|Dekalb Market (Brooklyn), Spring 2012|
Where to start...
In some ways, this story begins in the early 90s when Jay and I first met in the back row of our freshman English class. Or maybe it starts in 2006, a few years after college, when we bumped into each other outside of a bar. In some ways it starts on the afternoon in 2007 when he sent me a single text: I don't want to work in an office anymore. Or maybe it starts somewhere in the years that followed, on one of the many nights Jay came home from his job at [insert assorted kitchen position here], sank into our couch and spent hours filling the pages of his Moleskin journals with recipes, clippings and various points of inspiration he could turn to if he ever had the opportunity to open his own place. However, like most good stories, I like to think this one really starts over a round of beers...
In late 2009, nothing seemed to be going according to plan. By day, I was working a less than satisfying teaching job and, by night, was working my way through the early stages of a book deal that I was quickly realizing was not going to pan out in the end. Jay was an Executive Chef at a local restaurant, which sounded excellent on paper, but in reality was the pits (i.e.: long hours, minimal salary, and the small daily reminders that no matter how much control he was granted in the kitchen, the place would never actually be his). The truth was that we were both miserable. And so to remedy that, we decided we needed a few drinks.
The week of Christmas, Jay and I hosted a small holiday party at our place, where we both got completely smashed. We ate. We sang Christmas carols in front of the flickering fire that projected from our T.V. screen. And then, when all but a few of our guests left, we sat together on the living room floor:
Me: Wouldn't it be cool if the yule log DVD made the living room hot, like a real fire?
Jay: You're drunk.
Me: All the food was awesome tonight. You're such a good cook.
Jay: (polishing off his drink) Thanks.
Me: You know what I think we should (hiccup) do?
Jay: What's that?
Me: I think (hiccup) we should open our own place.
|Brooklyn Night Bazaar, 2011|
Of course, we didn't exactly open our doors the next day. But that was the night the seed was planted. Over the next few months, we would occasionally mention the idea in passing to a friend ("Yeah, I mean, one day it'd be cool to have our own place"), or we would email each other an article that detailed how another young business owner got his start. And that was pretty much it.
By March 2010, it was clear to us both that something needed to change. Jay was still unhappy at the same job, my book deal was a thing of the past, we were in the process of planning our wedding and we were both closer to our thirtieth birthdays than we cared to admit. Translation: if we were going to make a move, it needed to happen relatively soon. In need of a serious getaway, we booked ourselves a quick weekend trip to Chicago to eat, drink, and generally try to clear our heads.
It turned out to be just what we needed. For three days, we laughed, drank and ate our way through the city and both generally felt happier than we had in a very long time.
On the last night of our trip, we sat across from one another at a wonderful gastropub (The Public House, in case you were curious), for a few final beers:
Me (a little bit tipsy): I think we should just do it already.
Jay: Excuse me?
Me: I think we should open our own place.
Jay: I'd love to, but...
Me (having downed the rest of my beer): Think about it. We don't have kids. We don't own a house. What, really, do we have to lose?
By the time we boarded our flight home the following day, we had reached a conclusion: we would open our own place. We didn't have the details nailed down just yet, but we had a pinky swear promise made over a round a beers. It was a start.
And then, shortly after we returned home, Jay received a phone call out of the blue. It was one of his oldest friends who had been working front-of-house positions in NYC restaurants for several years and was seriously looking to take the next step and open his own spot. At the time, he didn't have a clue that Jay and I were already several months deep in our own brainstorming. Jay suggested that we all meet to discuss ideas. Although we didn't know much about owning our place back then, we did know two things for sure: opening a restaurant in New York was going to be super risky and, well, it wasn't exactly going to be cheap. Which is when we turned to our Plan B...
Getting involved in the growing pop-up food scene seemed like an ideal way to get our operation off the ground. It would involve low overhead and would allow us to serve our food in multiple neighborhoods throughout the city with relatively little risk. So that's what we did.
|Opening Day @ Dekalb Market, 2011|
In November 2011, the three of us sold our first sandwich as a weekend vendor at Brooklyn's Dekalb Market. Other than a few minor kinks, we didn't completely screw anything up. And so we were invited to come back again the following weekend. By April 2012, we were a full-time vendor and were beginning to receive invites to participate in food markets and festivals throughout the city. It was a wild ride and, looking back, I'm still not even really sure how we managed to pull the whole thing off. But we did. And so in December 2012, we sat down and decided it was finally time to lose the training wheels and do this thing for real.
In August, we will open the doors to our first permanent location at 711 2nd Avenue, NYC. As I sit here writing this, I have no clue what this next year will bring. We may succeed. We may fail. Either way, I feel confident it will all be worth it in the end. My plan (as of this moment) is to use this site as a way to document the renovation process as we prepare for our opening and, following that, to document our first full year of operation. Other than that, we'll see what these next few months bring.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. Now let's raise our glasses, cross our fingers, hold our breath, and see what craziness life has in store.