Success Story…White Dog Hill Restaurant
When Nelson King spotted the abused and vandalized 1925 Clinton Country Club building, he saw potential. He didn’t know exactly what he would make of it at first, but he wanted to preserve the history of the area. King purchased the building in 2000 and today it’s open for business as the While Dog Hill Restaurant and has resumed its position as a central part of the community.
Located at 22901 Route 66 North, in Clinton, Oklahoma, which is now a frontage road of Interstate 40, the old Country Club had a colorful history and most importantly a magnificent view. Although the scenic view from the old country club was remarkable, King knew the view inside the structure, even though it had potential, could not be realized without a significant financial investment as well as many hours of hard work.
King began working with a Business Advisor at the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center (OKSBDC). He discussed converting the extremely neglected two-storied structure built of native red sandstone into a high-scale restaurant. The adviser helped King develop a business plan that included an estimate of capital needs as well as both income and expense pro-forma projections for 36 months. In addition, this complete business plan included break-even analysis and profit margin projections. King was approved for a $175,000 7(a) loan backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Forming a team with the Oklahoma District SBA Office, a local bank in Weatherford, the OKSBDC, the Rural Electric Cooperative, and the Department of Environmental Quality, King was ready to begin construction and renovation.
King completed all of the carpentry work himself, including replacement of windows and facings, replacing the flooring for the upper level, and adding support beams. King did utilize local electricians, heat and air personnel, plumbers and roofers to complete the project. Just weeks before the restaurant was due to open, King lost the new roof during a bad storm, and then had to delay the opening to have a second roof added to the structure with the addition of $30,000 in personal capital funds. Since that time, King hand-selected or constructed all furnishings and decor for this unique bistro to accentuate the exclusive characteristics of the old country club.
King uncovered original landscaping by noticing that bulbs came up in a star formation, which is now a part of the herb gardens that contribute to the unique cuisine of the White Dog Hill Restaurant. In addition, King also constructed walkways and patios around his unique eatery.
“None of this would have happened without the support of the OKSBDC and the state SBA staff,” said King. “My adviser has always been there mentoring, sympathizing, encouraging – whatever was needed at the time. Without him, White Dog Hill would still be a pipe dream and a pile of rock!”
Although the economy has taken a dip, King said, “I don’t think we have been affected by the economy. We have not seen any decline in sales figures. I attribute that almost exclusively to word-of-mouth advertising. We are drawing customers as far as Norman, Oklahoma City, Edmond and Altus. It’s particularly gratifying when the Greater Oklahoma City customers justify the drive because of our level of service, quality of food and atmosphere aren’t available anywhere in their area.”
Others who are thinking about going into business should continue to persevere, advises King.
“It can take years, but just stick with it. You have to be self-motivating. If you really believe in it, you’ll stick it out. Surround yourself with people who trust your vision. If it’s the right thing, it will pay you back. And the payback is not always financial. It’s the pat on the back and the reward you get from people in the community who take a real personal interest in what you’re doing. They are proud we are here.”