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Episode 29: The Java Surf Story

Dwayne Appleton, owner of Java Surf Cafe and Espresso Bar, shares the ins and outs of running his business in the heart of Virginia Beach’s colorful ViBe District. Appleton discusses lessons learned, secrets to success, and the art of achieving a work-life balance.



Episode Transcript


Brady Viccellio

If you've ever wondered about what goes on behind the scenes at restaurants, then you're in the right place. This podcast takes you inside the minds of restaurant owners, chefs, bartenders, servers, basically anyone who has anything to do with food drink or hospitality, and Brady Viccellio, owner of Steinhilber’s restaurant and La Bella Italia on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach. Welcome to The Check podcast.


Alvin Williams

And I'm Alvin Williams, cohost of the check and owner of Cobalt Grille restaurant at hilltop in Virginia Beach. Welcome to our podcast, we'll be talking about restaurants, people who work in restaurants who own restaurants and people who like to dine in restaurants.


Brady Viccellio

Today we have none other than Dwayne Appleton with us from Java surf.


Dwayne Appleton

The full moniker is Java Surf Cafe and Espresso Bar.


Alvin Williams

Hey, Dwayne, welcome to The Check. Dwayne Appleton

Hey, thanks for having me on the check. Hey, boys.


Brady Viccellio

Welcome, Dwayne. Times have been a little different for you in the past year, just like us, how have you been making out?


Dwayne Appleton

How long do we have to answer this question? I should have plugged Java JavaScript, caffeine, espresso bars on 19th Street, Mediterranean, Virginia Beach, it's in the heart of the ViBE District.



Alvin Williams

Well, let's ask you about that. First, you know, how did your espresso bar come about? How did you get involved and become the owner?


Dwayne Appleton

Well, like we'll all stories like that. A couple of failures before that trying to buy other places or buying other places. It's never a straight line, I think I think in 2005, but my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary party within my family was the first time I remember talking about like, to my uncles and stuff like I want to have my own place. You know, you get to that point, like it's when I'm home, please, dude, you've done every job in a business, you know, from the dishwasher all the way up. The only job you haven't done is to be the owner. You think you can be the owner.


Alvin Williams

So you’ve always been in the restaurant industry?


Dwayne Appleton

I was I was in retail too. But yeah, when I was a kid, I mean, I worked down you want to talk about the who's who, when you're a kid in Virginia Beach, you know, I worked at Fish Bones when I was like 15, Crocs and all these oceanfront restaurants. But, you know, going back around to the cafe thing, you know, it's just it's important me, especially for people trying to get into business that you just let them know, it's not easy. Like upfront. I think a lot of people talk about the stuff that we do, or the stuff that they do. And it's like, oh, money, money, money, or, or, you know, success, success.


Brady Viccellio

But there is a lot of money, a lot of money that we have to spend.


Dwayne Appleton

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Right. That's right. If you're if you write 100 checks, you're lucky if the 101st check is to you. That's exactly how it goes. Yeah, you're writing checks to everybody all the time. Small businesses are the backbone of the entire economy. I mean, we are literally supporting I mean, how many industries are we supporting our restaurants? It would take an hour just to try to even come up with a good number.


Alvin Williams

I must confess I am not a coffee person. I do not drink coffee.


Brady Viccellio

You're an Englishman. You take tea.


Alvin Williams

I take tea, okay. Yeah, maybe I'll stop by for some tea. Just never been a coffee person. Unless I'm making tiramisu or, or some kind of coffee thing with the restaurant, then I'll taste it. But other than that, it's not my thing. But I respect it. So please tell me about your espresso bar.


Dwayne Appleton

Where were we? Okay. Well, you first you also said, you know, how'd you get there? So yeah, so of course, even when you have that direction, and you're trying to have a business, you know, there's a lot of hurdles and loops you go through. So there's a couple of failed deals. But then the JavaScript story like, so, of course, even when you have that direction, and you're trying to have a business, you know, there's a lot of hurdles and loops you go through. So there's a couple failed deals. But then the JavaScript story talked about when the year JavaScript started, it was in a spot that had been different coffee spots for already 15 or so years.


