After being a beer salesperson for years, Richard Allen decided to do something different. “Big companies only support themselves and they are dominating the current beer market,” Richard says. “What makes Degrees Plato different is that we are only selling beer from independent brewers.” After careful planning and using his previous knowledge in the beer industry, Degrees Plato was born and started to operate on May 3, 2017.
Two years ago, the husband-and-wife team, Richard and Mercedes, first thought about opening a family-friendly bar & restaurant. They fell in love with Oakland’s Laurel District, where Degrees Plato now operates, and they feel fortunate for their great neighbors and a supportive community. Now, Degrees Plato has 18 employees, and Richard and Mercedes see their business as a positive addition to a friendly and vibrant neighborhood.
“Opening a restaurant that sells alcohol is not an easy task,” explains Richard. “The biggest obstacle we faced was obtaining permits and the entitlement process.” Aside from getting permission from the city to operate the bottle shop, hiring consultants for the business was another huge startup cost.
“Working with Main Street Launch was really helpful because they provided detailed instruction on what to do next.” Richard used the loan from Main Street Launch to buy equipment, pay for labor cost, purchase inventory, and marketing.
Richard advises aspiring small business owners: “Don’t be afraid to ask for resources and always plan ahead. Have a figure in mind and double it, because you will need it! Getting support from your family is really important if you are opening a business. The whole process is long and complex, so it was important for me to have someone to talk to about it,” he advises.
Richard also suggests people who want to start a business work in a related field first: “Being a beer salesperson for years, I got to interact with lots of people. Knowing how the brewers and customers think really made a huge difference in having a successful start.”
Talking to Richard and visiting his business is really a pleasure because of his passion and love for the restaurant, as well as his expansive knowledge about beer. Whether you want to grab a bottle of beer on the go or sit down to enjoy a lovely meal with your friends and family, Degrees Plato’s doors are always open for you!