A Hillyard shop has been repairing and restoring vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycles for about six years, but it took a loan from a social service agency to kick-start the small business.
At a time when traditional lending institutions are keeping a tight fist on credit, SNAP Financial Access has continued to offer loans from $500 to $35,000 to Spokane County microenterprises – businesses with fewer than five employees.
The nonprofit organization helps low- to moderate-income families become economically stable and even prosper through financial education and loans to start up or expand small businesses.
“We deal with people that can’t get loans through banks,” said David Heyamoto, business development manager for SNAP Financial Access. “Essentially we are doing loans no one else will.”
Such a loan – of $8,000 – made a big difference at Vintage V-Twin LLC, a largely self-financed motorcycle repair and restoration shop owned and operated by Bill and Sue Tillie. The business, which began in the Tillies’ garage, has been doing “museum-quality” Harley restoration and custom work at 7218 N. Market St. for the past two years.
At about the same time the Tillies moved to the new building, they received the SNAP loan, which enabled them to buy tire service equipment and tire inventory.
More importantly, it allowed them to establish a relationship with Drag Specialties, one of the largest distributors of aftermarket Harley-Davidson parts and accessories.
This allowed Vintage V-Twin not just to restore vintage Harleys, but repair late-model “hogs,” too. Now, Harley enthusiasts from as far away as British Columbia and Montana turn to the Tillies for parts and service for motorcycles built from 1936 to 2010.
A stroll through the Tillies’ shop is a visit to hog heaven – panheads, knuckleheads and Fat Bobs to satisfy even the most discriminating gear head.
“Once we got into Drag Specialties, it opened a lot of doors for us,” said Bill Tillie, an automotive master mechanic with 38 years of experience in motorcycles.
In fact, the SNAP loan was responsible for a 30 percent increase in business, enough to hire another mechanic.
The SNAP microenterprise program is authorized by the federal Community Development Institutions Fund. It has partnered with Numerica and The Union credit unions, as well as Northwest Business Development Associates, to extend credit with interest rates of between 6 and 8 percent, depending on the loan fund.
Several funding sources are available, including money for city or county residents, refugees and sustainable development.
Since July 2004, SNAP Financial Access has provided 146 loans totaling $1.6 million to such small manufacturers, artisans and restaurateurs, among others.
“Our objective is to see anybody we work with become bankable,” said Heyamoto, a retired Avista employee. “What we really want to do is create jobs for people.”