Dwayne Appleton

So there has always been little confusion. I'm Dwayne Appleton, but Duane Duvall and his girlfriend time Erica. She's a great local business owner also wants a flag store down the beach, a couple places. Awesome to work too big Sam's for ever. But they bought cosmic coffee, as it was named at that time. And then they created Java surf. So that was already there. My brother and I were living together then I just moved back to Virginia Beach in 2005. So 2006 was like my first year here, we were going to Java surf, I mean, everyday man, super cool, laid back, three years in, they go to sell it, you know, they broken up. And they go to sell. And it just made it more poetic that a few years down the road, we went through for more owners and pretty quick succession. I was the fifth Java surf owner, the first fifth person on there. But when it did come up and had already had those other failed deals, and then Java surf kind of came up for sale. Again, it was a interesting set of circumstances, that literally is not a story, I can tell them the era that even made the big deal even possible and stuff. But then I'm there. And, and like everyone else from the school of hard knocks, everything went wrong from day one. And, you know, the partner that was there still fell out. And then I went through all that you learn a lot. I know you guys know a lot. And I have a feeling by looking at your places that you learned a lot, and a much better set of circumstances. And I learned a lot.


Alvin Williams

Obviously, a lot of things went wrong in those businesses before you got there. So what changes have you made to ensure that your business is healthy and strong? And that you don't make the mistakes? Again, what have you done differently? And what do you feel that you've had to do to preserve so that you still stay a part of the community?


Dwayne Appleton

I definitely made my own fair share of mistakes. I went in with too strong a heavy hand. Same thing again, you know, you think you have all the answers, and you've worked hard to get where you are. So the common mistake we all make, especially on new ventures is to really attack it. So I kind of eviscerated it. And I took all the good parts. And I completely redid the branding, we did the logo, we did the colors, you did everything from ground up, we did the menus. And really, that first year just poured myself into kind of the recreation. And then we had a couple of really good years in a row upgrade. Fast forward. Now we're on 19th Street, we got the took over the building in 2015. And something interesting from like a branding perspective is you know, you have a business that already has more than one facet, you have a coffee shop. And then you basically have this like cafe thing because you're doing food or whatever. And then I wanted to do full service, I worked really hard to make it a full service place if it was tiny. To make our restaurants you have these different facets and one of the things that we did to stay true to the original and keep changing. At the same time, when I say we had those days, it was only me, my wife and I weren't together yet. I bought the original shop and I was working there for a few years before we started dating and she was working there too. But at that time was just me. But keeping the coffee shop feel became something interesting because you're doing full service. And people have these very different, you know, everything in America. So segmented in the industry. It's like everything's in a way, especially, you know, you got an ice cream shop, or you got a coffee shop, or you got a lot of things that are separate. Instead of trying to like lose that coffee business, you know, I just still encourage people like, Oh, look, we have free Wi Fi. And you can have meetings here. And there was always like this, this other avenue, rather than it being so formal. And that was a really interesting mix to have a full service restaurant and a coffee shop intermingling. And something interesting came out of COVID is we're back to counter service. And we actually stopped doing full service and yeah, not in a negative way. But in the way that we have a tiny place the dining room is only so big, and we don't even have the room for people to like queue six feet apart and stuff. Fast forwarding all these years changes in the beginning, creating your own brand and figuring out what you're what you're really trying to do. And then finally dialing a lot in and having like years of operating and you know, we've all expanded menus and used to track some sub expansive stuff, try new market, take back some stuff, all that still happening, and then bam, we COVID it just being faced with that, like we all were, but my tax by the third month was just to say instead of, I can't wait for things to go back, which was a very natural thing for us all to say, when things go back, or as soon as things are normal, that sort of stuff in the beginning, I came into work one day and just said I have to play like it's never gonna change. Because even if 30% or 20% the market still wants to be social distance still wants more mass and that's now a new factor for all of our businesses. So I just said it's not gonna change Let me start from basically the ground up all over again. So you remember in the very beginning, there was a lot of specialty menus everyone tried to experiment Oh, let me do family dinners. Let me do take home and bake let me do pick up at the door even when I'm done if everyone's adjusting, adjusting adjusting. I tried some of that stuff and didn't work for me. And it was interesting because my menu and in basically what JavaScript has is standalone. We don't sell like the traditional American. You know, we don't have pancakes. You know, it's like it's like, there's certain things we're going to catch up. It's always been a joke, you know, people come in and catch up and we don't have to catch up. We don't have a lot of things like that that are kind of like the American we don't we don't have a fryer. So We'd never had hashbrowns you know, we never had fried food. And we kind of aired the menu on the side of healthy but generous portions. So you still have that, that, you know, fulfilling, but, you know, lots of avocado. My vendor told me we're probably third in line after the Mexican restaurants on avocados, avocado purchases, Papa pineapple, you know, a little bit more tropical, a little bit more healthy. The adjustments happened, but then we retracted them. And basically what I did was just stick to the guns of saying, look, this is just what we have. This is what selling what we're selling was just our trademark items that weren't being sold other places. Let's just stick to our guns. And when that final adjustment happens, I actually pushed the register outside buildings only 1500 square foot the dining rooms only maybe 800 900 square foot. So even trying to fit all those people in before before all COVID was a was a bit because we had a full dining room. We got people sitting outside the dining room, we got people waiting in with a hostess to get in. You got waitresses in the mix Holloway, we got baristas and we have bartenders and behind the bar and then we also have kitchen staff and everything. So do you have a full board often there? I have a full bar license I don't sell full bar in the sense of I have beer, wine and liquor. But you know, we still sell more mimosas no matter what. Also because I only had coffee and food for so long. When you launch something like alcohol for the first time everyone thinks it's a no brainer. It makes so much money. I mean, I can't count how many people told me you can make so much money you can get alkaline alcohol and not have got alcohol for the first six months I probably sold $100 Yeah, because it's like no one's trained for that.



