West Point Market

Customer:

Local wines, craft beer, specialty cheeses, bakery items, prepared foods, deli items—these are just some of the things that created the fiercely loyal customer base of West Point Market. The popular market was first opened in 1936 by Rick Vernon’s grandfather; Rick is now the third-generation owner and steward of what many consider to be a critical asset of the community. West Point Market has always had a reputation for outstanding quality and service, creating a passionate customer base that has supported the business for more than three quarters of a century.

Over the years, as the grocery industry changed and more big-box competitors moved into the area, West Point Market shifted its focus toward more specialty foods and local items. Still, pressure remained from the competition, and in late 2015 Rick decided the time was right to sell the building, which occupied a prime location, to make way for a national grocery chain. Customers and employees were devastated, and Rick knew that he had to find a way to reopen quickly in a new location.

Challenge:

One of the biggest challenges Rick faced was going from building owner to building tenant. He had to find a location that would meet his current retail and food prep needs, while also providing space for possible growth down the road. He also had to come up with the money to lease and outfit the new space, rebuild his inventory and ensure he had enough working capital to get the business rolling again.

Fortunately, he had plenty of help with the planning and labor for the new space. In a rare move in today’s business world, Rick kept all of his employees on the payroll between the closing of the previous location and the opening of the new one. Most employees had been with the company anywhere from 10 to 30 years, so they all had valuable experience that helped get the new store up and running quickly and smoothly. The employees weren’t the only ones working to get the business going again—one of the market’s loyal customers approached Rick and offered his financial connections and expertise.

Solution:

One of the important connections that Rick’s customer had was with KeyBank, which he recommended based on what he explained as a commitment to relationships. Rick met with the local KeyBank team to review his plans and explore the options for securing the funding he needed. Based on his situation, KeyBank recommended a loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

KeyBank, an SBA Preferred Lender, was able to walk him through the process of securing a 7(a) Term Loan and an Express Line of Credit to acquire and build out the new space and provide capital for ongoing operating expenses. Choosing the right location and building took about five months, and construction work began almost immediately with an emphasis on getting to completion as quickly as possible.

Results:

West Point Market reopened in December 2016, less than a year after closing its previous location, and just in time for the important holiday season. Customers lined up for the opening and have been very excited to have West Point Market back in the community. With a focus on fresh food, local ingredients and suppliers and items not found in national chain stores, the store is seeing an increase in younger customers eager to support local, sustainable businesses. Rick is excited to be adding a seasonal farmer’s market in the parking lot for local growers, as well as a new local ice cream line and local honey.

The customer who helped Rick connect with KeyBank is now an important member of the leadership team, and together they are looking at new opportunities, such as opening satellite locations and an expanded kitchen facility. The SBA loans as well as a new purchasing card from KeyBank are playing a critical role in keeping this third-generation business on the path to success.



"I really didn’t know much about the loan process, but that didn’t matter because my KeyBank team held my hand the whole time and helped me understand what I needed. I started with one version of my business plan and ended with a much better one that will help us achieve our goals."
– Rick Vernon, Owner, West Point Market