America’s SBDC Iowa is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
D&E Grille, Mediapolis
D&E Grille, named after its owners Diana Wells and Earl Carter, fulfilled a long-held dream of owning a restaurant. “On our opening day, when we flipped on the lights to the sign, and I saw our name in the lights, I knew our dream had come true. “
Their journey to open a restaurant began with Earl, who found a love for cooking when he was a boy. “I learned to cook with my mom. I grew up in a small town in Mississippi, and eating out was not an option, so we had to cook.” Earl explained.
Earl moved to Burlington, where he met Diana while working at a local restaurant. Earl moved his way up from dishwasher to the restaurant manager, and with encouragement from Diana, he spent 2 ½ years driving back and forth to Kirkwood Community College to attend the Culinary Arts program. The class took a trip to Cuba and worked with Cuban chefs, and one of the chefs had been Fidel Castro’s personal chef for 30 years. There is a Cuban sandwich on the menu at D&E Grille, but Earl opted to keep the menu American.
Diana and Earl met with the Southeastern Community College SBDC in August of 2019 and throughout the fall to begin putting a business plan together for their dream restaurant. The biggest hurdle was the location. One location the couple looked at was simply too big, and the investment to outfit the kitchen and dining area was a little more than their budget. The SBDC Director suggested a location in Mediapolis that had recently closed and was getting ready for an auction of their kitchen equipment. Earl was familiar with the location as he had worked for the former restaurant for a short time. The couple went to look at the location and found that it would be perfect. Now the real work began.
“Working with Diana and Earl has been an honor and a real pleasure. They both dug right in to find the answers they needed, the cost of equipment, inventory, and staffing. They never hesitated to ask questions and kept working toward their goal,” states SCC SBDC Director and Counselor Janine Clover.
The couple worked with the SCC SBDC to put together a financial projection and equipment/start-up cost worksheet, along with finalizing the written business plan, to present to the local lender. The lender had cautioned the couple that the business plan and projections may need to go to the entire loan committee, but upon looking at the loan package, the lender was very confident that the couple had presented them with a complete asking.
The couple continued to work with the SCC SBDC to get their Iowa Inspection and Appeals licensing, Sales tax permit, and local contacts, including the City Clerk, to set up utilities for the restaurant. Family and friends helped the couple with setting up the restaurant and designing a logo and menu.
All of this work continued through the 2020 pandemic, and the D&E Grille was set to open on April 23, 2021. Earl was very nervous because the mask mandates were still in place. Diana and Earl were planning on offering take-out only until the mask mandate was lifted. The day before their opening day, Governor Kim Reynolds lifted the mask mandates, much to their relief!
The Mediapolis community has fully embraced D&E Grille, and Earl and Diana have given back to the community by sponsoring guest bartender nights for sports fundraisers, discount cards for school fundraisers, and sponsoring Community Theater and school music programs.
Earl gives this advice to new business owners and entrepreneurs, “Be ready for the hard work when opening a business. You can’t be worried about competition or who is moving in next door to you. Just keep doing what you do best.”
Learn more about D&E Grille here: https://the-de-grille.business.site/?utm_source=gmb&utm_medium=referral