Alvin Williams

So you have your own your own brand and your own vision. And you try to obviously work on that. But are you ever tempted to or do you ever look at like the giants like you know, Starbucks who you know, successful and they make money? Do you ever want to follow their pattern? Because you know that they've made it work?


Dwayne Appleton

I mean, I just said I want to counter service and they've been doing kind of service all these years. Yeah, right. So and in some ways, of course, you're finding that new that new place footing but you know, in the market? Definitely. I mean, there's a couple of no brainers to answer that question directly as a couple no brainers like, do I want to do holiday lattes? Pumpkin spice. Do I want to do that? No. But you guarantee the second you put the sign up, you're selling it that second someone's buying a lot. Yeah, just immediate. So you know, there's a couple no brainers we've expanded our baked goods, a lot that we do in house because of that, again, kind of stick into the coffee shop routes. We do have this restaurant, but we also still have a coffee shop so that that's helped a lot. But yeah, do market trends across the board. Big things.


Alvin Williams

You have to pay attention, no doubt.


Brady Viccellio

Well, it says that in an article, we read “you're bold enough to go against the grain and create something that's never existed before. And that every corner color creation and crumb is evidence of that.”


Dwayne Appleton

That's an amazing quote.


Brady Viccellio

Well, somebody wrote about you.


Dwayne Appleton

Is it on my mom's Instagram? That's great. Janet. Janet. Oh, I'm sorry. Oh, yeah.


Alvin Williams

Bob, Bob, Jim.


Brady Viccellio

Everybody. I know them both. They're both great people. great people. Yeah, they are. Your parents are awesome.


Dwayne Appleton

So I think in that quote, I think part of that is you guys have established business a little bit over how long? How long have you been open?


Alvin Williams

Cobalt opened in 2000. So we're in our 21st year,


Dwayne Appleton

Right. Amazing. Amazing. Congratulations. And obviously, your family's restaurants been open forever. So part of that quote, I think is also saying that at the time now, like businesses have been open, right. But at the time now, due to market trends that you're just saying and kind of what's hot. The easier thing to do then create your brand right now is just make something that's hipster. In that sense. The formula is easy. And there's plenty of people that have opened up in the vibe district, you know, or other places. I don't want to call out just the few people that are sitting right on top of me. But those people look exactly like that with, you know, the wood and the, you know, the full grain stuff.


Alvin Williams

Tell us what's the thesis like, you know, we've been around 20 years, Brady and his family been around, what?


