Local Mexican restaurant leans on local resources to expand

Grand Hacienda of Pinellas County

Grand Hacienda of Pinellas CountyThe Grand Hacienda, on St. Pete Beach, took a hit when Hurricane Irma swept through the area in September 2017. The owners reached out to the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development for assistance in applying for a bridge loan, and found much more.

“They guided us and taught us what to do and we obtained the loan,” co-owner Claudia Johnson, said. “That helped us a lot to sustain that restaurant and continue all the work and financing that we were doing for this one.”

Without the State of Florida Emergency Bridge Loan program, the owners of Grand Hacienda would not have been able to continue with their plans for growth, which included opening a second location. “If not [for the loan], all of our resources for this restaurant would have deviated to the other one and we could not have completed the goal,” she added.

The Grand Hacienda, which now boasts two locations, offers authentic Mexican food, focusing on foods from throughout a variety of states in Mexico. The management team – consisting of four dynamic partners with a wide range of entrepreneurial and restaurant experience – is keen on growing the Grand Hacienda footprint throughout Pinellas County, with the help of the Florida SBDC at PCED.

“From when we started working with them to now, we have opened a restaurant that has 25 to 27 employees and kept the other one going, which has another 10 to 15 employees,” Johnson said. The restaurants employ approximately 35 full-time employees, with the rest being seasonal. The second restaurant opened in June, which also happens to be the same month the partners were able to repay the Emergency Bridge Loan in full.

The Florida SBDC at PCED was instrumental in the planning stages of opening the second location, and business consultant Yolanda Cowart and center director Dr. Cynthia Johnson, connected the team with other economic development resources in the area to help them achieve their goals.

“Our business has grown tremendously since working with the SBDC at Pinellas County,” said partner, Luis Ortega.

“They have helped us by referring us to other partnerships here in the city of St. Pete, like the Greenhouse of St. Petersburg and also CareerSource. Without CareerSource, we could not have grown the staff when we were set to open. Also, the Greenhouse was referred to us by Cynthia Johnson as we were developing this location. We are a historic site and permitting can be an issue and she helped us out by connecting us to the Greenhouse of St. Pete to help us with permitting and also help us smooth the transitions so we could grow and get this business off the ground.”

As the partners look to expand the footprint of Grand Hacienda into areas such as Clearwater and Safety Harbor, they continue to work with the Florida SBDC at PCED to source new locations, find market data, and perform financial checkups on the business.

“We’re just so thankful for the support that all the team at SBDC has given to us,” Claudia said. “I think that we have done a good job together and it’s good to find the resources locally.”

Ortega added, “They are a great resource…in business you need advice and also support, and the SBDC has been both resourceful and supportive in our growth throughout our community.”