At the end of the call, Stewart told him, “It sounds like you’ve got a good start, but it seems like something might be missing. Do you mind sending me your business plan and letting me take a look at it?’”

Two days later, Edwards said, he got an email response with feedback and suggestions. Over the next two weeks, they had at least eight more conversations.

By the time he went back to the bank, Edwards had a business plan that made sense and was supportable. And when the banker asked for specific information, he knew where to find it and why it was important.

His banker was amazed that he’d been able to put together such a strong financial package, he said.

“I just smiled because I figured I had a secret,” he said, and that secret was the SBDC.

Ongoing, understandable counsel

Edwards first set foot in the Pirate’s Cove on March 8, 2013. A little more than three months later he was the new owner of a full-service bar with 10 employees, including crackerjack manager Maria Walters.

At that point, Edwards said, he figured the SBDC had helped him launch his business and he’d be sailing alone, but he was wrong.

“That was just the start,” he said. Over the next nine months he continued to talk with Stewart about various issues from planning for the winter months when cash flow is tight, to controlling costs, to hiring and firing employees.

“I don’t have to go home and look things up in the dictionary,” Edwards said. “He talks to me in my terms.”

No, they don’t talk like pirates. Not all the time, anyway, though Edwards is a pirate – a member of the Seafair Pirates.

That’s a group of goodwill ambassadors for the city of Seattle who dress like pirates, talk like pirates, sing like pirates and generally have a good time while engaging the public in their revelry and raising money for charity.

The camaraderie that he experiences as a Seafair Pirate is what he wants to create at the Pirate’s Cove, Edwards said.
“My primary responsibility is customer service,” he said. “I hug the women, shake hands with the men and make sure everyone has a good time.”

For now he is dividing his time between Kirkland, where he lives with his wife, Wendy, and Ocean Shores, where he spends most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights working at the pub. A 20-year veteran of the Coast Guard, he is looking forward to getting back to the coast.

Civic involvement a benefit

Despite the commute, Edwards has already become active in Ocean Shores business and civic activities, including supporting local athletics, the food bank and other worthy causes.

“I’ve always been civic minded,” he said, “but now as a small business owner I have the opportunity to be more involved.”
The Pirate’s Cove was struggling when Edwards took it over, Stewart said, but his commitment to service and “doing things the right way” is winning over both locals in this coastal community and tourists.

“He’s making a difference in the community and he’s making a profit,” Stewart said. “We like that combination.”

The SBDC makes a difference, too, Edwards said: “I credit all the success I’ve had so far to the SBDC.”

For more information about Pirate’s Cove Pub and Grill, see the Facebook page at