What was the timeline of having the original location to expanding to two other locations? How do you manage running three locations?
Sabrina: We opened the first location in September 2013 and then in April 2015 we opened this new location [across the street]. We kept the original space and then the space next door to that became available–it was the same landlord and he asked if we wanted that space. So then we opened the original location as a deli in September 2015. And then we opened up a market next door to the deli in December 2015.
Alissa: We ended up taking on a third business partner to help. Sophie initially came in the kitchen to work with me as a line cook for a year; she was also waiting tables, helping manage the space, and then she became a business partner when we opened the market and the deli.
What is your day-to-day like? When do you take time off?
Sabrina: I am the manager on duty and focus mostly on the restaurant. I’m there Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday all day, and on Thursday and Friday I focus on the bigger picture. But I’m always on call. My schedule has been so up and down–the past two months I was working pretty much every single day and now I’ve started taking weekends off, so it kind of fluctuates, but that’s generally the schedule for me.
Alissa: I am a little bit more structured because I have two kids, so I have to be home to see them at night. I tend to come in early in the mornings. I do all the menu development and seasonal changes, but the day-to-day kitchen operations are handled by a chef here who’s worked with us since the beginning. I’m mainly at the location across the street where we do all of our catering–I run the catering department. We often have to come in at 5 or 6 in the morning to prepare so I’m here pretty early and leave by around 4 PM. I also work Monday through Friday and take the weekends off.
Sabrina: It’s really important to take time off and find a way to really relax.
Alissa: We are always on call, even on the weekends. You know it’ll be like, the dishwasher exploded and we need to get a plumber. The fridge is broken–
Sabrina: –or someone didn’t show up to work, so we come in. After five years, we’re still trying to figure that out.
Alissa: It’s funny because when we opened, people always said, “It takes five years for everything to happen, you get to feel calm after that.” It’s definitely still a lot of work but we have a solid staff which really helps. We’re a team of partners. If you’re the sole owner of a restaurant, you can’t rely on anyone else. But we can cover each other for vacations and things like that.
Sabrina: We definitely respect each others’ time away. You need time to rest.
What facet of the business do you credit with it being so successful?
Sabrina: I’m beginning to think it’s our presence–our fingerprints are everywhere. I think people really react to that–they know we’re invested. That being said, there’s also the other part of Dimes in that it’s very collaborative and it’s about the community. Everyone feels like they’re a part of it which is really nice.
Alissa: It goes back to what I was saying earlier about listening to and taking the temperature of the neighborhood and responding to that. We’ve made friends with our customers; There’s an open dialogue. People use our physical space to host events, whether that’s selling their jewelry or doing an event in the market for their product or a chef we’re friends with who comes in and does a dinner in the space. It’s all really collaborative–it keeps things fresh.
What advice do you have for a young person interested in starting their own business?
Alissa: I think you kind of have to jump in. People get really bogged down sometimes with fear, and obviously there is a reality that you do have to have some money to open and you need to be a responsible person with a good head on your shoulders, but you just have to do it because you don’t really know what you’re capable of until you do it. There’s always going to be a learning curve, you’re never going to do it 100% right, you just have to do it and learn how to do things you didn’t know how to do before. You have to! And it’s a great learning experience and work experience.
Sabrina: I think work ethic is very important. It’s not easy having your own business. It’s up to you to give yourself the “it’s going to be okay” attitude. You really have to have the emotional capacity to be a leader and lead yourself at the same time.
Alissa: You really have to be willing to make the sacrifices. I don’t really consider it a sacrifice because you’re doing exactly what you love to do, but you have to be prepared that you’re not going to get to have long luxurious days at the spa! But the trade-off is that you own your own business which is the best feeling in the world. Nothing compares to it. Being able to work for yourself and create something on your own–it’s the best. But you have to be willing to let go of some of the little comforts. ♦