Claymont pub-restaurant gets off to a strong start

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By Diane Kukich, University of Delaware 

McTullio’s Pub sits just a parking lot away from the Pennsylvania state line, but its location in Delaware gave owner Barbara Tullio access to an invaluable resource in the Delaware Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC).

She had been working at Roy’s Pourhouse, a small tavern at Tri-State Mall in the northeastern tip of Delaware, for about five years when the owner admitted that he was having financial difficulties. He offered her a partnership in the business and three months later asked her to buy him out.

“I had always thought it would be wonderful to have my own place,” Tullio says, “so I jumped at the chance.” But Tullio was so successful at attracting — and keeping — customers that the business quickly outgrew the small space.

A larger store just a few doors north in the shopping center was available for lease, but Tullio was operating from month to month financially and lacked the capital to renovate the space and launch a larger business.

Enter Wendy Wen, SBTDC business analyst.

“Barbara was referred to us by Ken Anderson in the Delaware Economic Development Office,” Wen says. “Ken described Barbara’s existing business as ‘thriving,’ but he was also aware of the many challenges she faced in getting a loan, including a difficult private sector loan market, a short window of time to develop a business plan, and only two years of financials.”

Wen put Tullio on the fast track to expansion by finding her an example business plan to use as a model, showing her how to do a cash-flow projection, and linking her to First State Community Loan Fund (FSCLF), a non-profit that provides loan capital to small businesses, community organizations, and developers of affordable housing.

After several months of hard work dealing with plans and permits, contractors and computer software, Tullio opened the doors at her new location on Sept. 28, 2012. Within days of celebrating her grand opening, however, she was in a car accident and then was diagnosed with lung cancer.

But even as she recovered from the accident and underwent chemotherapy, the bartender-turned-businesswoman moved forward with her plans to take McTullio’s from a tiny tavern with steam-table food to a pub with a real menu. The venue now offers live music, dart and pool leagues, chair massage, karaoke, and dance parties. Tullio has also hosted fundraisers for groups serving wounded warriors, children, and the homeless.

She is most proud of her contribution to the local labor market. “I’ve created eight jobs,” she says in amazement. “Eight people have jobs because of this pub.”

All of the pub’s current employees are female, but

Tullio is an equal-opportunity host. Purse hangers on the bar make women feel welcome, while diamond-plate wainscoting on the walls reminds male patrons of their pickup truck toolboxes.

“We have a wide range of clientele, “ Tullio says,

“and my only rule is that everyone has to treat everyone else with respect.”

“Everyone here is family,” she adds. “There’s a lot of love in this place.”

That love extends to Wen and everyone else who helped Tullio reach her current level of success.

“I love Wendy,” she says. “She not only shared her knowledge with me but also gave me the gift of her patience. She spent time with me, shedding light on what I needed to do and walking me through the process. Most of all, she believed in me when I wasn’t even sure I believed in myself.”

Wen is quick to throw the credit back at Tullio.  “Barbara is the hardest-working person I know,” she says. “She is so committed to this business, and I know that she will do whatever it takes to succeed.”

Tullio is also very grateful to Bob Kauffman and Phyllis McCollum, her loan officers at FSCLF.  Like the patrons of her pub, the two have become Tullio’s friends.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” she says. “They found creative ways for me to meet the requirements so that my loan would be approved. I’m determined not to let them down.”

The Small Business and Technology Development Center, a unit of the University of Delaware’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP), exists to strengthen Delaware’s economic base by providing quality services such as management assistance, educational programs, and resources to Delaware’s business community and potential entrepreneurs.

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