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Gonzales Inquirer

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Downtown success story

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Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 8:00 am

Less than a year after receiving help from a small business grant and opening her Gonzales restaurant, Marlene Metzler still finds it hard to believe that everything came together for her business to become a downtown success story

Marlene Metzler prepared for the dinner crowd while attending to a group of women who had gathered at her restaurant for a baby shower on a Saturday earlier this month. It’s hard for her to believe that less than a year ago she was driving past an old historic building on Confederate Square, saw a “For Sale” sign in the window, and thought a nice restaurant and gathering place would be just what the city needed.

On a whim, she called the building inspector for the city of Gonzales and asked him about the condition of the building. It was a historic property that was built in 1889. It had a sound roof, the electrical wiring was up to par, and to top it all off, the owner had just dropped the price by more than $70,000. As a lover of anything old – her own home was built in 1849 – she fell in love with the building.

Metzler met with the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center and began working on a business plan. A staff member at the University of Houston-Victoria SBDC told her about a grant program through Lone Star Bank that might be able to help her.

Once Metzler learned about the potential grant offered through Lone Star Bank, she decided to check it out. In addition to the small business loan Metzler received from Lone Star Bank, which was funded by a low cost Economic Development Program (EDP) advance from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas), she also received an accompanying $20,745 EDPPlus grant from FHLB Dallas. With the help of the grant and loan, Metzler opened her restaurant, the Running M Bar and Grill, in November 2011.

EDPPlus grants are available through FHLB Dallas member institutions, such as Lone Star Bank, and are offered in conjunction with EDP advances. The EDP provides favorably priced advances to FHLB Dallas member institutions to support economic development and community revitalization projects that qualify by location, income or targeted services.

If a member institution is approved for an EDP advance, the member’s customer may then be eligible for an accompanying EDPPlus grant. EDPPlus grants are noncompetitive and available on a first-come, first-served basis to promote and enhance small business development and job creation in underserved areas or to underserved populations. FHLB Dallas has awarded more than $10.6 million in EDPPlus grants.

Metzler says the grant and loan have been critical to her transition to restaurant owner. In addition to the EDPPlus grant, she also qualified for a grant from the city.

“So I actually got both grants and put about $50,000 back into the building,” she says. “I used the grant funds for renovations, put in insulation, installed a pony wall that separates the restaurant from the bar, upgraded the central heating and cooling unit, purchased all of my supplies, refrigerators, coolers, all my kitchen appliances, tables, bar supplies, everything.”

Lone Star Bank has been using the EDP and EDPPlus for several years.

“It’s just such a great program for us in the community,” says Lone Star Bank vice president Gary Mobbs. “It’s just another tool in our tool box that has given us the ability to serve our communities and help our small businesses. The EDPPlus grant is great way to help the customer with various project costs.”

Mobbs said Metzler was the perfect candidate for the program.

“We try to help small businesses in any way we can, and I really want to see the downtown area grow and do well,” he says. “Ms. Metzler refurbished an old historic building that is in a good location and is one of the main focal points on the old square. These types of projects are essential to the revitalization of the downtown area.”

The Running M Bar and Grill is located on St. Paul Street right on Confederate Square in downtown Gonzales. Situated next to the Lynn Theatre, a new boutique, framing shop and several offices, it is in an area that the city wants to revitalize. “They are really trying to get things going around here,” Metzler says.

The St. George Street block in downtown Gonzales has undergone a recent renovation that showcases what can be accomplished in the downtown area and serve as an impetus for continued rehabilitation of downtown buildings.

Metzler says she thinks of her establishment as a homelike place that gives families a place to eat and relax in Gonzales. She now has 21 full- and part-time employees, and she leases a small apartment, which was included in the purchase of the restaurant, to one of her regular customers.

At 55, she has worked full-time at the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, part of the Texas A&M system, for 30 years. She is planning to retire in January and devote her days to the restaurant. With the help of the EDPPlus grant and the loan, she feels like her restaurant is in a good position to thrive.

“Without that assistance it would have been hard to open the restaurant,” Metzler says. “I would have had to take on more debt and my payments would have been a lot higher. I guess with determination I could have done it, but it would have been a lot harder.”

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 12 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $34.7 billion as of June 30, 2012, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to more than 900 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. Visit www.fhlb.com.

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