Nestled in the small city of LaPorte, Indiana, 3rd Base Bar and Grill was born after a fluke idea in 1999. Always of the entrepreneurial spirit, Kent Johnson now has two homeruns to show for it.
Kent was knee-deep in sales before breaking into the restaurant business. He frequented a local bar in LaPorte until that business hit financial woes, and that’s when Kent closed his eyes and let fate swing for the fences.
“It fell in my lap,” he said. “I didn’t choose it, it chose me.” Kent purchased the struggling bar, turned the business around and later renamed it “3rd Base Bar and Grill.” Before long, Kent had two restaurants operating within a few hundred yards of each other.
Kent keeps busy between 3rd Base and Mom’s Café (his other venture). It’s hard to deny Kent’s success, simply because most restaurant startups quietly close up shop within a few years. Kent’s batting 2-for-2 against the odds.
What were your biggest concerns about purchasing a business?
Kent Johnson: Failure. Restaurants have a very high failure rate. I always joked when I worked in sales that I had this entrepreneurial spirit. I said, “I could work twice as hard for half the money.” Then I started working four times as hard for a quarter of the money. Another thing – (bar) franchises put the fear in you. We’ve had some move into town, but this year we’re doing great. The economy may be slow, but the businesses are way above expectations.
Describe Third Base Bar and Grill to us – what makes it special?
I try to give back, and I try to pay above average. The turnover in this industry is very high. I’ve had people who’ve been with me for nine years. It’s kind of unheard of. Customers develop relationships with staff.
How has your relationship with Horizon Bank helped your business?
I’ve dealt with three banks through all of this (business). The first one? I felt like I was just a number. They didn’t want to continue to grow with me. I went to a second bank and they were less than joyous to take us on. Very overbearing. Just didn’t want to deal with us. Horizon is just easy to do business with. They’ve always had the door open and are willing to hear my crazy ideas. You kind of feel like you have a partner (with Horizon Bank). They’re a huge help.