eff Miller opened Luella’s Bar-B-Que in a humble South Asheville strip center in 2007. He had an excellent product, with a strong commitment to quality. He quickly created a vibrant restaurant with a loyal following, based on his culinary artistry, strong leadership skills, and dedication to his customer’s experience. Not long after he opened, one of his employees met Jim Diaz and insisted that the two of them meet. Jeff and Jim connected immediately due to their common interest in music and food. Jeff needed a place where he could spread his wings and he needed someone like Jim to believe in his capabilities.
The search for a new location began and Jim approached the owner of the building at 501 Merrimon Avenue, where the owner’s son was operating a restaurant called Gusmo’s at the time. The building had been home to Boston Pizza for the previous 30 years. The spectacular location was ideal for building Jeff’s business, as it had a US Highway with 25-30,000 cars going by every day, the entrance to UNCA less than a mile away, and a dense historic neighborhood surrounding it.
Jim Diaz once again expanded his role as broker to become a small business advisor to help guide Jeff through the process and to prove to the landlord that he was a suitable operator for a long-term leasehold interest. Since Luella’s had only been open for a short time, Jim contacted the property owner’s trusted advisor an fellow competitor colleague, Jim Groce of Pulliam Properties. By doing so, Diaz implemented a strategy to create an air mystery and intrigue by enabling Jeff to give the impression of a much more established, sophisticated and resourceful business owner.
Once a lease agreement was reached, Jim helped Jeff source an unsecured SBA 7A Loan though a local commercial bank to finance Luella’s relocation and deliver the leasehold improvements for her new home. Upfront, Jim went through an underwriting process with Jeff to ensure that he was prepared and qualified before initiating direct contact with the Landlord. With their homework completed prior to submitting their loan application, they felt confident that they would succeed. In 2009, they proceeded with a long-term lease of the property, which included an option to purchase.
“Jim’s a water guy, he’s a paddler, he navigates the narrows. And that’s how we’ve gotten where we are today. I mean, thank god we’ve been riding his boat.”
After Jeff’s option to purchase the property had expired, the owner decided to put the property on the market for sale, being subject to the Luella’s lease. By this time, Jeff’s business was booming and he was now able to qualify for a mortgage on the property. With Jim’s help, they were able to figure out how to purchase the property, recapitalize the company, and buy out Jeff’s partner, all while providing better cash flow for the company. This was a rare case, as the timing in the marketplace was a difficult one, when there wasn’t a lot of commercial lending going on. While Jeff could have passed on purchasing the building, the decision to do so became a game changer for him and his family. Luella’s now had a permanent home in North Asheville, and he was able to create a business asset out of the location. The revenue he generates is directly tied to his location and his connectivity to the neighborhood. Through his understanding and ability to see the end-game Jim helped Jeff make timely good decisions improve his global cash flow and begin his own process of wealth accumulation through real property.
Luella’s Bar-B-Que has survived and thrived. As many other restaurants and businesses were closing during the recession, Jeff was able to grow his business and then move to a new location, his flagship restaurant on Merrimon Avenue. By 2014, Jeff and his wife Ashley began to search for a second location for Luella’s. With Jim’s help, they were able to negotiate a lease and open their second location in the spring of 2016, in Biltmore Park Town Square. Luella’s celebrated their 10th anniversary in 2017.