- Shaye and Tyler Merryman kept the classic Italian menu exactly the same when they took over Moonlight Café in Dover in May.
Shaye Merryman began working at Moonlight Café in Dover five years ago when she and her now-husband, Tyler, were dating, and expecting their first child.
A few months later, their son Landon was born with severe complications. He spent his first 77 days of life at the hospital. Shaye and Tyler dedicated every free moment with him, learning how to clean his trachea and care for his special needs.
Tyler needed a job with flexibility. Moonlight Café offered just that.
At Shaye’s suggestion, then-owner Marc Dursunian hired Tyler as a cook.
A family focus
“Marc is such a family guy,” Shaye says. “There were times when Tyler could work every day and the next where he couldn’t work at all, and he’s like, ‘That’s fine, take time with your little man.’ He helped us through a lot.”
When Landon was finally able to come home from the hospital, Tyler turned his attention to his work and began to show what he could really do as a cook.
Marc took notice.
He began to formulate a plan to hand the restaurant over to the ambitious couple.
In May 2022, Tyler and Shaye became Moonlight Café’s new owners. Marc closed the Café on a Monday night. On Tuesday, it opened under new ownership.
‘No need to change’
Besides bringing in an array of viny flora to grace the restaurant’s gold front, Shaye and Tyler have kept everything exactly the same—the highly rated, scratch Italian favorites haven’t changed at all.
“There’s no need to change,” Shaye says. “The food, it’s already perfected.”
Every ingredient is fresh, never frozen. Tyler and his team make their own sauces from scratch, including Shaye’s favorite Afumicato, a rose’ sauce blending their own homemade tomato base with cream and brandy. Even the salads can be topped with scratch house ranch or balsamic vinaigrette.
During COVID-19, Shaye incorporated a drive-thru pickup window that the couple plans to expand on. They also hope to rent out the space for events on Sundays and Mondays when the restaurant is closed. Shaye plans to add scratch-made Italian pastries and desserts to the menu in the near future.
Through the transition, Tyler has struggled most with balancing running the business with finding enough time to be with Landon, now almost 4 years old, trachea-free and talking up a storm. Shaye makes sure to bring him to the restaurant to help her open each morning.
He cruises in with his walker, helping mom set up the umbrellas and water the plants, giving fist bumps to everyone he sees.
Finding a path forward with PeoplesBank
As new business owners, Tyler and Shaye leaned hard on the resources around them, including their families and an incredible team of employees. When it came to funding their venture, their accountant, Phil Reck, introduced them to Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.
The couple turned to PeoplesBank, a preferred SBA lender, to secure business funding.
“They saw the potential,” Shaye says. “They saw what Moonlight brought to the table, and they didn’t underestimate us being new business owners.”
Reck also introduced Shaye and Tyler to Aaron Kveragas, PeoplesBank Vice President, Business Banking Officer, and relationship officer to Moonlight Café. Kveragas says the SBA is in a place to help banks work with businesses that might not otherwise qualify for traditional bank financing.
“While the Moonlight is a successful business, the restaurant industry is more risky than other ones,” he says. “Being a preferred SBA lender allows PeoplesBank to lend to businesses that other non-community-based banks might overlook.”
‘Anything is possible’
As an SBA preferred lender, PeoplesBank can expedite the underwriting and approval process, which means providing financing on a much quicker basis than non-preferred banks.
“Moonlight is a great little business,” Kveragas says. “SBA has a really large portfolio of products they can offer that we can use to help a business get where they need to be. It all starts with a conversation.”
He encouraged business owners to reach out to someone from PeoplesBank to have an honest conversation about what’s available.
Tyler is glad he took that step.
“Anything is possible,” Tyler says. “Every single time we were faced with a hardship, we just kept working. We’d do anything to overcome the obstacles put in front of us.”
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