best wishes: Primos owner Dave Ricker, right, gets a handshake from Northeast Oregon Economic Development District board member Terry Hughes. Looking on are board member Jeremy Gilpin, and Donna Talbott of the Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center. Submitted photo
Take a couple of people with entrepreneurial daring and grit, add some help from local economic development agencies, stir in a generous portion of private sector financing, and what do you get?
A healthy new business providing 25 jobs.
Primos, a buffet-style pizza and pasta restaurant with an all-you-can-eat menu, has been open in the Wal-Mart shopping complex since December.Saturday, representatives from the local Small Business Development Center, the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District and others gathered there for a celebratory ribbon cutting. Speakers emphasized the cooperative effort that made all things possible.
“It really took a team to make this dream come true,” said Deryl Leggett, senior credit analyst for Old West Federal Credit Union.
When longtime Union County residents Diana and David Ricker opened the establishment late last November, about 35 people found jobs in the newly constructed store front in Island City.
The grand opening celebration marked more than a year’s effort, research and old-fashioned elbow grease. State Rep. Greg Smith, who works as the SBDC’s executive director, had a lot of praise for the Rickers.
“These two entrepreneurs have a very good partnership,” Smith said. “She’s a lively person who makes a great host, and he’s a number cruncher.”
Donna Jo Talbott of the SBDC said the Rickers are “incredible workers.”
“They really dug in to make it happen,” Talbott said.
The Rickers worked through the SBDC to develop a business plan and to coordinate the financing.
Financing was provided by Oregon Economic Community Development Department, the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District, and Old West.
Situated next to Wal-Mart on Island Avenue, Primos is a place “where you can get absolutely full on a modest amount of money,” said Talbott, adding that “college kids love it.”
According to Island City Mayor Dale DeLong, many out-of-town businesses look to locate adjacent to Wal-Mart stores, and the recent development attracted inquiries. Primos is holding a 10-year lease on the location.
“We’re pleased that Primos located in Island City,” DeLong said.
A few months after opening, the initial crush of customers tapered off, Diana Ricker said, and they have had to lay off a few employees. The owners expect to hire again when business picks up.
Assistant Manager Tim McCants was instrumental in setting up the grand opening and in training staff, according to Diana Ricker.
General manager Gordon Thompson attributed the drop in customers to weather, although he added there has been no lack of hungry patrons. Thompson is focusing on advertising to out-of-area markets to encourage travelers to stop in — or even make Primos a destination.
“The Rickers came to us eight months ago with an idea and concept of providing quality food and entertainment,” he said. “They worked diligently on their business plan and looked at a lot of different styles before they finally settled on this.”
Smith said he is particularly pleased with the number of people employed at the restaurant.
“It’s exciting to have helped create 25 new jobs,” he said.
Judy Hector, Union County Chamber of Commerce executive director, said that the grand opening was a happy occasion for an economy going through some rough times.
“With economic development and employment issues lingering in the forefront of most people’s minds these days, the grand opening for Primos Pizza and D!!’s Family Fun Center banished — at least temporarily — those gloomy thoughts,” Hector said.