Brady Viccellio

81 years.


Alvin Williams

So you're now in the ViBE District.


Brady Viccellio

Which is brand new Virginia Beach -- historically it's brand new.


Dwayne Appleton

Yeah, historically, is brand new. Luckily, we predate it. So we had we had our own thing going in and also luckily I got the building and on 19th Street before the vibe just goes there. The millionaires who are trying to make it happen we're already trying to make it happen.


Alvin Williams

So what are they trying to promote? What is that thing but what do they want? Is it art, is it new talent is a new concept. So what are they trying to promote in the ViBE District?



Dwayne Appleton

You want a political politically correct answer? I'll say first off, first of all, all change in the end can be very positive no matter what it is, you know, like, nobody complains about how they build the tunnels in New York, you know what I'm saying? Yeah, that that time, I'm sure it was a big problem for a lot of people, but it's there, right. And everyone uses the infrastructure. So, you know, changing the city and changing stuff. Honestly, when I was a kid, and my granddad was telling me the beats look the same when he you know, and he was here in the military study that I thought Virginia Beach wouldn't change, I really had thought that it was the same for so long. So of course, I'm happy to see change. And as locals we're all happy to see growth. And as business owners, we're all happy to see businesses, that that's all 100%. There's at least five other coffee shops in the vibe district with us. And there's zero problem with that, because the market can support even more than that, probably it's not. So there's no in my mind, competitiveness is something that we should never ever think about as business owners. And we should just be thinking about community effects. Because there's no, there's no good or bad to all of us trying to do more. The joke before I bought Java surf was that the coffee in this town was so bad, I had to buy a coffee shop. Okay, that's where we were. But now and it's not just because it means because other people in the industry are pushing boundaries, too. And there's other cafes it opened that didn't make it that also contributed to that growth. But now we're at a place where we have a ton of Nishi, some upscale, some hipster, you know, in that market. So I think that's excellent. And there's options for quality. That's excellent for all.


Brady Viccellio

Well, like you said, the development I remember, of course, when I was a kid, the beach was much different. The Strip was that had the telephone poles and the wires and big signs, there wasn't a lot of like zoning ordinance or anything, we just build it and set it up and try to be kind of louder and more attractive than the place next year. But it was all I remember, it was described as Honky Tonk. And it kind of was a hockey town. But at the time they wanted to change it. Well, it's good. Why are you changing it? But then in hindsight, okay, yeah, that's probably a good move.


Alvin Williams

Do you think with you on the other coffee shops around? Is there a lot more synergy now that more than competition? My experience, I think in the past year or two, there's a lot more gracious energy between all our restaurant tourists who are going through something bad together, and we're trying to all help each other out through it. That's true. But coffee is pretty specific.


Brady Viccellio

I always say that it's really nice when your ice machine goes down you can to go next door with a cooler and grab it. Sure. Yeah. And if you don't have that relationship with the people next to you, you got a problem.


Alvin Williams

Yeah. You got to go to 711 and buy those bags for like, yeah, eight bucks a bag.


Brady Viccellio

I don't know. It ain't cheap, because we've all been through it. But, it's nice to have the relationship with your competition. I mean, it's but it's a friendly competition. That's what I'm asking. Is it a friendly competition?


Dwayne Appleton

I'll say this. When you're hungry, it's really easy to feel like someone else is eating more than you. Okay. That's just in us when we're hungry. Okay. So there's definitely been things that have happened in the past where other people thought they had a problem, or other owners thought they had a problem. But I don't think there's a competition to be the best. I think that's a younger person's, or a newer business owner, like, oh, I have to be number one. No matter what, man that's so subjective. You're literally just torturing yourself. But knowing that you're one of the best is very comfortable.


Alvin Williams

Well, I'm happy to be here in Virginia Beach. Brady grew up here in Virginia Beach, and I believe you did to more or less, what is what are some of the great things that you enjoyed about growing up here?


Brady Viccellio

Oh, wait, we got a quote. Another article says Java Surf is a tribute to everything that is good about growing up in Virginia Beach.


