The Crumb Factory of Pinellas County
Pablo Mardones has always wanted to have his own restaurant. “It’s always been a passion of mine to do food and work in the restaurant business, and always wanted to have a restaurant when I was a kid,” he said.
After growing tired of working corporate hours for someone else, he decided to launch something different to offer St. Petersburg locals a new option with a different kind of culture. Located at 5701 Central Avenue, The Crumb Factory, an artisanal bakery specializing in breakfasts, lunches, breads, and great coffee, was opened in August 2021.
Although Pablo and his wife and business partner, Katie Mardones, thought they had planned well for the launch of their business in 2020, permitting issues stalled the progress of their opening. This led them to reach out to the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Pinellas County Economic Development (PCED) for assistance.
“We actually decided to open our business in August of 2020,” Katie said. “It took almost nine months for the permitting process to be complete and we were paying rent that entire time so we racked up quite a bit of debt [while] not being permitted to operate.”
When the permits finally went through, the duo found themselves in more debt than they had planned for, and that debt was high interest. Their Florida SBDC at PCED consultant, Debra Schweikowsky, helped them through the process of restructuring that debt into a lower interest loan. “We are really grateful for Debra’s help,” Katie said. “It’s impacted our operation and it’s impacted the longevity of our business being able to have that debt at a manageable level.”
Pablo says the help from the Florida SBDC at PCED has allowed them to have more room in terms of capital to work on some of the ideas they have, such as expanding bakery hours, obtaining a beer and wine license, and purchasing new equipment to increase their capacity in areas such as wholesaling.
Moving forward, the duo say they look forward to continuing their work with Schweikowsky and the Florida SBDC at PCED. “We plan to use the SBDC going forward in order to continue exploring opportunities for capital for our business to support the growth that we are planning and also to get continuing advice about, for example, banks that can support our business, marketing ideas, and managing employees as we grow our business,” Katie said.
Pablo adds that the business wouldn’t be what it is today without the help and support of the employees that helped them through the opening process. “It’s been a really wonderful experience,” he said. “Without them we really would not be able to do all the things we do.”
To other small business owners, Katie says, “You’re not alone as a small business. It can feel scary but the SBDC has all the expertise that you need to take your business to the next level.”