Three Guys Farms, Restaurant Venture Takes Off with Boost from USDA Grant

December 2018

MONTE VISTA, CO – Armed with an idea about producing and serving foods and a relatively small financial boost from the USDA Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program, Serge Bukhman and his two partners Alex Notov and Igor Shchiglik are doing what they set out to do: Disrupt the generally expected business models for small scale agriculture.  They own Three Guys Farms and Three Guys Pubs. And they have bigger plans ahead.

Bukhman, cousin Alex Notov and Igor Shchiglik raise pigs, ducks (primarily for the eggs), hay, tomatoes and other food crops on their 38-acre farm. Edible products are used at Three Guys Pubs in Monte Vista that the three men own and operate, with a menu that offers such delectable items as Delicious Deli Sandwiches, a variety of other seasonal offerings, wafels (a specialty dessert/pastry item), special sauces and meat items that are becoming trademarks for the trio.

In 2016, the men were awarded a $49,650 VAPG grant to assist them in turning farm items (veggies, pork and eggs, primarily) into menu offerings like sorbets, ground meats and the wafels, and to boost marketing efforts. The grant also required a dollar-for-dollar match from the business.

“The VAPG really helped us to get our name out there and establish our Three Guys brand,” said Bukhman. He said the owners found that people don’t read local newspapers or listen to radio as much as they use Facebook to make restaurant choices locally or when in the area.

Better branding has combined with several other opportunities. Three Guys Pubs has been located at the back of a downtown hotel, with little notice by passersby and limited options for advertising signage. The hotel has been sold, and the restaurant will move to a nearby location where it will have more visibility and signs can be more significant. The new restaurant is slated to open in March 2019. Currently, dinner is offered. At the new location both dinner and lunch will be options.

Location combined with improved branding activity has “helped us establish our name locally and in neighboring communities and helped get people in our doors,” explained Bukhman. The brand building was necessary as the owners target more event traffic, such as charity events.

The menu is different than what most competitors offer, he said. Three guys will be opening at its new location with a menu that shifts in an exciting new direction without losing sight of the company's original mission to provide an always fresh, scratch-made culinary experience to the community of Monte Vista. Executive Chef Corey Dye said he looks forward adding his culinary contribution to a contemporary yet classy atmosphere that will set Three Guys apart from other eateries in the area, but will always “feel like home" to the community. The new menu, owners explained, will strike a perfect balance between "upscale bar food" and "regional dinner fare" with surprising takes on local favorites filling the space between.  One of the biggest changes for the company will be the inclusion of lunch service. Delicious Deli Sandwiches and a variety of other seasonal offerings will be available every day for sit-down as well as quick to-go lunches. Pastry Chef and Partner Shchiglik has assuredpatrons  that artisanal, gourmet desserts and pastries will still be a top priority for the kitchen.

Pigs at the farm are Berkshire, raised range-free. The majority of pork not used in the restaurant is sold to local processors who offer it to local stores. Vegetable items primarily are restaurant-bound. The farm also has significant hay production, which they use on-farm or to enter additional markets.  

The market “disruption,” noted Bukhman, actually comes through the long-range vision of the men. “I bought the farm as a hobby – and it took off.

“I am a computer programmer, and Alex is also. Our long-term mission is to provide business intelligence systems for agriculture that integrate small, local production, like ours, with a variety of markets and uses.” Working the farm, he said, they have gained knowledge about agricultural production, products, how products are marketed and how food is prepared and consumed.

            

           Drink and sandwich options                                                               Wafel  

About USDA VAPG

VAPG funding has been offered by the USDA periodically since the early 2000s. A new round of funding is anticipated to be announced in coming months. To be considered value added, projects must show how products are differentiated in specific ways from commodity crops. Typically, projects must also show how they may deliver greater returns to producers.

Independent producers, farmer or rancher cooperatives, agriculture producer groups and producer-owned business ventures, including non-profit organizations may apply. In previous cycles, applicants were required to be producers of the raw commodity who will maintain ownership of that commodity through the process of creating a value added product. Grants have been available for planning projects (such as marketing and business plans and feasibility studies) and working capital projects (which might include wages or packaging supplies).

Ag Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) Assistance

Producers and ranchers, cooperatives and other agricultural businesses can find a wide-ranging set of tools and information to help them in pursuing VAPG funding at the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC). On a variety of value added topics and across products, AgMRC is a rich resource for agricultural businesses, from startup to advanced growth stages. Directories for state and federal resources, specialty crop information, legal guidance, assessment and spreadsheet tools and other types business training are available.