Diane Downing and her brother, David Becker, have created a successful restaurant and bar amid a downtown Manchester already overcrowded with excellent dining establishments.
No business has a higher mortality rate than restaurants. Why, then, would two seemingly intelligent individuals seek to open a new restaurant in downtown Manchester, an area already saturated with a variety of excellent dining establishments, and do so in the midst of the worst recession in almost 70 years?
So wondered SCORE volunteer counselor Randy Roody when Diane Downing and her brother, David Becker, sought his help with their business plan. In fairness, the pair had been planning their venture for quite some time, well before the economy turned sour, and if anyone was well-equipped to make it a success, it was these two.
Both were seasoned veterans of the industry; Diane had 25 years experience in the front end of the restaurant business, much of it in downtown Manchester, and David had spent more than 20 years as a chef in New Hampshire, Florida and the Caribbean.
Meeting almost monthly for more than a year, the SCORE counselor helped the partners think through the business plan, test its logic and evaluate marketing ideas. “In the end, I was a mentor,” says Roody, “and David and Diane did all the legwork. Certainly I encouraged them to keep going, but I admit I was concerned that they were entering a crowded field in downtown Manchester.”
Part of that legwork involved a very determined Diane working to secure financing to lease space and outfit the restaurant. Ultimately, she developed a couple of private sources as well as finalizing a loan with the Manchester Development Authority, which provides funding to businesses that will create jobs.
Everything finally came together when the pair found the perfect location at 22 Concord Street. Just off Elm Street, with significant parking available, the spot is convenient to area businesses as well as to the Verizon Center.
Firefly American Bistro & Bar opened for business just after Christmas 2008 and met with immediate success. Offering “inspired classic American fare in a warm, inviting atmosphere, the menu is a reverent celebration of American culinary tradition…featuring classics, prepared exactly as they should be, and artistic dishes modestly described in unintimidating fashion.”
The dining room is “an optimal setting for anything from business luncheon to first date” and the lounge “is a destination of its own…a perfect place for office gatherings, reuniting with friends or sharing a bottle of wine with someone special.” (www.fireflynh.com)
Firefly’s first year buzz was remarkable. In addition to a number of positive reviews, it was named Best New Restaurant in New Hampshire Magazine’s Best of NH 2009, and Best New Eatery in Hippo Press’ Best of 2009.
Now in its second year, the restaurant’s popularity continues to grow. Any doubts SCORE’s Roody may have had about Firefly’s ability to garner its share of the downtown Manchester dining market have been erased. The business plan SCORE helped Diane and David put together has proven itself to be solid. And with 28 employees at last count, the Manchester Development Authority’s confidence in the venture has clearly been rewarded.
“Firefly has become a favorite dining spot for my wife and me,” says Roody. “We enjoy the food very much and sometimes bring friends to show off my SCORE clients!”