You can refer to Alan Funck as a serial entrepreneur if you choose. But perhaps a better characterization would be a relentless purveyor of success.
There are few local entrepreneurs who can claim that they own or partially own six — soon to be seven — enterprises. But what makes Funck’s story even more remarkable is that he’s achieved his success in the difficult industry of restaurants and taverns, and that he’s continued to realize it despite the debilitating effects of the coronavirus crisis.
“There are things I’m always working on,” said Funck. “I’m always looking at other restaurants and what they’re doing, just trying to get more knowledge. Trying to get more chefs, more management and trying to build our team. I have to try new ideas. There are always things to learn. Some things work out great, and some things don’t. We try to have a good staff, good atmosphere and décor, and we try to keep some things different.
“For me, the biggest thing is the challenge,” continued Funck. “You have to develop a menu and the atmosphere. You have to make all those decisions. You have to put a staff together. It’s enjoyable because you’ve got to set something up for people to enjoy. When you do, it’s rewarding.”
Along with his wife and his brother, Funck owns or partially owns Funck’s Restaurant in Palmyra, Funck’s Restaurant in Leola, the Mount Gretna Hideaway, and Snitz Creek Brewery in Lebanon. Recently, the Funcks re-invented their restaurant at Fort Indiantown Gap and branded it as another Snitz Creek Brewery and totally renovated the Rising Sun in Campbelltown, and now they’re in the process of purchasing the Quentin Tavern.
Funck grew up in the restaurant business, and the one common factor with all of those businesses is that they all sport casual dining atmospheres. That and the fact that they’ve all enjoyed varying amounts of success.
“There are other people in central Pennsylvania who own multiple restaurants,” said Funck. “But I don’t know of anyone in Lebanon County. There are certainly people across the country who do. In some ways, it’s replicating success, but it also creates new problems as things change. It’s a challenging business. I enjoy it. But I look at it as trying to grow the business.
“We’ve been a part of a lot of good communities,” Funck continued. “We have great staff. Those are probably the key things [to the success]. We’re just trying to do our best and keep up with the times. They’re always changing.”
In 2018, Funck re-opened the Rising Sun following months of renovations and a handful of upgrades. He said that he has reached an agreement with current owner Steve Lynn to purchase the Quentin Tavern and that he hopes to take over that business in four to six weeks.
“Someone had mentioned to me a number of years ago that Steve might be interested in selling,” said Funck. “We’ve been talking on and off since. Before the shutdown, we reached an agreement. For me, I like where the Quentin Tavern is located. They’ve done a great job for a long time. I don’t plan on making lots of changes. They have a great staff already.
“The Rising Sun was a much bigger project,” added Funck. “We totally gutted the entire building. It needed a lot of work. But I did want to keep the rustic feel with the old building. Since the 1790s, that building has been some sort of restaurant. That was really important with that project.”
Growing up, Funck worked alongside his father and mother at Funck’s Restaurant in Palmyra, which they started in 1969. In 2014, Funck’s was remodeled to include a bar, and in 2016, the Leola location was purchased and renovated, but it wasn’t until 2009, when Funck purchased the Mount Gretna Hideaway that he totally struck out on his own.
“I grew up in the business and worked there as a teenager,” said Funck, now 50, and a graduate of Annville-Cleona High School. “After college, I stayed in the business. When I was in my 20s, I knew I wanted to do my own restaurant. In my late 30s, I decided I wanted to do the Gretna Hideaway. I know the ins and outs of the business. My parents had a lot of success in the business. They were very dedicated to the business.
“In college, I was planning to go to law school for a while, but then chose not to,” Funck added. “I liked owning my own business and I knew the restaurant business. I’ve never had a job. I never filled out a job application. I always worked for my family or worked for myself.”
Nothing of Funck’s hands-on experience growing up could’ve prepared him for the COVID-19 pandemic. But where some men see challenges, others see opportunity.
“I feel like our area hasn’t been hit as bad as some of the larger cities,” said Funck of the coronavirus. “It was extremely difficult being closed down and limited to takeout, especially with type of restaurants we run. Since June 5, when we were able to outdoor dining, we’ve added tents to some of our locations. We’ve been doing pretty well. There is not a lot of demand for indoor dining right now.”
Acquiring new businesses during the crisis, he said, means he’s assuming higher risk.
“I’m aware of that risk. But I’m looking at it as a long-term strategy. I’m looking at it as a year, three years, five years down the road. Certainly, the hope is the world will be different over that time frame. The next six months is much sketchier.”
That type of vision and risk management is often associated with entrepreneurs. But Funck also possesses the skills of flexibility and multi-tasking.
“I think it’s personality traits,” said Funck. “Most people who are entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic and take more risks. I’m optimistic about the future. Most people who own businesses like the challenges of making things happen and continuing to work.
“It’s a very tough business,” added Funck. “Everyone’s aware of the statistics of how many restaurants fail. It’s a real challenging business. There are a lot of people who want to get into the restaurant business.”
Funck said that currently there is nothing on his plate beyond making a successful go of the Quentin Tavern. But opportunities seem to seek out people like him.
“I guess I am always trying to grow the business,” said Funck. “I don’t have a specific next step after [the Quentin Tavern]. I’m always looking for other opportunities that are available. Sometimes I worry I have too much focus on casual dining. I would consider other concepts as well.
“It’s about personal choice and the capabilities of what you can handle,” added Funck. “That’s any business. But just because you want to do it, doesn’t mean you’re capable of doing it. You just keep growing, I guess.”
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