The owner of the Beachwod, Ohio Southern comfort food restaurant Phil the Fire, Davis is a cheerful man with a thriving business which draws hungry customers from as far away as Akron, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He speaks confidently of future expansion to other parts of Ohio and beyond.
It wasn’t long ago that this would have seemed like an impossible dream to Davis, who saw his business come crashing to the ground under very bizarre circumstances.
In 2001, the first Phil the Fire opened up in Ohio. In Davis’ words, “people started coming from miles around” to sample the all-you-can-eat Sunday buffet. Encouraged by the hot start for the new business, Davis opened a sit-down restaurant in 2002 and a second location in November 2003, bringing his traditional Southern cuisine to more and more people.
In 2004, Davis’ primary investor for Phil the Fire, Kirk Wright, was arrested for defrauding investors which included NFL players of some $185 million. With his investor facing a federal prison sentence, he no longer could afford to keep the locations open and had to fold.
“It was not a fun thing to go through, closing and having to deal with the loss of the livelihood,” Davis said.
For the better part of the next seven years, Davis worked tirelessly to re-open Phil the Fire, attempting to secure the financing he needed and find a new location. In June 2010, those efforts finally paid off when he was able to negotiate for a new restaurant in June 2010.
With financing through Direct Capital, Davis has been able to begin paying down his debt on the new restaurant, which employs about 100 people. Business is already booming, and the financing has allowed Davis to hit the ground running and keep up a sprinter’s pace.
“I have nothing but high marks for Direct Capital,” said Davis, who called Finance Manager Edward O’Donnell “excellent” to work with.
What Lies Ahead
With the good times rolling and Davis feeling battle-tested, you can forgive him for the optimism. After all, he’s got hundreds to thousands of loyal customers who have his back, and a national void for quality comfort food.
“They come from different parts of the country and they’re always asking, ‘when can I get a Phil the Fire in my area,’’ Davis tells me. There’s a pause, and you can almost hear him smiling over the phone. “Soon.”
Photo credit to iStock