Leono’s Restaurant – A Recipe for Success

What do you get when you combine equal parts drive, dedication, and hard (VERY hard!) work mixed with large dollops of kindness, family values and a heart for others? You get Bridget Hicks’ vision for Leono’s Restaurant in Cynthiana, Kentucky. Hicks, at the relatively young age of 33 has only officially owned Leono’s since October 1 when she bought the popular Italian eatery from long-time boss and mentor Maribeth Jameson, who was retiring. Thanks to a Business Resiliency Loan she obtained through Community Ventures in partnership with the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), Hicks’ vision has been realized.

“I was working with John Douglas at Old National Bank in Lexington to get a small business loan,” explained Hicks. “One day he called and pointed me toward Community Ventures for funding—he was on their board—so he put me in touch with Kim Bennett. He told me it wasn’t that he wouldn’t love to give me a loan, but he really thought Community Ventures was the better option for me. And it was a wonderful, smooth, easy process!”

Hicks’ affiliation with Leono’s goes all the way back to high school when she was hired as a cook by former owner Jameson at the age of 17. When a waitress position came open a year later, Hicks decided to try her hand at serving and continued waitressing even after becoming manager at age 21 while working her way through college. And the rest is history. From the dough handmade from scratch each morning, fresh meat and hand-chopped veggies to the enticing aroma of baking bread and melting cheese wafting from the kitchen, everything about Leono’s whets one’s appetite as soon as they walk through the door. But the new owner is adamant that what makes the place special is much more than the food.

“We are a family here,” Hicks notes as she surveys the dining room. “We all support each other. And back when I started here, every high school kid wanted to work here, and Maribeth hired a lot of them. Even when wait staff here leave for college, they still come back on their breaks and ask to work a shift. And the clientele are very loyal—we have our regulars but even the ones that have moved away make it a point to come back to eat when they are in town. And we build relationships. All the customers have their favorite dishes and their favorite servers.”

It’s not hard to see that the philosophy of Leono’s original owner—that success is more than dollar signs—is now embodied by Hicks as she, her family and her staff keep this Cynthiana tradition alive and thriving.

To learn more about how Community Ventures can help your small business, contact Lew Whalen, Vice President of Lending, at lwhalen@cvky.org.

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