U.S Small Business Administration Eastern Pennsylvania Director Tony Leta introduces Backyard Ale House owners Tony Potis, Eric Miller, Patrick and William Nassar as Small Business Persons of the Year during a presentation at the 523 Linden Street bar and restaurant Tuesday. Michael J. Mullen / Staff Photographer
U.S Small Business Administration Eastern Pennsylvania Director Tony Leta congratulates Backyard Ale House owners Tony Potis, left, as co-owners Eric Miller, Patrick and William Nassar are recognized as Small Business Persons of the Year during a presentation at the 523 Linden Street bar and restaurant Tuesday. Michael J. Mullen / Staff Photographer
For overcoming physical and financial obstacles to become “everybody’s hangout” in downtown Scranton, the Backyard Ale House owners were named the Small Business Administration Persons of the Year for eastern Pennsylvania.
The owners of the courthouse square bar, Patrick G. Nasser, William K. Nasser III, Eric D. Miller and Anthony V. Potis, gathered at their business with SBA leaders and local officials Tuesday morning to accept the recognition.
Small businesses such as the Backyard Ale House are vital to the local economy, said Antonio Leta, district director of the federal SBA district office in Philadelphia, which covers a 40-county region.
“You’ve become part of the fabric of the community, hiring locally, buying supplies locally, paying taxes locally, ” he said. “You four guys have built this business into a recognizable, almost landmark, place.”
The official award ceremony will be at a daylong fete in Philadelphia on June 8 with other winners in different categories through the region. The day concludes with acknowledgement at the Philadelphia Phillies game.
Backyard Ale House’s initial success was due to carving out a new category when it opened in 2008: nightlife with a craft beer focus and casual environment, said William Nasser. But the business expanded its customer base and offerings, opening up the patio the following year, followed by the bottle shop, and a full kitchen and menu. He also gave credit to the employees.
“They believe in this place, execute the vision and bring the effort, ” he said.
Representing of Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, Mari Potis,
gave her account of the rise the business (Anthony Potis is her brother in law).
“Four guys who like to drink beer want to open a bar. Sounds like a joke, right?” she said, enumerating the challenges they faced having to dig out the basement and reopen after a neighboring building’s wall fell. “The bar brought the community together. When you come here, you see all ages. It’s everybody’s bar.”
The Small Business Development Center at the University of Scranton nominated the bar/restaurant after the Backyard participated in the center’s internship program.
“We got to know more about the business behind the scenes, and were impressed by their story and success, ” said
center director Lisa Hall-Zielinski.
What surprised Ms. Zielinski was the success of the business despite having four partners. Even partnerships of two, she noted, face many pitfalls and challenges.
The partners are like family, Patrick Nasser said, and repeating a lesson from his mother, “Family is not the absence of problems, it’s the presence of forgiveness.”
Nominations come from Small Business Development Centers, economic development groups and lenders.
A committee of volunteers from the private sector review the applications and select a winner. SBA officials have no role in the selection, and businesses without a relationship with the SBA are eligible. The eastern region has 727, 000 business eligible for the award.
The atmosphere struck Scott Dunkelberger,
the deputy director of business and financing with the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
“This place is awesome, ” he said. “It means a lot to the Scranton renaissance to have this in the city.”