Oklahoma City –
Investment board restores the Rock Cafe
March 6, 2006
Business is booming at the Rock Café in Stroud thanks to a little-known program administered by the Oklahoma Capital Investment Board. Café owner Dawn Welch used OCIB’s Oklahoma Capital Access Program (OCAP) to gain access to a loan that allowed her to restore the Route 66 landmark and bring the building up to code.
“The federal government was offering grants to historical landmarks along Route 66, but I needed $30,000 in matching funds to get the grant,” said Welch, a native of Yukon who has owned the Rock Café for the past 13 years. “The OCAP loan allowed me to replace 60-year-old wiring, put in new heat and air conditioning system, restore the original neon sign and return the building to its original layout so we can accommodate more customers and stay open longer.”
Welch, applied for the loan through the Stroud National Bank which uses the OCAP to help stretch its loan capabilities to small businesses. More than 70 Oklahoma banks and lending institutions have enrolled roughly 1300 loans totaling $38 million in the last 13 years.
“OCAP provides a tool similar to credit insurance which a lender can use to build its customer base,” said OCIB President Devon Sauzek. “The program provides small businesses with much needed capital and the financial institutions with a simple-to-use tool which improves their bottom line.”
Welch says the 1939 building predates the more famous Hard Rock Café and was built with rock unearthed during the paving of the historic Route 66. But the café wasn’t equipped to handle the volume of tourists and locals who visit daily. She credits the OCAP program and the federal grant with helping her save the café from falling into disrepair.
“None of these improvements would have been possible without OCAP. Now I just have to maintain the building correctly and these improvements will last for years.”
Incidentally, the Rock Café will be featured in the upcoming Pixar film. Welch says Academy Award®-winning director and animator John Lasseter, who directed Toy Story
, A Bug's Life
and Toy Story 2
, has visited the Rock many times in the past 5 years while conducting research for his upcoming film Cars
due out in June of this year (see www.carsthemovie.com
for more information).
Thanks to the movie’s release and renewed interest in Route 66, Welch thinks tourism will continue to grow and drive plenty of business to keep the Rock Café cooking for years.
The Oklahoma Capital Investment Board is the State of Oklahoma’s institution for building the private risk capital industry in Oklahoma. Since 1993 the Board has supported investment in sixteen venture capital funds, which in turn have attracted investment of over $100 million to Oklahoma projects. In addition, the board has supported over $38 million in development loans to over 1300 small Oklahoma companies.
Kym Koch Thompson