Dwayne Appleton

Let me tie those two quotes together. Part of the thing from the first one is that and we kind of got off on a tangent because we're talking about local businesses and the other stuff. But just going back to that idea that the easy thing to do is that there's plenty of businesses with formulas. As a matter of fact, there's plenty of formulas for everything what's gentrification? It's a formula. Okay, there's plenty of formulas for whatever you want to make happen. Instead of me taking Java Surf and researching or paying a consultant or a firm to make me the most hip or the most accurate portrayal of what people want right now. I built everything from ground up I wasted money, I wasted time I made lots of bad decisions. I made more good ones overall over time but not immediately and not in a you know short period time plenty of bad decisions. In it you know, as the owner you always have to bite any mistake you make you guys know you face everything. You waste that money. You write the wrong check, man. You're just sitting there on it. That's just called growth. So you know, that's from that first quote is just trying to create something original, all the ideas for JavaScript came out of. And this leads in the second quote, came out of my childhood came out of my experience came out of my dreams or my own thoughts of what I was trying to do or how those changed. So it wasn't, you know, it's so easy to just go on Instagram or Pinterest and save 100 pictures and just be like, oh, this is the thing. I didn't ever do any of that. I wasn't even on social media. I didn't do any of that the company every time someone tried to sell me a website against social media for like six years I just told him that doesn't that doesn't at all improve the what's happening in the restaurant that doesn't make the food taste better, doesn't make the coffee better doesn't make the customer experience better. I need to just focus on this one thing make everything perfect here for these eight hours like knock it out of the park.


Brady Viccellio

There's two things there one was formulas, which are which are most popular formula of coffee?



Dwayne Appleton

In the morning, I have a salted caramel latte. But at this point, I do like a quarter of a pop. It's like every drink has like two bumps. I do like a quarter I so little, like a little teeny tiny bit of sugar. And I've also graduated on to oat milk. So I don't have the normal milk anymore in the morning. And I didn't mean to say like I still drink some milk. But in the afternoon, I have a cappuccino and that's where the real milk and those are the only two drinks I drink my wife and I have French presses at the house.


Brady Viccellio

Now what's the most popular at Java Surf?


Dwayne Appleton

So just because of other companies marketing, there's no way you're not going to sell out taste the most no matter what you can try to do whatever you want. But the thing that most people know just like when they approach anything they don't know they're going to err on the side of whatever they think they know, right? The simplest thing and a latte is the simplest thing they can rely on, which is an espresso coffee drink which includes the addition of milk, which is usually found the whole name cafe latte, or cafe latte in Italian.


Brady Viccellio

What the differences there is the time for milk coffee.


Alvin Williams

So you have to go to coffee school or something. I mean, I went to culinary school. Brady went to the school of hard knocks.


Dwayne Appleton

The answer is yes, I did go to a school. It’s definitely not going to culinary school but there are accredited courses. Okay, they really are actual coursework take double blind tests at the end or I don't know if that's why we're not double you take written tests with a proctor you take physical tests, we have to actually perform practical tests.


Alvin Williams

There should be like, certain things should all the water should be a certain temperature, or the milk should be a certain age or time or something, all of it all the more.


Dwayne Appleton

They also teach roasting classes, they also teach cue level, olfactory senses classes, right? You're actually doing like a summon Yay. And my wife's better at this than I am partly because we actually met at Starbucks. I forgot to tell you guys that. She was running the Starbucks at Laskin Road and Pacific before I ever had Java Surf.


Brady Viccellio

And you tried to lift her?


Dwayne Appleton

I certainly tried. I certainly tried the first time I asked her to go out for drinks with me. She said oh, you know, I have a boyfriend. Her whole body turned purple and not just her face. She was so embarrassed and mortified. And I was like, that's cool. You know, friends go out for drinks to see we're just friends. And we were just twins. Yeah, we were just friends for six, eight months, maybe the longest I've ever been friends with anybody.


Alvin Williams

Well, yeah, our wives are in this little club thing where we had children weeks apart, weeks apart two weeks apart, I guess. And then there's some other restaurateurs and chefs and our wives all right to get four girls in the group little support group.


Dwayne Appleton

And everybody's either a restaurant owner, their husband's restaurant owner. Yeah, it's a cool mix.


