Frank's Famous gets new lease on life

Frank’s Famous Kitchen and Bakery will live to make meatballs for another day.

In February, Roger Frey, the owner of the Sparr Heights deli, sent an e-mail blast to customers saying he was on the edge of a financial cliff.

Roughly $10,000 behind in his rent and payments for services at the shopping center on the 3300 block of North Verdugo Road, Frey said Frank’s Famous would close unless someone could help finance the business he launched in 2004.

A loan from a bank in the current financial climate was a long shot, he said. He had already trimmed staff and expenses and felt he was beginning to ride out the recession, but was testing the limits of his landlord’s patience.

On the morning Frey’s woes hit the Glendale News-Press, things began to stir. By 10 a.m., Frey had received a call from a potential investor who wanted to meet him. The two met for two hours that afternoon, discussing Frey’s financial situation and his deli’s strengths and weaknesses.

The man, whom Frey declined to identify other than saying he is a Glendale resident with international business interests, returned the next day. He would not be a partner or an investor, he told Frey. But he made the loan that saved Frank’s Famous.

“He wrote me a check for $11,000,” Frey said Monday, shaking his head in disbelief. “He had met me the day before.”

Frey said he is now focused on improving his business prospects. He already offers free wi-fi and has a breakfast menu, but he will promote those features more vigorously to draw more early morning traffic. He is considering getting solar panels and new kitchen equipment to reduce energy costs and lure clients who prefer to support green businesses.

Well-wishers have offered financial support, advice and information about small business grants and loans he might be able to utilize, Frey said. Those were options he had never heard of when he dreamed about owning his own restaurant after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena.

Meanwhile, he said, catering has picked up in recent weeks and the lunch business is spotty, but improving.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “But we’re having more better days than not.”

Tanya Zimmerman, general manager of Sterpa Real Estate Management Service, was preparing to evict Frey if necessary, but said she is pleased with the turnaround.

“They are coming along,” Zimmerman said. “They are doing much better. They seem happy and we’re hoping they’ll pull through.”

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