In February 2021, Kirsten Serrano, Co-Owner and CEO of La Scala Italian Restaurant in Lafayette (along with husband Francisco), Indiana worried about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on her popular farm to fork Italian restaurant. She was referred to the Indiana SBDC (SBDC) by Amanda Finley from MatchBox Co Working Studio in Lafayette, and she reached out to learn more about the MatchBox Membership Scholarship sponsored by the Indiana SBDC. Kirsten met with Hoosier Heartland Region Business Advisor Patrick Moeller and described how her restaurant, like so many others, was forced to shut down for the pandemic and were struggling to manage re-opening. Kirsten applied for and was awarded the one-year MatchBox Membership, which became the first award for her and her businesses in 2021. Kirsten’s drive to see her business survive and eventually thrive became immediately obvious. Utilizing the networking and the other opportunities at MatchBox Co Working Studio, Kirsten kept grinding away determined to help her restaurant of 22 years endure the pandemic.
La Scala remained closed through the worst of the pandemic and developed a subscription meal delivery service in order to generate revenue and to maintain key employees. It has been successful (and still exists), but Kirsten and her husband remained very concerned about being able to reopen to the public and were uncertain their restaurant would subsist.
In March 2021, Kirsten learned about the Restaurant Revitalization Fund from her business advisor Patrick Moeller. Timing was crucial when applying for this highly-competitive program. Kirsten’s advance notice from her Indiana SBDC business advisor helped her to be ready with her application as soon as the program opened. As described on the SBA.gov website, the American Rescue Plan Act established the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) to provide funding to help restaurants and other eligible businesses keep their doors open. This program provided restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients were not required to repay the funding as long as funds were used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023. Kirsten utilized Patrick and the other Indiana SBDC resources to apply for this Fund.
In April 2021, Patrick shared with Kirsten the initial information on the new Indiana Small Business Restart Fund. As described on the IN.gov website, in April 2021, Indiana announced an expansion of the Indiana Small Business Restart Grant to help accelerate economic recovery activity by supporting Hoosier entrepreneurs and small businesses. The program provided working capital to eligible companies by reimbursing certain expenses incurred during and related to the global pandemic. Businesses were awarded up to $10,000 per month to offset a significant reduction in revenue. Once again, Kirsten utilized Patrick and the other Indiana SBDC resources to apply for this grant. Anxiously awaiting the outcome of the applications, Kirsten continued analyzing if a summer 2021 re-opening of the La Scala dining room was possible. Finally, in May 2021, the Indiana Small Business Restart Grant awarded La Scala a significant amount to Restart the business. Kirsten summarizes the effect the award had as, “Being awarded the grant funds from the Indiana Small Business Restart Fund gave us the cushion we needed to fund reopening. It felt like a life raft.”
Later in May, La Scala finally heard back from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. La Scala was awarded a “game changing amount”, thus La Scala did re-open, and Kirsten could apply funds received towards payroll, rent payments, utilities, and other operating expenses.
“Getting the RRF grant was the first time we felt like we could exhale and had no doubt La Scala would be sticking around. It has also given us the space to make wise investments that will take us into a more stable future. We are very grateful for both state and federal funds. Being a small business owner is like walking a tightrope. The pandemic made it feel like there were hungry sharks under that tightrope. Grant funds represent more than just money. It made us feel like the state and federal government really understand the importance of small business and will provide meaningful help”, said Kristen Serrano.
Thursday evening, June 10, 2021, Kirsten and her staff reopened La Scala to the delight of the many patrons of this favorite, downtown Lafayette restaurant. Sales are great and they have been able to rebuild a strong staff. La Scala is now positioned to continue providing some of the best and most authentic Italian cuisine in Indiana.
Congratulations to Kirsten and her husband and chef, Francisco, for enduring the difficult pandemic challenges and bringing their small business through the tough times. Their persistence and partnering with the Indiana SBDC clearly paid off.
For more information about La Scala, visit their website at Italian Restaurant in Lafayette, IN | La Scala Italian Restaurant