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Rolando business owner helps bring convenience to community

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Gas stations and convenience stores have almost disappeared on University Avenue in the Rolando area, but businessman Harry Kattoula wants to bring convenience back to his neighborhood.

Since 1984, Kattoula has operated his 2,500-square-foot liquor store called the Party House, which is located on the corner of University and Rolando, cashing paychecks for locals and even offering a few credits on their purchases. But he saw another need for the neighborhood.

"It’s been changing around here so much over the years," Kattoula said. "We need convenience such as gas and good coffee and a place for our neighbors to shop for small items. I decided to fill that need."

Harry Kattoula, owner of Party House, will soon turn this lot he stands in front of into a gas station, car wash and convenience store with the help of an SBA 504 loan through California Bank & Trust. Photo: J. Kat Woronowicz

Kattoula has known for a long time that people who live in the area want amenities nearby, such as grocery stores and gas stations. Currently, there is only one gas station within three miles of the Rolando area.

The businessman bought the property at 6404 University, directly across the street from his store four years ago, and finally decided to build a gas station that will also sell diesel and propane, a convenience store and car wash. He will call the petrol stop, University Gas Station.

But he first needed to fund the project.

Financing these types of properties and businesses has presented a challenge for years in the traditional commercial financing arena. Banks generally have an aversion to financing them for numerous reasons, mainly because petroleum retail is a "cash business" and verifying cash flow is more difficult than other commercial income producing properties such as apartment buildings and office buildings. Kattoula shopped around and was becoming frustrated until he contacted California Bank & Trust.

"The real estate department came to my rescue and really educated me about these types of loans," he said. "When Grace Garcia came on board, she was so helpful and guided me through the process."

Grace Garcia, Vice President of SBA Business Development for California Bank & Trust worked closely with Kattoula and soon secured an SBA construction loan even though petroleum retail has perceived environmental risks that are not present in many other types of commercial properties. It is much easier to evaluate a loan where there is significantly less perceived environmental risk, she said.

"We knew with this business and Harry being a longtime customer, this was a project we were willing to take on," Garcia said. "There are not too many gas station and convenience stores in the area and we are confident that we can help Harry’s business grow."

CB&T is a full-service commercial bank, which operates more than 90 traditional branch offices and more than seven loan production offices throughout California. CB&T also has loan production offices that generate primarily commercial real estate and/or U.S. Small Business Administration loans in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.

"Through the SBA-504 loan program at California Bank & Trust, we were able to assist University Gas Station by financing the construction of a gas station, convenience store and car wash," Garcia added. "California Bank & Trust is a Preferred SBA Lender and offers a variety of financing solutions for businesses and individuals."

CB&T's Retail and Small Business Group services personal and small business accounts, and the Corporate and Commercial Banking Group services the middle-market and commercial business accounts. CB&T also has a Real Estate Financing unit, which provides construction and commercial real estate lending services. In addition, CB&T offers SBA lending, corporate financial services, community development, international banking, government services, and personal banking products and services.

Kattoula can oversee his empty lot evolve into gas station from the window at his liquor store and throughout his busy day his customers greet him with warmth and inquire as to when the new business will open.

"The contractor thinks June, so we are very excited," he said. "I think with the help of people like Grace Garcia and banks like California Bank & Trust we can get this neighborhood booming again."

Reed is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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