Alvin Williams

It's pretty cool. They seem to have more fun than we do.


Dwayne Appleton

But you know, we all work in a business where it never ends.


Alvin Williams

Let's talk about that a little bit. So I'll speak for me. It's difficult -- I love spending time with Carrie and Penelope. But time is a valuable commodity. And of course, I'm trying to keep a roof over the head and keep over our heads and keep the business going and everything. How was it for you? I mean, you have twins and multiple businesses. I mean, how does that work? How did you manage to make it work?


Dwayne Appleton

Well, first off, we're broke as hell. Okay, well, we're in the same boat. And when customers asked me, you know, the like, how's everything going? I tell them, you know what the best thing about this industry is we're broke every winter. Okay, so that this was a COVID winter. It's a little worse than normal. But we're broke every winter. We've saved up money. But that's just the nature of the beast. What I have really loved right now is that Rachel got to be a stay at home mom. And that is just insane. Whether you work for yourself or you work for somebody else, just even having one parent be able to be at home is just absolutely incredible.


Alvin Williams

That's what Carrie's doing. And it makes such a difference with the child's progression. So and it's a job. Like it's, it's a tough job. It's a horribly tough job. Yeah. nothing but respect. What about your time management? Is there a certain time of the day that you'd like to be home?


Dwayne Appleton

So the best thing about my schedule right now is I've got a good GM who's been working for me for five years. Ricky, no headhunters allowed- - a shout out to my boy, shout out, okay. He's awesome. He's worked his way up.


Interestingly enough, we get up early, okay, so you work at night, get off, hopefully by midnight or whatever. But sometimes, you know, whatever, it's late, best thing that I ever do is get out of the nighttime business to be honest with both of you and I know you both love what you do, and I love what I do, but getting out of it. And the biggest difference was less money. If you can deal with that, you can also switch industries or switch to a totally different industry in the same industry.


Brady Viccellio

But you can sleep pretty well on a pile of money.


Dwayne Appleton

I knew I could just tell but the best thing for me though right now is even though we don't have a lot in the way of money we do have this time together and almost every morning I get to be at home until 11 when the boys go to nap so that is totally incredible. We get up early and I get up even earlier now to be able to the gym because I don't want to go to the gym while the boys are up so it's like you know you do switch things around. I never thought I'd be 42 year old dad with twins.


Alvin Williams

Do you sell more coffee in the wintertime? Because it's cold or?


Dwayne Appleton

That's a common question. The thing is, is that there's just less business and winter overall because people are hibernating, you know. And we have a really interesting business going back that alcohol license questions you asked me when I get visited, our ABC guy loves us. Like, they come in and they're like, oh, you know, you have to have this this amount of dollar sales, you know, to match your m bar and stuff. And I'm like, cool. I did 10,000 times that dollar amount is all my food. Like I could probably stay open all night with no food and just try to sell people drinks and still not get you the percentage right? Of course, which we all know is an ancient and antique way of controlling absolutely nothing.


Brady Viccellio

Okay, you have to, you have to sell this much food for alcohol yourself. But you can open up a place that sells just marijuana, that's gonna be legal. That's it, you can sell all the marijuana you want. You don't have to sell food or iced tea or anything else, just sell marijuana.


Dwayne Appleton

But if you sell alcohol, you got to sell a lot of food to go on with it. But it still doesn't make any sense. Because whatever logic they were using in the beginning to try to control make more money, it's like just make more money and don't control it.


Brady Viccellio

When they first started doing these laws, they were coming off of no liquor sales. And they were everything was closed on Sunday. I mean, it was a different world. I mean, on Sundays, the only thing you do is go to the grocery store, you got a sound lab and that was open restaurants were open but most were closed.


Alvin Williams

Well, when you're only closed two days a year, Thanksgiving and Christmas.


Dwayne Appleton

Yeah, on our website, that's called the 363 guarantee. Alright. And on those days, I coined that term for you guys try to steal that after you try to steal Ricky.


Brady Viccellio

As our new employee.


Alvin Williams

By the way, he just texted me back. And on those days, you've hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner for the community since 2015. How did that get started? And why has it been something that's been important to you?


