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Marci Baker had a dream that almost turned into a nightmare when she opened her Lincoln City bar and restaurant, Marci’s Bar & Bistro, in early 2018.

“I’d been open not even six months and everything was chaotic,” said Baker, the first-time business owner. “Dave Price of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) reached out to me when they had a new Small Business Management Program starting – and my initial reaction was, ‘I don't have time for even one other thing.’ But, I decided to join anyway, and I’m so glad I did.”

Marci not only successfully completed the Small Business Management program; Marci’s Bar & Bistro was the recipient of this year’s SBM Business of the Year award.

Starting from scratch

Marci worked for two years at the Nauti Mermaid, a business previously located in the very same building her business occupies today. Marci, though, wanted to personalize the design and functionality as much as possible.

“People think I bought that business, but I only took over the lease,” she said. “This was basically an open shell; I painted every wall, put up a new bar back and tap box, new table tops, I even changed the top of the main bar.”

The main bar top, which Marci inherited, spelled out “Nauti Mermaid” in pennies, but she’s not one to shirk work or waste anything if it can be avoided.

“I broke up the lacquer and then stayed all night and got those pennies clean and reused them,” she said. “Over all, I spent just under three months remodeling, but I had a vision of what I wanted this to look like and was willing to do what it took to make it happen.”

That work ethic is part of what won her the SBM’s Business of the Year award.

“Marci achieved most of the goals she set out to at the first of the year,” said SBM coordinator Misty Lambrecht. “She also drove to Newport for all the classes.”

“In fact,” Lambrecht quipped, “Marci was our only student ever to attempt taking a class on Memorial Day, which we teased her about.”

An affinity for education is another thing that sealed the deal when Marci was considering joining the SBM program.

“I love learning, I love structure, and I love tests,” she said. “I thrive in that environment. There’s a difference between knowing what you should do and having the discipline to do it; being a part of the program helped me so much with that. It also gave me room to breathe: I’m so glad I decided to set aside the time to get away from my business, meet other business owners, and make new friendships with people having similar struggles.”

Entering the stream

A graduate of the University of Oregon, Baker still wasn’t sure how she would apply the Anthropology degree she obtained.

“I knew I didn't want to pursue academia, which is one of the only options with that degree,” she said. “I was pretty sure I wanted to own my own business someday, but I wasn’t sure what that would look like. I’ve worked in most of the industries in this town and the service industry is my favorite. I love the connections you get to build with people; that’s what really made me fall in love with it. In a way – I am using my degree.”

The SBDC staff talk frequently talk about how the SBM Program provides business owners the monthly opportunity to take a break from working in their business to step back and work on their business.

Taking that step back helped Marci to be open to the help that was being offered by the SBDC staff.

“Through what I learned during the program, I changed my hiring practices and I fine-tuned the hours that I was open, so they were worth my being open,” she said.

The hours are currently 4 p.m. until 3 a.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Other changes brought about by her involvement in the SBM Program became evident where it really matters ¬– on the bottom line.

“During the program, and during the monthly one-on-one advising sessions that every business has the opportunity to participate in, we were continually reviewing her pricing and making adjustments where it was appropriate,” Lambrecht said. “That allowed her to actually pay herself more, and to increase her revenue for the year.”

Marci puts it a bit more simply: “I learned a lot about how to not leave money sitting on the table,” she said, and then added with a laugh, “Figuratively – but I guess literally, too.”

Keeping it local

After graduating from college, the 30-year-old daughter of retired North Lincoln Fire & Rescue Chief Don Baker, who served for 23 years, was happy to return to the town she had lived in since she was seven.

“Part of why I came back after college was that I had received local Rotary and Kiwanis scholarships. At one of the meetings when we were being given our awards, a club member stood up and said, ‘Every year we work hard to be able to give these scholarships and we just want one of you to came back,’ and that meant a lot to me.”

Marci is a stellar example of what people can accomplish by taking advantage of the financial incentives available for motivated people. Her participation in the SBDC program was underwritten by a $900 grant from of the Lincoln City Urban Renewal Economic Development Grant Program.

It turns out that any business located in the Urban Renewal District can take advantage of this sort of scholarship assistance for any class or workshop offered at the SBDC. It’s funded by the same Economic Development funds that also make possible zero-percent-interest loans for businesses to improve their façades in the District. The scholarship has been available for the past six years and the SBDC will be applying this summer to continue the program into the 2019-20 academic year.

Cheerful and comfortable

Being a positive part of a community that means a lot to her was one of the real motivating forces that drove Marci to open the business.

“There are a lot of bars in Lincoln City, but we were missing a cheerful, comfortable bar – and I wanted people to have that option. We hear all the time now that Marci’s is the most comfortable bar in Lincoln City. We’ve got a great staff and great customers.”

She also wanted to make good food part of the plan.

“I’ve put out four menus so far, and I’m ready to put out another one,” she said. “I’ve built it gradually to have as many options as possible.”

Her SBM instructor, in fact, is a fan of the food: “The bistro serves an awesome broccoli salad,” Lambrecht said.

All in the family

Prior to enrolling in the SBM Program, Marci knew about the SBDC and had taken advantage of some of their resources, but didn’t realize how much they continue to support their graduates, like helping them to stay updated on tax laws, which seem to change with every passing year.

“Even after the classes are over, you can always come back,” she said. “Once you’re in, you’re part of a family, and they don’t let you go.”

Now, she says, she can spend more time focusing on the fun part; providing entertainment in her town.

“Fridays we have Karaoke, we have live music on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. On Sundays, we have open mike and Tuesdays are for trivia,” she said.

“But you can come in anytime for Buzztime trivia- we’re the only place in Lincoln City that has it. It’s great for people that are hard of hearing, can’t come on Tuesdays or just prefer to play with strangers.”

For more information about what’s happening at Marci’s, including the current menu, visit marcisbar.com.

More of the ongoing or occasional happenings at the bar include Scotch doubles pool tournaments on professional diamond pool tables, food and clothing drives, storytelling events, hip hop music nights, and even a book club is being planned for a future rollout.

Though “busy” only begins to describe Marci Baker’s life now, it has settled into a good rhythm.

“If someone told me I was going to own a bar in Lincoln City someday, I would have laughed,” Marci said.

“But I absolutely love it. The chaos is gone. We got through that first year, and now I’m so ready for this summer.”

The Oregon Coast Community College’s Small Business Management Program begins in September and features monthly classroom workshops each month through May, followed by a June graduation celebration.

Throughout the program, participants meet one-on-one with a business advisor each month to check in on progress towards goals they set at the start of the program, or to discuss any particular challenge or opportunity their facing at the time.

While Lincoln City businesses situated in the Urban Renewal District may be able to participate with 100% tuition waiver thanks to the pending application for Economic Development Grant support, businesses elsewhere are encouraged to ask about other scholarship support options.

For more information, or to complete an online program application, visit oregoncoastbusiness.com or call 541-994-4166.

Marci’s Bar & Bistro is located at 1343 NW Hwy. 101 in Lincoln City. Reach them by phone at 541-418-5473.

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