In the restaurant world a successful business often begins with family. When Cranelli’s Italian Restaurant, a new hotspot in Lone Tree, opened, the whole family pitched in to help owners Jim and Lasinda Crane make their dreams come true. Hours after the ink was dry on the restaurant lease, the couple began updating the décor and kitchen with the help of friends and family. Lasinda’s father David, a retired electrician, helped build a bar and rework the lighting system, while nephew Mike rerouted the bar’s plumbing. Lasinda’s niece Lisa helped to write the business plan. At the restaurant’s busy opening on December 26, 2013, Lasinda and her daughter Brittany served as waitresses. Lasinda continues to run the restaurant’s operations and Brittany waitresses three days per week. Jimmy serves as the executive chef, assisted by their son Connor, nephew Merrick, and longtime friend John Sebring, cooking up delicious Italian favorites every day.
“This place was meant to be,” said Lasinda. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this if we hadn’t had our friends and family to help us.”
Both Jim and Lasinda have extensive histories in the restaurant industry. Jimmy started as a dishwasher at Garramone’s in Lakewood when he was 13, progressing from these humble beginnings to chef and general manager of several high profile Colorado restaurants. Jimmy also worked as a restaurant consultant, helping a friend open an eatery and successfully reinventing a struggling steak house. Lasinda brings a wealth of business and restaurant experience to Cranelli’s, having worked in the mortgage industry followed by progressive positions in several restaurants and coffee shops including server, administrator, trainer, and general manager.
After years of helping other restaurants flourish, Jim and Lasinda decided that it was time to open their own. When they found themselves overwhelmed by the process of writing a business plan they turned to the South Metro SBDC. They arrived at the SBDC in search of business plan assistance, as well as help obtaining a loan.
“Our SBDC consultant walked side-by-side with Cranelli’s, investing over 12 hours of consulting in anticipation of their opening,” said Executive Director Marcia McGilley. “We are thrilled with their success.”
From the beginning, a combination of luck and perseverance has made Cranelli’s possible. Lasinda got into a minor traffic accident on the way to her first SBDC appointment. She only had 20 minutes to meet with her consultant, but she returned to work on her plan. “He went line by line and put it into the basics,” Lasinda said. In addition to fine-tuning the plan, the SBDC helped open doors at the Colorado Enterprise Fund, where they ultimately obtained a loan. “Because of that email, they wanted to work with us. It is the connections that make it happen,” said Lasinda. The SBDC diligently followed up with lenders, which ultimately assisted the couple in finding the right location. SBDC counselors warned them that they might not qualify for the loan amount needed for their original location choice. When the smaller amount was approved, Jimmy and Lasinda began searching on Craigslist for restaurants. They discovered a hidden gem, a turnkey location with an existing commercial kitchen where they saw great potential. The entire process took a great deal of work and phone calls, but in the end, it was worth it. “We really had to follow up with everyone to make it happen, but looking back it wasn’t that bad. The fact that we’re successful now reaffirms that it was meant to be,” said Lasinda.
One of the factors behind Cranelli’s success has been Lasinda’s diligent marketing. When a new office building opened near the restaurant she brought fresh garlic knots to the staff, which she plans on doing for other businesses in the area. With her daughter’s help, she has utilized Facebook and a weekly enewsletter to advertise specials. She also provides catering for a local soup kitchen twice per month. The restaurant currently has eight kitchen employees and is in the process of expanding their staff to include more servers to keep up with the crowds. Lasinda plans on planting an herb garden on their newly refinished outdoor patio so that they can illustrate how they use their own herbs in recipes.
The next time you’re in the mood for a family meal, stop by Cranelli’s. As Lasinda says, “At our restaurant it’s a handshake first and a hug after that.”