Maria Rondeau

Business owners smiling

“American Express® Business Line of Credit helped us grow in the best possible way.”

Maria Rondeau

Real American Express® Business Line of Credit customer who was aware that her testimonial may be featured by American Express.

Restaurant Owner Stays on Growth Trajectory

What inspired Maria Rondeau to get into the restaurant business? It was a true love of entertaining, hosting, and sharing her husband JuanMa Calderón’s talent and passion for cooking his native Peruvian cuisine. So in 2018 the couple made the leap and opened their first restaurant, Celeste, in Somerville, Massachusetts.

But Maria, who serves as the full owner and sole proprietor of her business, Area Celeste LLC, will be the first to admit that experience in the restaurant industry played no part. “I’m an architect by training and JuanMa is a filmmaker, so we opened this restaurant just because this was something we loved to do.”

Celeste was small, with just 24 seats when it opened. But it quickly made a big mark on the local food scene. “It immediately took off,” recalls Maria. Indeed, it became a neighborhood favorite, garnering several awards and even received a James Beard nomination.

With the arrival of the pandemic, the restaurant pivoted to takeout, catering to local hospitals, and outdoor seating that doubled and then tripled its seating capacity. “We rose to the occasion and actually grew during Covid.”

Expanding During a Pandemic

Then about a year into the pandemic they decided to open a second restaurant, La Royal, with a new, more experimental menu in an airy new space in Cambridge. “And this is where American Express® Business Line of Credit really worked beautifully for us.”

The business had been an American Express® Member since its inception and it was just at this time that Maria was contacted by her American Express representative to tell her about American Express® Business Line of Credit. “I thought this would be an excellent way to have access to cash, just in case—a good safety belt.”

Maria applied online in minutes and within a few days was approved for a line of credit.

American Express® Business Line of Credit Helps Them Build

“I truly didn’t intend to use American Express® Business Line of Credit unless I really needed it. But with Covid, things were crazy with construction delays at La Royal, and our costs started to go higher than we expected.”

“I knew we just needed to get over that hump, finish furnishing, and all those little things,” she recalls. “My plan was to access very short-term funding and then pay it down to zero. Which is exactly what we did—I was very happy how it worked out.”

Maria says she was especially appreciative of the flexibility and competitive terms American Express offered. “It was perfect for me—I could access funding when I wanted and pay it off entirely if I wanted, without prepayment fees. It was the best of both worlds.”

Saving Interest in a Rising Rate Environment

In the meantime, Maria saw another opportunity with American Express® Business Line of Credit. With rising interest rates, some of her costs nearly doubled which caused concerning cash flow issues for her business. By this time her American Express Business Line of Credit limit had also increased. “ That allowed me to draw again from my American Express line of credit to help alleviate the challenge I faced, giving me more time and peace of mind. Now I’m very comfortable, knowing I can budget costs overtime and repay the loan in time.”

Maria says that for her, the line of credit is a long-term tool. “It’s allowed me to have access to money that I can use immediately to make things grow,” she says. “For example, there’s a cost to adding a deck to the restaurant, but I know I’ll be able to pay back the loan because I generate much more revenue with those extra 20 seats. American Express gives me short-term capital that produces long-term effects, that’s what I like about it.”

The bottom line for Maria? “It helped us grow in the best possible way—we’re very grateful for that.”

Business Facts

Year Established: 2018

Number of Employees: 35

Location: Massachusetts

Industry Type: Restaurant

American Express® Member Since: 2018

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