The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

June 24, 2013

ERDA loan helping fill vacant property

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A longtime Enid business with plans on opening a storefront along Van Buren will get help from Enid Regional Development Alliance.

In a special meeting Monday, ERDA approved a loan of $33,500 to Universal Management & Maintenance Co., owned and operated by Matt and Sara Habibi.

The ERDA Board of Directors attached two requirements, though. The owners must spend at least $15,000 on renovations to the building and show proof the appraisal of the building at 201 N. Van Buren exceeded $167,500.

The Habibis already had said they planned to spend at least $15,000 on renovating the former Cheezie’s Pizza, including improving the facade.

Universal has been in operation since 1964. Matt Habibi took over the business six years ago and since then, he told ERDA, it has grown significantly.

Its revenue has increased by about 10 percent each year, and Habibi has almost doubled his number of employees, he said. With the new move, he hopes to increase the number of employees to 35.

Since 1994, though, Universal has operated from two locations: A shop along West Wabash and a main office in the back of Soccer World.

“We’ve never had a storefront where people could drive by and see us,” said Sara Habibi.

The owners expect to close on the lot within about two weeks and move in about two months after that.

Universal provides cleaning, building maintenance and restoration services, according to proposal documents submitted to the ERDA board. Matt Habibi said his company has about 50 clients, which include Denny Price Family YMCA, Koch Nitrogen, GEFCO and several local banks.

The money lent to Universal by ERDA is part of the Grow Enid Loan Program. ERDA Executive Director Brent Kisling said the $33,500 likely will be paid back over a 20-year period.

In addition to an ERDA loan, Universal has secured a larger loan from Bank of Kremlin to cover the rest of the purchase. The Habibis will provide the cash to renovate the structure.

“The idea is to make it not look like a gas station,” Sara Habibi said.

After a private executive session, the board voted unanimously to award the loan. Kisling said the loan doesn’t typically go toward retail-type businesses.

“But we do like to look at projects that are increasing sales tax revenues or cleaning up something that’s on one of our major thoroughfares,” he said.