Dan & John’s Wings - New York, N.Y.
“Overall, the experience was great. David Hanold and the whole EGF team helped make our dream possible. They were flexible, fast and efficient—everything you want when starting a business. Plus, they made it stress free. It was a pleasure to work with them.” -Patrick Haidon, co-owner with Dan Borowski and John Henninger, Dan & John’s Wings, Manhattan, NY.
Three guys found their Buffalo connection at Brooklyn’s massive Smorgasburg regional food market. Since then, they have expanded their part-time chicken wing business into one of the most highly trafficked locations in Manhattan’s colorful East Village.
Dan Borowski and John Henninger began selling their special hometown wings when they could not find authentic “Buffalo” wings in New York City. They pitched the idea to Smorgasburg executives and joined the food festival in 2013. The signature wings were an instant hit.
Enter Patrick Haidon, another Buffalo native. A corporate auditor with General Electric Co. in Stanford, Conn., Haidon would visit Smorgasburg whenever he went to New York City to see his girlfriend.
“Here I am, from Buffalo, and I can’t find real Buffalo wings in New York City. They had them. We just started talking,” Haidon says.
Turns out they had mutual family friends, and Haidon and Borowski went to the same high school several years apart. Borowski and Henninger were a year or two away from opening their own location, and Haidon offered to help finance the project. Before investing, he helped with cost estimates, budgeting and forecasting, and developing a prospective five-year financial summary. In October 2014 the three men negotiated the terms of the partnership. The search for a location—and additional financing—began.
“We were looking for small places, kind of hip and trendy, to drive the hipster crowds. Smorgasburg represents that—up-and-coming trends in the food world—and we wanted to be on the front end of that,” Haidon says.
They approached friends and family members for loans first, but most of them either found the project too risky or wanted to become joint owners. “The problem with investors, especially with the restaurant industry, is they want a piece of the pie. None of us wanted to give that up,” Haidon says.
Then they met with private funders, who, because of the newness of the company and nature of the business, were willing to loan only 10 percent of the amount in Dan & John’s accounts receivable. Because the business was only part time then, that amount would have been miniscule. Fortunately, a business banking specialist at TD Bank referred them to Excelsior Growth Fund.
Dan & John’s Wings was closed through the Excelsior Growth Fund (EGF), the non-profit CDFI affiliate of NYBDC. EGF specifically benefits underserved communities and businesses that have difficulty securing loans from banks or other traditional lending sources. The signature EGF SmartLoan™ offers a simplified application process that allows borrowers to prequalify, complete an online loan application and receive a funding decision quickly.
The loans, which range from $10,000 to $100,000, offer competitive rates and can be used for working capital, improvement or expansion, and facility and technology upgrades. Excelsior Growth Fund also offers borrowers business advisory services that are critical to the continuing health of the business.
Dan & John’s used their $53,000 EGF SmartLoan™ to buy an exterior sign, install counters, paint, purchase fryers and other equipment, and launch a marketing and advertising campaign that relies heavily on social media.
Haidon says the loan made their dream possible. They had a short window of time to negotiate a lease for the 500-square-foot space (a hot location that attracts the same hipster crowd that flocks to Dan & John’s Smorgasburg booth), and the team at Excelsior Growth Fund rose to the challenge.
“Overall, the experience was great. David Hanold and the whole EGF team helped make our dream possible,” Haidon says. “They were flexible, fast and efficient—everything you want when starting a business. Plus, they made it stress free. It was a pleasure to work with them.”
Hanold, a vice president with EGF, saw that Dan & John’s was meeting the demand for high-quality, authentic Buffalo chicken wings, and that their product was well received.
“Dan & John’s early success operating at Smorgasburg proved that they had established a loyal following and made a name for themselves. Combining their re-invested profits as well as an Excelsior Growth Fund loan, the build-out of a small take-out space in a high-traffic area made sense to us,” Hanold says.
Dan & John’s sells eat-in, take-out, deliveries and catering. They expect to sell 60,000 pounds of chicken wings (they sell 7,500 pounds a year at Smorgasburg) in its first year in operation. Over time the new location is expected to create 12 to 15 jobs for delivery people, counter workers and cooks.