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Up In Your Business Home PageAbout Kerry McCoy

Don Dugan founder of Dugan's Pub and Skye's Bistro talks success and advice for up and coming restaurant owners

May 12, 2017

Listen to this week's podcast to find out:

  • Why Dugan’s Pub has been so successful
  • What advice he has for up and coming want-to-be restauranteurs
  • What Dugan says he wasn't prepared for as a business owner


Don Dugan is the owner/operator of Stratton’s Market & Skye’s Bistro. Don was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1969, and graduated Parkview High School in 1987. He went on to attend both ASU and UALR. Since then, he has built an extensive and expansive culinary industry resume, spanning throughout central Arkansas. His first restaurant job was at Shoney’s on Markham in 1984. He began his career in the food industry as a server and dishwasher. Through years of public relations and mastering his craft, Don steadily rose in rank and responsibility, working his way out of the dish pits into bar tending (Shorty Small’s). From there h e was promoted to Front of House Lead and then became Assistant Director of Food and Beverage at the Chenal Country Club. As he worked each new position, he gained a greater understanding of the requirements needed to succeed in the restaurant industry. He was soon hired by Kelly’s Bistro as Acting Director of Food and Beverage. He advanced to Assistant Manager at Julies, and finally General Manager of LaScala and the Afterthought.   

Dugan was quoted saying, “I waited tables in college and really loved the business. (Pancho’s of Jonesboro & Shorty Smalls of Little Rock) Left Shorty’s and went to work at Pleasant Valley Country Club and learned a lot about fine dining. Moved to Chenal Country Club and expanded that knowledge, as well as learned about customer service from Eric Bugeya. When I left, I went to work at Kelley’s Bistro for Craig & Diane Kelley. Worked anywhere I was needed: kitchen, waiting tables, tending bar, hosting, managing. After two years I moved to Julies. For two years I managed there under Mike Griffiths and spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Got an opportunity to go to work for Wally Geiringer at LaScala & The Afterthought. I learned more about the nuts & bolts of running a business and how to make a profit from Wally.” It was at this point in his career, Dugan began to see how the restaurant industry might pave the way to his success. After leaving his position as General Manager after 5 years, he went on to say, “I went back to work at Kelley’s Bistro. After 3 years, a friend bought the restaurant and I stayed with him until I saw it was going to fail. I left and went to work for Textbook Brokers, buying textbooks. A customer took over the Kelley’s spot, changed the name and menu and took off with it. Got the opportunity to buy it in February 2006 from Rick Millerick and took it from doing low 6 figures a year to low 7 figures in sales, in a year and half. While owning Markham Street, we put the plan in motion to open Dugan’s Pub and opened in October of 2010.”

Seemingly overnight, after the rise and success of Dugan’s Pub, another offer came to Dugan. “My accountant asked in May of 2011 if we would be interested in selling Markham Street and so we did. About the same time the Pharmacy next door to Dugan’s became available and we needed the space so we expanded next door adding a party room that holds 30 and a small convenience store in the front of the space & created Stratton’s Market. A year later we acquired a liquor store permit. That was unique to Arkansas, in that it allowed you to sell liquor and groceries together. The opportunity to expand over into the next space came up, so we took it and added a 12 foot wine wall!! We also added a full kitchen and do lunches, dinner and carry out business out of there.” (Skye’s Bistro).

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Behind The Scenes

Full Transcript: EPISODE 35 - Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy - Guest: Don Dugan owner of Dugan's Pub 



[0:0:08.8] T: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.


Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.


[0:0:23.8] KM: Thank you, Tim. Hi, I’m Kerry McCoy. Like Tim said, it's time for me to get up in your business. For the next hour, my guest, Don Dugan, restaurateur and founder of Dugan Pub, and I, will be getting up in the business of how we maneuvered the path of entrepreneurship in pursuit of our dreams.


I started my company, Arkansas Flag & Banner, over 40 years ago. During the last four decades, Arkansas Flag & Banner has grown and morphed from door-to-door sales to telemarketing, to mail-order catalog sales, and now, relies heavily on the Internet. Each change in sales strategy required a change in company thinking and procedures. My wisdom, confidence, and my company grew. My initial $400 investment now produces nearly $4 million in annual sales.


[0:01:09.8] T: $40 investment. That was it?


[0:01:11.5] KM: That’s it.


[0:01:12.1] T: That's crazy. I wish I could do that.


[0:01:15.7] KM: You know, the Arkansas Times told me last week, he started Arkansas Times  with $200.


[0:01:20.3] T: No.


[0:01:21.1] KM: That’s what he said.


[0:01:21.8] T: Allan did?


[0:01:22.2] KM: Allan did last week, yeah. You’re messing up my intro there, darling.


[0:01:25.3] T: Sorry. Go right ahead. It just blew me away. I couldn’t believe it.


