Hank & Hazel’s Really Good Sausages
“We have been with the SBDC for five or six years now and when I look back on the original business plan we wrote with (our advisor’s) guidance, a ton of what is in there is still relevant to what we do today – why we wanted to start the business, the values it is based on, how we want to be involved in the community. That’s all become part of our Really Good Sausages business model.”
After several years of growing their sausage cart business and gaining a community following, Andy and Sarah Harper opened Hank & Hazel’s Really Good Sausages in Vacaville in March of 2020.
Opening the brick-and-mortar was a dream come true. They had worked with a Solano-Napa SBDC advisor since 2016 on a business plan and vision for their future. Their sausage cart business was thriving. Now, they had plans to create a space where the community could come together to enjoy sausages, draft beer, and friendship.
Unfortunately, just days after their soft opening, COVID-19 upended the restaurant industry. On March 17, seating in restaurants was reduced to 50% capacity. The following day, it was take-out only.
After dreaming of this space for so long, the Harper’s were faced with the possibility of losing it all.
Ultimately, they decided to keep Hank & Hazel’s open during the pandemic. Looking back, Sarah Harper is grateful they took the chance.
Overnight, they had to change their business plan. Their original concept did not include a big take-out component. They added an online ordering option to their website – a tricky piece for a business with a menu that changes daily – and canned beer to-go.
They arrived to work each day hours before opening to pre-package hundreds of individual containers of sauerkraut, onions, mustard, and mayonnaise.
Hank & Hazels also received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan which allowed them to keep their employees on staff.
They soon found themselves facing another unexpected dilemma. When they originally purchased refrigeration, they did not expect to have to also store countless containers of condiments and canned beer. Those new units would be a significant purchase. Their business was still so new and they were not yet yielding a profit.
They applied for and were rewarded a grant from the Rebuild Solano’s Small Businesses (RSSB), a Solano County grant program administered by the Workforce Development Board of Solano County and the Solano-Napa SBDC. Andy and Sarah used grant funds to purchase two refrigeration units for the condiments and canned beer at the front of the restaurant.
A year after opening, Hank & Hazels is flourishing in Vacaville.
As the community continues to re-open, the restaurant looks more and more like the place the Harper’s envisioned. People are gathering, enjoying the food, and making memories. Visitors often meet Harold, Andy and Sarah’s 7-year-old son and a ‘junior partner’ in the business.
They host Dine and Donate fundraisers and have movie nights with the Boys and Girls Club. They enjoy being a part of the community.
Sarah and Andy continue to utilize the Solano-Napa SBDC. They appreciate the accountability that comes with meeting one-on-one with an advisor. That first business plan they created seven years ago while working with a SBDC advisor was ultimately the foundation for Hank & Hazel’s Really Good Sausages.