With a focus on local economies, Dime Bank invests in the community
“A local bank is only as strong as its community…we are the boots on the ground,” said Dime Bank CEO Kevin O’Connor, speaking of his pride in Dime’s investment in the success of local economies. . The Nasdaq spoke with O’Connor as part of our Heartbeat of America campaign, discussing the importance of elevating small businesses, fulfilling the dreams of enthusiastic new entrepreneurs, and Dime’s essential action to provide COVID relief if needed.
Helping small businesses get started is part of Dime Bank’s mission to be the most trusted financial institution. For O’Connor, that means not just being a source of capital, but a partner and financial advisor, playing a key role in the success of every business.
In 2017, Dime reinforced that commitment by announcing a move to focus heavily on improving new entrepreneurs and small businesses with its approval as a Small Business Administration (SBA) lender.
Dime’s track record of working primarily with start-ups is a source of pride for O’Connor as it allows Dime to actively participate in realizing the dreams of new local entrepreneurs.
“A lot of SBA deals are people working for someone and saying, ‘I can do this and I’m going out on my own. And they will do that. They hire people, they take risks, and we provide that employee-to-employer pathway,” O’Connor said.
In 2020, while attending a local charity dinner at Primi Italian Steakhouse in West Islip, O’Connor struck up a conversation with the owner, Frank Bono, a young restaurateur who is looking to make Primi a place to eat. first order.
Primi Italian Steakhouse
Originally from Long Island itself, Bono’s grandmother spent her life running a small Italian restaurant in West Babylon. When she retired, Bono remembers her lavish dinners, bringing extended family and community together over high-end Italian cuisine. This prompted him to join the restaurant business at age 18.
“The community certainly missed it when she left. That’s why everyone who comes to Primi looking for a donation receives something, whether it’s a gift card or a gift basket… We organize events, we raise funds… We take a very active role here,” Bono said.
Primi Italian Steakhouse
Bono managed to open restaurants with a hotel group after graduating from St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip. At 25, hoping to put down roots in his home community, he opened Primi. “I grew up 3 minutes from where the restaurant is now. I walked past this building, probably a hundred times a month when I was little,” Bono said.
After seven years in business, Bono was looking to grow Primi, hire more workers, and provide more equity and mobility to its staff.
Unlike his previous banking relationships, Bono found that Dime offered something more. “It was this very hands-on community approach. Other places said they were community driven but not spearheading and nurturing my growth. Dime really took it to the next level. They helped us grow and thrive after [the shutdowns]”, Bono said.
With Dime’s help, Bono secured an SBA loan that allowed him to purchase the building that houses Primi. But Dime didn’t stop there. They have partnered with Bono that would finance the construction of Primi’s ambitious expansion: an interior renovation, kitchen upgrades and a 40-seat extension that will include a fully covered patio for local diners.
Primi Italian Steakhouse
“Dime’s focus on small businesses provides these companies with many opportunities,” Bono said. “If I had had access to the capital that I have now when I started, I could have been five, six, seven years ahead of me.”
Dime really took it to the next level. They helped us grow and flourish after the closures.
Owner, Primi Italian Steakhouse
Dime’s partnership with Primi is an example of a proven relationship in the local New York area. In 2020, when COVID shut down local economies, Dime recognized the difficulty small businesses faced.
“We were all sitting around thinking, ‘How can I help? What can I do? I am not a nurse. I’m not a doctor,” O’Connor said.
Dime immediately sprang into action. Before Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans were released by the federal government, Dime offered its own emergency loan program that helped businesses keep their employees and stay afloat during shutdowns.
When the PPP loans were approved, Dime was one of the first and most capable banks to provide much-needed help to the local businesses they serve.
“We were small enough to be nimble, but big enough to have the bandwidth,” O’Connor said.
Dime was second only to big banks like Chase in the amount of PPP loans it gave out, with $1.5 billion funneled to its small business clients, according to O’Connor.
“It’s one of the things I’ve been most proud of in my career,” O’Connor said.
Along with financial assistance during COVID shutdowns and capital for local expansions like Primi, Dime continues a long relationship of support and community support throughout New York.
We recognize that the value of our business is based on the value of the economies and communities we serve
CEO, Dime Community Bank
Today, they continue to be a partner in the revitalization of Patchogue, Long Island, helping open main street restaurants like Birdies, Catch, RUM among others.
“We recognize that the value of our business is based on the value of the economies and communities we serve,” O’Connor said. “I’m very proud and appreciate the opportunity to say that.”