[0:01:28.7] KM: Each week, you will hear a candid conversation between me and my guest about real-world experiences on a variety of businesses and topics that I hope you find interesting. Starting and owning a business is like so many things. It takes persistence, perseverance, and patience. I worked part-time jobs for nine years before Arkansas Flag & Banner grew enough to support just me. It’s now grown and expanded so much that to operate efficiently, we require — Are you ready? A purchasing, manufacturing, graphic, shipping technology, accounting, marketing, sales, and customer service department, plus a retail store. 25 people or more make their living from working at Arkansas Flag & Banner.


My guest today is restaurateur Don Dugan, owner, operator, founder of Dugan's pub and Stratton’s Market in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. For 30 years, Dugan has built an extensive and expansive career in the culinary industry. Like so many in his field, he began as a server and a dishwasher. In an interview, Dugan was quoted saying, “I waited tables in college and really loved the business.” Yes, he did.


Dugan moved up the restaurant business ladder, taking promotion and changing companies as his knowledge, pay, and responsibility grew. What began as a bus boy at Shoney's led to jobs at Shorty Small’s, Chenal Country Club, Kelley's Bistro, Julie’s, and the Afterthought just to name a few. In October 2010, Dugan’s Pub opened. Not long after this, Don saw an opportunity to buy the building space and extorted Dugan’s Pub and opened Stratton Market, which today, operates as both a neighborhood grocery store and a package store.




[0:03:11.6] KM: Welcome to the table, successful restaurateur and now grocery store owner, Don Dugan.


[0:03:17.2] DD:  Hello, hello.


[0:03:18.6] KM:  You have a nice radio voice.


[0:03:19.6] DD: Thank you.


[0:03:20.2] KM: You’ve done this before?


[0:03:21.3] DD: Once or twice, but I like it. It’s fun.


[0:03:24.4] KM: So you have extensive training in the restaurant business.


[0:03:26.9] DD: I do. If there’s a job to be done in the restaurant, aside from sommelier, I don't think that there's any other job in the restaurant that I have not done. However, I can probably pick out different types of wine, different styles of wine. I probably can’t give you a year or what side of the hill it was grown on. That’s a little in-depth for me and I’m not a trained sommelier. However, I do enjoy wine and working at Chenal Country Club and Pleasant Valley Country Club and then at LaScala & The AfterThought, those are places that I really got the opportunity to try to hone that skill. That was something that I enjoyed doing a lot.


[0:04:02.3] KM: Is that why you put a 12-foot wine wall in your grocery store?


[0:04:05.8] DD: Partially because I like wine. Who doesn’t like wine? Come on.


[0:04:10.7] KM: I don’t know.


[0:04:10.7] DD: Don’t answer that question.


[0:04:12.2] KM: I’m not going to answer that question. Tell us about starting from college, when you first started and got the restaurant bug, which I think a lot of people have — We talked about that before the show started. Everybody in this room had the fantasy that they were going to be a restaurateur. Tell us about the start in college.


[0:04:28.1] DD: I honestly I didn't really want to be in the restaurant business but when I was in college, I worked at a couple restaurants in high school. They were fastfoody-type places and also Shoney’s but I was in the kitchen at Shoney’s. When I went to college, mom said, “Well, it’s great. I can help take care of some of your bills but you’re going to have to get a job. I said, “Oh, okay.”


I went and there’s another guy that I was talking to that ended up being my roommate. His name is Brian Bill. He lives in North Central Arkansas on Mountain Home. He’s a contractor up there and a really nice guy. If you’re in that area, need somebody, give him a call.


[0:05:05.8] KM: What’s his name?


[0:05:06.6] DD: Brian Bill.


[0:05:07.3] KM: There you go.


[0:05:07.8] DD: He does a —


[0:05:08.4] KM:  Bill Construction or something?


[0:05:09.3] DD: Yeah, I believe that’s right. He and I were talking, and we were like, “Well, let’s go out and find a job.” We went because his parents who told him he needed a job, too. We went out to different places and applied and one of the places that we both put an application was this place called Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant.


[0:05:25.2] KM:  In Jonesboro, Arkansas.


[0:05:25.8] DD: In Jonesboro and it was right on Caraway there, I believe. We both ended up getting hired at the same time. At that time, he wasn’t my roommate but then he wound up being my roommate throughout the semester. He wanted to get out of the dorms and move in with me. We started waiting tables there and really enjoyed it. We were probably two of the most competitive people in that place.


[0:05:50.0] KM: For tables or something?


[0:05:51.3] DD:  Just in general, yeah. I’m a fairly competitive person. I don’t like to lose very often but I do. Don’t get me wrong, but I try to win every chance I get. We would have contests with each other and with other people on staff. This one ain’t anything that was sanctioned by the management. It was just something that we just did because we wanted to see—


[0:06:10.1] KM: What kind of contest?  


