A Positive Outcome
Wendy and Barry Richey realize everything happens for a reason
Lori and Steve Stangl could almost look in a mirror and see Wendy and Barry Richey. Steve is a left-brained numbers guy. Barry is a left-brained numbers guy. Lori is a gregarious go-getter entrepreneur. Very quickly after they met, Lori was best friends with Wendy, a like-minded, like-energied, go-getting entrepreneur.
The couples had one other thing in common: Before owning Zurlo’s Bistro Italiano, neither had any experience in the restaurant business.
The Stangls were the first of the two couples to get the restauranting bug. The couple had fallen in love with the food at Bianco, the respected Italian restaurant that predated Zurlo’s at the 132nd and Maple St. location. But, as with so many restaurants, quality didn’t ensure financial success. Four years ago, Bianco closed its doors.
“We loved the food and we thought the world of [Chef Enzo Zurlo],” Steve Stangl says. “He had a very strong identity, a strong brand. He had a following. So we asked him to work with us.”
The savvy Stangls knew not to call an Italian restaurant “Stangls.” “Zurlo’s seemed the most appropriate,” Steve says.
"We didn't buy just a business, we bought an entire team of talent."
- Wendy Richey
The Stangls experienced a fairly typical growth curve for restaurateurs. They lost money the first year. The broke even the second. They made enough in the third year to make up for the first year. They finally got above water in their fourth.
But at the same time, Lori, the primary overseer of the operation, was feeling greater demands on her time. Chief among those: She wanted to spend more time with grandchildren in California.
“If you’re the owner, you need to spend time at your restaurant,” she says. Steve added: “It was just time for us to move on.”
So the Stangls hooked up with The Firm with the hope of hooking up with the right buyer.
Enter Wendy and Barry Richey, who approached The Firm intending only to find “a good business opportunity,” Wendy says. “We had no intention of buying a restaurant.”
But Barry poured over the Zurlo’s numbers and liked what he saw. The Richeys then met with the Stangls. Both couples quickly realized they would be very comfortable working with each other. “We immediately clicked,” Wendy says.
Lori adds: “We wanted to feel good about the people who were buying the restaurant. A business becomes your baby. There are people depending on things being right. Wendy and Barry were perfect.”
The Stangls offered to assist in the transition of the business for 90 days (The sale was finalized May 1). As friendships have grown, it’s likely the Stangls will be offering assistance for as long as the Richey’s want.
“I still drive by the restaurant,” Steve says. “I’ll just might check to make sure no windows are broken.”
“We’ve become best friends—honestly,” Wendy says. “I hope we keep talking for a long, long time.”
The Firm Deal Review
Law Firms: Koley Jessen; Brodkey, Peebles, Belmont and Line
Deal Challenge: Chef leaves two days before closing
Financing: Promissory note from seller
Reason for Sale: Sellers wanted to spend more time with grandkids