U.S. Coast Guard veteran has smooth sailing with the Washington SBDC

James Edwards, owner of Pirates cove, and his SBDC advisor, Erik Stewart

James Edwards, owner of Pirates Cove Pub, and his SBDC advisor, Erik Stewart

Written by Hope Tinney

OCEAN SHORES, Wash.—James Edwards loved the Pirates Cove Pub & Grill in Ocean Shores from the moment he first stepped inside.

“You know,” he said, to no one in particular, “I want this place.”

“Well,” said the woman working the bar, “It’s for sale.”

Edwards, 62, had retired from Boeing in 2010, had never owned a business and lived nearly three hours away, but over the next week he kept thinking about the possibilities.

When he mentioned it to his wife, Wendy, that he’d found a pub he really liked, she said, “That’s nice.” The third time he mentioned, in a phone call, that he really liked the pub, and it was for sale, she said, “Do I need to come home?”

With his wife on board, things moved fast because the business was struggling and the owner wanted out. Edwards had to negotiate a purchase price and then write a business plan so he could get approved to assume the two existing loans on the business.

Scrambling to pull everything together quickly, he followed up on a friend’s recommendation and called Erik Stewart, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Aberdeen.

What Edwards expected might be a 10-minute conversation leading nowhere instead lasted nearly two hours, he said.

At the end of the call, Stewart told him, “It sounds like you’ve got a good start, but it seems like something might be missing. Do you mind sending me your business plan and letting me take a look at it?’”

Two days later, he said, he got an email response  with feedback and suggestions. Over the next two weeks, he said, they had at least eight more conversations.

By the time he went back to the bank, he not only had a business plan that made sense and was supportable, but when the banker asked for specific information he knew where to find it and why it was important.

His banker was amazed that he’d been able to put together such a strong financial package, he said. “I just smiled because I figured I had a secret,” he said, and that secret was the SBDC.

Edwards first stepped foot in the Pirates Cove on March 8, 2013 and a little more than three months later he was the new owner of a full-service bar with 10 employees, including, a crackerjack bar manager.

At that point, Edwards said, he figured the SBDC had helped him launch his business and he’d be sailing alone, but he was wrong.

“That was just the start,” he said. Over the next nine months Edwards has continued to talk with Stewart about various issues from planning for the winter months when cash flow is tight, to controlling costs, to hiring and firing employees.

“I don’t have to go home and look things up in the dictionary,” Edwards said. “He talks to me in my terms.”

For now Edwards is dividing his time between Kirkland and Ocean Shores, where he spends most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights working at the pub. A 20-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, Edwards is looking forward to getting back to the coast.

Despite the commute, Edwards has already become active in Ocean Shores business and civic activities, including supporting local athletics, the food bank and other worthy causes. “I’ve always been civic minded,” he said, “but now as a small business owner I have the opportunity to be more involved.”

“He’s making a difference in the community and he’s making a profit,” Stewart said. “We like that combination.”

Edwards said, “I credit all the success I’ve had so far to the SBDC.”