Dwayne Appleton

Well, I think it actually started really small, just Rachel and people close to us. And then it kind of grew from there. Like we you know, in our industry, we always have a couple employees who don't live here or don't have family around or don't have any family left, you know, and then people that you work with, and that you employ, you know, they're part of your work family or part of your, the people that are supporting your life. So then they kind of then turned into other employees were there and then turned into some of the friends from the beach where they're, you know, kind of just grew on its own. But what it really was just a way to open the restaurant, and not charge any money and not take any money. So even when people would come in and say now let my money be 20 bucks does like, today's Thanksgiving, I'm refusing money, and I really didn't feel good to just be able to be like, there is no money. Today money does doesn't even exist. There's an interesting that that's not how it started. But that is what it became. And it was like, we're opening our doors to the neighborhood to the community around us. And everything's for free. Like you want to soda pop have this have a certain way you want some coffee. And then what we would do is we clean off the whole bar, and we would just set it up buffet style. And people would just come and go as they wanted and very sweet. Great.


Alvin Williams

Did they complain?


Dwayne Appleton

One person was mad because he was vegan. And there weren’t vegan options. And I was like, there were vegetables and salad. But I was like, I don't know, that's not enough vegan options. And it's Thanksgiving. So of course it's Turkey and ham, but whatever.


Brady Viccellio

My grandfather, before opening Steinhilber’s (in Virginia Beach), he was also he was working at Steinhilber’s, which was his brother's restaurant in Norfolk. And there's this homeless guy that would come every day and get a sandwich. I don't know if he was actually homeless, he maybe had a home, but he couldn't afford food and was not well off, couldn't afford lunch or whatever. And he’d come after the lunch and kind of get the scraps from my grandfather. I think he'd probably sit and have coffee while he made him a sandwich. And one day was a busy day and my grandfather didn't really have any bread left. So he made a sandwich with the heels. The guy says, “What the hell is this?”


Alvin Williams

Okay, Dwayne. It is time for a little fun. Okay, what we like to call The Check podcast lightning round. First question, what is your favorite cooking or restaurant TV show and why?


Dwayne Appleton

I haven't had cable in in a long, long, long time. And of course Netflix is kicked in now but I don't really watch that sort of stuff on there. But I will say that every once in a while on social media, that Bar Rescue guy/ Only because, you know, he seems kind of like an odd duck who made it because he had the chops for it. You know? I mean, I kind of appreciate that.


Brady Viccellio

What's your favorite movie?


Dwayne Appleton

I think for my 40th birthday we rented out the movie theater, and we had them show The Princess Bride, and we watched it in the movie theater. I never got to see it in the movie theater. Not the same as my favorite but that was an awesome experience. Next question.


Alvin Williams

Alright. What is your pet peeve?


Dwayne Appleton

I would say, you know, inefficiency. You go to the bank and there's 10 people on the line. They're talking to everybody. You know what I tell them when I go to a teller. When you have over five people you do not ask personal questions. You do not ask for you see all the people online. They're just sitting there thinking why is this guy asking more questions? All right. Take my money.


Brady Viccellio

Favorite meal?


Dwayne Appleton

You gotta love brunch food if you're in this in the breakfast industry. Okay, I take it all back, Mediterranean.


Alvin Williams

What is your favorite beverage to wash down that Mediterranean meal with?


Dwayne Appleton

You know, I've drank beer more than anything else. But also tequila.


Brady Viccellio

Favorite holiday?


Dwayne Appleton

Most holidays are corporate brainwashing so it’s hard to get behind them. My wife's birthday is my favorite holiday.


Brady Viccellio

Perfect. Beautiful.


Alvin Williams

All right, what three words do you think describe you the best. I stumped you. You're silent right now. Come on, three words.


Dwayne Appleton

You guys really got me. I've spent so many years perfecting the art of not giving away personal information or answering questions that my palms are sweating right now. Alright, I'll tell you one thing is, is definitely being able to pivot. I have a huge heart. And I hide it. Because if you let people know that you're always at a risk.


Alvin Williams

So you're compassionate. Okay.


