Career Change: Look Who Bought A Cafe

The fear of leaving an industry that I knew for one I didn’t was becoming more real as time went on. What have I gotten myself into?

Photo by Nick Vivenzio

For quite some time now, I’ve been daydreaming of leaving the comforts of a secure job for some adventure around the world (or at least America). Following in the footsteps of many modern explorers, I would pack my belongings away in a storage bin, set out to see the world around me and write about it.

To finance this venture, I would invest a portion of my savings into a business that would work for me, rather than the other way around. I looked into bars, laundromats, apartment buildings, etc. with no luck. Oh sure, I thought that if I was a decent enough storyteller, I could finance the trip with my words, but that thought scared me. What if no one read my stuff? After all, words are everywhere and no one really needs to read anything. Whereas nightlife or laundry or a place to live are things that sell themselves.

While pondering my options and growing more frustrated with the lack of traction they were getting, an interesting message came my way. My friend and partner in the annual Hoboken Music Awards Dave Entwistle sent me a text saying that another friend Dwight Thompson was looking for a business partner for his custom sandwich shop; D’s Soul Full Cafe.

More than a place to get great food and coffee, D’s is a Hoboken community hotspot. Art on the walls, music on the tiny stage. A mentoring program in the works for high school kids. A clubhouse for all. Dog friendly.

And the food? Bagels? Sure, but what makes D’s special are the delicious, unique twists on breakfast burritos and classic wraps. There are homemade baked sweet treats as well.

How’s the coffee? Well, I don’t drink coffee. However, I recently heard the best review ever. A construction worker came in for an iced coffee. As he sipped it he said, “Whoa, now that’s good fuckin’ coffee. I drink a lot of coffee and that’s good fuckin’ coffee!”

This was my kinda place, but could I be the owner?

Dwight’s own frustrations were growing at this point. So many of the potential buyers were missing the whole point of the place. They would immediately begin to tear down everything that made it cool. Change the name, decor, menu, become a chain-store franchise, and so on. Essentially, cutting out the soul to make room for the dollars.

When Dwight and I first started to talk seriously about partnering up, I thought that I could invest some money and go on with my dreams of traveling. The added funds would allow the business to thrive. But that tune quickly changed as we got into the details.

This was not going to be a simple investment. This would require me managing the business while Dwight managed the food. My initial reaction was to say no, I can’t do this. What am I thinking? I know nothing about managing a cafe. Not even a little bit.

However, the more we talked about it, I realized that I had to do this. With it’s emphasis on great food, community, art and music, this tiny cafe was proving to be the brick-and-mortar embodiment of everything I’ve ever tried to do with my writing.

And so (somewhat blindly), I leaped. Quitting my job in publishing to try something that I had never tried before was scary and liberating at the same time. Sure I’ve had my panic attacks since that fateful day. From time to time, as the lawyers, bankers, accountants and whatnot grapple over details, I’ll wonder if I’d made a mistake.

Then I remember the ulcers and the sick days. The grasping for excuses to stay home. The lost passion for an industry that continued to disappoint me. Then my mind quickly (almost instantaneously) clears and I’m back on the cafe track. Plus, I’d realize that all of the skills I’d developed over the time spent making other people wealthier would now come in handy for me. Not that I was looking to get wealthy.

I simply wanted a successful business that could sustain me here at home. Maybe allow me to travel a little. Most importantly, allow Dwight’s vision of his community hotspot to thrive in Hoboken. I see the kids who come in and love it here. I see the musicians and artists who hang out here. I feel this place growing into a cultural centerpiece in town. I’ve eaten the food and can say without any bias that, if you eat here once, you will be back.

Onward and upward. I now have a ton of fodder for stories. So stick around for updates and wish me luck. Better yet, come by and grab breakfast or lunch some time.

D’s Soul Full Cafe
918 Willow Ave
Hoboken, NJ

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