Bad Economy, Bold Moves
Think it’s a bad time to launch a new business? These brave entrepreneurs don’t.
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No one can ever say Elizabeth Ford isn’t persistent. She and long-time friends Diana Welch and Ryan Weber had a great idea to open a tavern in Dover that honored Delaware’s First State heritage, and they were convinced their business plan was rock solid.
"I felt very confident in it,” says Ford, a Smyrna native who is a business management analyst for JPMorgan Chase. “I knew it was strong.”
The first five banks she approached in search of financing didn’t quite agree, however. “But I was determined,” Ford says. “I believed in the numbers.” The losing streak stopped when she met with TD Bank, which liked the proposal and was impressed that Welch and Weber, who are mother and son, were already making a go of it with the Dover Newsstand, a café downtown. The papers were signed on June 26, and three days later, The Golden Fleece opened its doors.
Though the latest incarnation of the Golden Fleece is less than a half-year old, the concept dates back to the 1700s. It was at the original Golden Fleece that Delaware’s delegates to the Constitutional Congress made the decision to ratify the Constitution. Further, the hostess at the tavern during that time, Elizabeth Empson Battell, was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Delaware Women in 2008 as the Godmother of the First State. “We wanted to keep the history alive,” Ford says.
The Golden Fleece appeals to the professional community, but that doesn’t mean the nearby Wesley College students aren’t welcome. The tavern features an upscale atmosphere with a nod to the past through old photos and prints and is open every day. Live music is featured three or four nights a week.
Ford considers the tavern an “inspiration” in tough times and a chance for Dover women to see female business owners in action. “I look at these times as an opportunity, not a negative,” she says.
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