Two entrepreneurs stand proudly in front of their construction project.

SBA Financing Helps Entrepreneur Put Local Business First and Build Community in Phoenix

Commercial Real Estate Loans
Small business
December 20, 2022

Partners’ Vision to Integrate Small Businesses and Local Revitalization Comes to Fruition With The Royale

By CDC Small Business Finance Marketing Staff

Supporting the community and putting local businesses first is nothing new to Phoenix entrepreneurs Mark Howard and Rocco Menaguale. Mark is the owner of local favorites FEZ Restaurant and Bar and the former Bliss ReBAR, and Rocco is the owner of a boutique architecture firm. The pair continues to champion local businesses with their latest project, The Royale, located in the heart of Phoenix’s Melrose District. Replete with antique shops, restaurants, retail, and nightlife, The Melrose District is a one-mile stretch of Seventh Avenue known for its mid-century character and LGBTQ+ allied businesses. 

Slated to open in 2023, The Royale will be a mixed-use open plaza to house Mark’s newest restaurant concept with bar and retail space created. Mark and Rocco hope the new space will support local businesses and provide a central gathering place for daily social activities, community get-togethers, live performances, and special events.

The Search for Funding and Space

While the concept was clear from the start, finding the right space and funding proved challenging. The duo set their sights on the Melrose District, a neighborhood they’ve lived in and worked in for decades. There they found the perfect property, a parcel on West Glenrosa that formerly housed five auto shops since the 1940s. Rocco drew inspiration for the design of The Royale from the Mid-Century Modern character of the Melrose neighborhood and the history of this specific adaptive reuse property.

But buying and transforming the property into a retail space required significant capital, especially since Mark knew he wanted to own the building and property fully.

“After experiencing lease negotiation issues that led to the closure of Bliss ReBAR, it was important to me that with any future venture, I was able to be both tenant and landlord,” Mark said.

Mark’s realtor advised him to look into an SBA 504 loan, but three months into the process, Mark hit a dead end with the original lender. Luckily he didn’t give up and decided to reach out to a community bank contact to try again. That’s when he was connected to Commercial Loan Officer Belinda Rosthenhausler of CDC Small Business Finance in Arizona.

CDC Small Business Finance is a mission-based nonprofit lender and a part of the Momentus Capital family of organizations. And we are dedicated to expanding equitable capital, supporting economic mobility, and creating wealth for communities.

Mark Howard (left) and Rocco Menaguale (right) reviewing designs for The Royale.
Mark Howard (left) and Rocco Menaguale (right) reviewing designs for The Royale.
Rocco's exterior rendering of The Royale.
Rocco's exterior rendering of The Royale.

A Loan Officer With Expertise

With more than 25 years of commercial loan experience, Belinda was the perfect partner to work with Mark on the SBA 504 Loan. The SBA 504 Loan is ideal for business owners to buy, construct or improve commercial real estate. With this type of long-term, fixed-rate, low down-payment loan, many borrowers find that their loan payment is less than they were paying in rent.

Suffice it to say this was a terrific fit for Mark’s needs, but he expressed apprehension regarding the loan process.

“I don’t have loans,” Mark explained. “My house is paid for, my car is paid for, and I have always funded my business ventures with cash, so the whole process was new to me. The first thing Belinda said to me was, ‘this won’t be easy, but we’re going to get it done, one piece at a time.’ For someone to tell me that immediately put me at ease.”

However, time was of the essence.

“Our window was closing to submit paperwork, so I asked Mark if he’d be willing to call the seller and see if he could get two additional weeks before closing—but the seller wouldn’t budge,” Belinda said. “It was tight, but we did it. Our submission deadline was 5 pm on a Monday, and we got everything in by 4:45 pm!”

Secured Funding, Forward Momentum

The Royale project broke ground in June 2022 and is anticipated to be fully operational in Spring 2023. Their goal is to transform the 10,400-square-foot building into a space where local businesses can shine while creating jobs, building community, and strengthening the local economy. 

Mark or Rocco can be found at The Royale nearly daily, ensuring everything’s running smoothly. But he also recognizes that without Belinda and the Arizona CDC team, he’d be in a much different place. 

“She gave me the checklist of what was needed, and she worked with me to check every one of those boxes off,” he said. 

He also appreciated the communication at every step of the process. 

“I’m an over-communicator, and I was always amazed at the number of emails and documents she and her team could keep straight,” Mark said. 

Belinda brushes off the kudos, saying it’s all part of what she and her team offer. 

“Business owners need to be able to pull their financials, have a solid business plan, and know their business narrative to be in the best possible position,” she said. “Mark had all the information he needed—we just helped him move forward.” 

Mark emphasizes, however, that without Belinda’s support, this idea may not have come to fruition. 

“Belinda helped me shepherd the whole thing all the way through, so without having that money or support, this would not even be a flicker in my eye,” Mark said. “So you have to have those financial resources backing you to do it. And you have to have people who believe in you.”

Once a former automotive space, this project is coming along nicely.
Once a former automotive space, this project is coming along nicely.
Looking towards Phoenix from the site of The Royale.
Looking towards Phoenix from the site of The Royale.

A Royale Future

As their project progresses, Mark and Rocco focus on making The Royale an incredible success. There are even plans for a soon-to-be-revealed restaurant underway. And they are incredibly proud that this new venture is truly a local effort, representing a further expansion of the staple, FEZ Restaurant and Bar. 

“The Royale is much more than a commercial development,” Mark said. “It’s about investing in this community, creating jobs, and strengthening relationships.” 

Now with The Royale, Mark and Rocco can reach their goal. 

Are you in Arizona or Nevada and interested in learning more about commercial real estate loans? Contact Belinda today.

Watch our recent interview with Mark and Rocco below or on our YouTube channel