Dwayne Appleton

Yes. But I'd rather keep people at arm's distance and that sense of you know, you just never know. I'm never worried about the other shoes gonna fall like the other things gonna go wrong – optimistic.


Brady Viccellio

Optimistic, compassionate and adaptive.


Dwayne Appleton

Yeah. Beautiful. Yeah. Sweet. I'm gonna buy that URL tonight.


Alvin Williams

Well, it was great having you here.


Dwayne Appleton

Oh, wait, there's one more thing I want to say.

Alvin Williams

Oh, boy.


Dwayne Appleton

You never had a guest do that. Brady did talk about earlier about community impact and how we interact competing. I just want to say on air to a few people that all the artwork that we've done. There's a couple other quotes out there like the most colorful corner of Virginia Beach, most colorful horn, the vibe district. All the artwork that we've done, we've paid out of pocket. So someone who goes to the Thanksgiving thing we realized early on that we wanted to kind of make our own way and make our own impact. When I moved when we moved the business to the Mediterranean, it was really incredible thing for Rachel and I both because I grew up off Lake drive off Mediterranean and she grew up off Lakewood Circle, which is off Mediterranean. I used to walk by that building when I walked to Virginia Beach Middle School. And it was it was really this interesting feeling because when I bought old Java surf, I bought something that already existed and I created something but when we moved to 19th Street, I was creating something from the ground up which you both know, it's a totally different experience, right? So there was a lot of stuff that we decided to do. Like when we just had the small shop, you know, we would do like people art up on the wall stuff, coffee shop style, right. But in the new place, we had all bay windows, though, you know, open, and we didn't have walls. So we took that idea outside. And before there was a vibe district and before there was a vibe nonprofit owned by a couple millionaires who tie into all the city in the state stuff to get all this money moving and everything else for all that stuff existed. We were there on that corner, redoing that building, and I started doing murals, and we paid for all that out of pocket. And similarly to when we all upgrade our stuff, or you add more chairs outside or we do stuff, it's really, you know, people can look at it like, Oh, you know, they're doing that to make more money? Well, you don't do anything to make more money, you actually do it to make a better impact or a better brand or to make a better relationship or to make the experience better for that customer. It's not something that you're sending, you know, an easy way to say maybe as you don't spend a bunch of money to make money, the fastest way to make money is not spend money, right? We're still trying to, you know, use that community engagement use the love and the momentum from our family and the customers and everything and try to give back and so that that's a that's doing it our own way. Yeah, we could apply for art grants. And yeah, we could apply for, you know, stuff like that. But for us, it meant more to just put the artists name on the wall and not put the all the industry, people that donated money to make it happen or not the bank that started the nonprofit that got them, someone else that donate money to write off to pay for that to happen on our walls is just the artist's name. It's and that's like something that we really pushed hard for.


Brady Viccellio

You point is that in front of the ViBE District, you're one of the pioneers of the art focus thing and giving credit to the artists.



Dwayne Appleton

For sure. Giving credit the artist but also using the business in more ways than just making money. We had yoga classes there we've hosted gyms have, have had free. Emily Kramer with Kaizen fitness for years had free athletic classes on the weekends. On the weekend, we let her use part of our outdoor space to have meetups for people to do CrossFit workouts and stuff. And my wife has roller skate meetups in there at night because we're not open at night so she actually does stuff. Java Jammers on Instagram shameless plug for my wife, but you know, she teaches people how to skate and she does community engagement that way. Using your business, your platform, your property using all the goodwill that people are putting on you because of all your hard work. We try to integrate that into, not really the business model--it's more like our life model. You know what I'm saying?


Alvin Williams

It’s your passion and your dreams and hopefully the money will follow.


Dwayne Appleton

Exactly and you know, right now what we get more than anything else instead of money is I get to spend every morning there till 11 when the boys go to bed. I'm saying that's worth being broke right now. Brady, you can't make a comment. You don't have kids.


Alvin Williams

He's got a god daughter.


Brady Viccellio

And an empty bank account.


Alvin Williams

She’s not draining your bank account yet.


Brady Viccellio

No, it has nothing to do with her.


Alvin Williams

Okay. She's taken care of mine. I'm Alvin


Brady Viccellio

And I’m Brady. And this is The Check




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