[0:06:11.6] DD: To see who could sell the most every day and then who could sell the most of this item or this item or this item.


[0:06:16.7] KM: Who could sell the most margaritas or something?


[0:06:19.0] DD: It would have been had there been alcohol there, but there wasn’t alcohol there. I did enjoy waiting tables, and it was fun, and we had a good time. It just seemed really cool gig. When I left there and came back home and started working at Shorty Smalls, I applied at seven or eight places in town and that were all on the west side of town. I grew up over there right by Breckenridge Village.


[0:06:44.0] KM: You got a job at Shorty’s?


[0:06:45.1] DD: I applied at Shorty Smalls and started waiting tables there. Then, I started to understand what the whole pushing each other and sales contests and things like that were for. one of the things that they did at Shorty’s that I thoroughly enjoyed was if they were in the top three in sales, then you got to write your own schedules.


[0:07:04.2] KM: What a good idea.


[0:07:05.1] DD: They did it per person average, so if you had 20 people that came in and they spent X amount of money and somebody else said 20 people that came in and they spent less, then your per person average is more. If your per person average was higher, then you got to write your own schedule. Whoever was second got to write their own schedule but they couldn’t conflict with what. You wanted. Whoever was third could write their own schedule, but they couldn’t conflict with everybody else. Then, the other folks that were down below that didn’t make it, that were 4th, 5th, through 12th, all just got to take what was left.


[0:07:39.4] KM: That’s such a good idea but it sounds like a nightmare for the person having to keep up with sales and hours.


[0:07:46.8] DD: It went great for them, I’m sure. However —


[0:07:49.1] KM: Created work for management but it was good for you all and motivating.


[0:07:52.1] DD: It was motivating for us. We sold a lot, and it was fun. Out of the —


[0:07:56.6] KM: You do that at Dugan’s?


[0:07:57.7] DD: No, we don’t currently.


[0:07:59.0] KM: There’s too much work for management.


[0:08:0.7] DD: Exactly. I’ve got a very limited management staff, which basically would all fall on me and I’m not really interested in doing it. I just go in and motivate people in other ways. We have other sales contests and things like that. We’ll play server bingo and stuff, so we’d put a bingo page up there and each different food items or drink items that we’ve got on our menu, we’ll put those on there and then sell them, “Okay, today’s cover all. Today I make five,” or whatever the case may be.


I know it’s goofy but it is fun, and we’ll do different prizes for them, whether it be a $25 gift certificate to Dugan’s that they can either keep them or they can turn it in right at that moment and keep $25 cash if they win.


[0:08:45.7] KM: They probably eat free at Dugan’s. You probably don’t know it, but your employees are given meals all the time.


[0:08:50.5] DD: One of the things that I never complain about is people eating food, which sounds totally opposite of what you would think. Guys in the kitchen — I figured out a long time ago that if you give people the keys to the kingdom, more often than not, they’re not going to take it. Does that make sense?


[0:09:04.5] KM: Yeah.


[0:09:05.0] DD: If you’re the guy standing there, holding the keys, going, “You’re never getting it,” then they’re going to take anything they can get and they’re going to do it sneakily behind your back. Then all of a sudden, you’re creating a situation where they have to be untruthful with you and they have to try to figure out a way to get around you. I don’t want that kind of culture, I don’t want that kind of environment, and I don’t want that kind of workplace. I’m not that kind of person and I sure don’t want to have to be that guy. That guy sucks. I don’t want to be that guy. It does. I don’t want to be that guy that stands over you like an overlord the whole time going, “Don’t touch that.”


[0:09:37.5] KM: I hate micromanaging.


[0:09:39.6] DD: I don’t have that time in my life and I don’t want my management staff spending that kind of time on that. We just tell all the guys in our kitchen. It’s like, “Look, if you’re hungry, eat.” I don’t know what these guys are doing when they’re off work. I don’t know what their lives are like outside of my four walls. It may be that that meal that they have with me is the only meal they get that day. I don’t know.


[0:10:02.5] KM: You know certainly —


[0:10:02.9] DD: It’s probably not that way, but I don’t know that, so I would much rather —


[0:10:07.4] KM: Sir Loin’s Inn, would let us come in before we had our shift and would feed us. We all got there before our shifts so they would feed us.


[0:10:17.0] DD: One of the things that Chenal and at Pleasant Valley, they always have what they call staff meal or family meal.


[0:10:21.4] KM: There you go.


[0:10:22.3] DD: They’re the same kind of thing.


[0:10:23.7] KM: It’s a good time to take a break. When we come back, we’re going to hear Don Dugan’s path to success at both Dugan’s Pub and Stratton’s Market, which I think it’s named after your wife.


[0:10:32.3] DD: It is.


[0:10:33.3] KM: We are going to ask him why he thinks Dugan’s pub has been so successful and what advice he has for up and coming, want to be restaurateurs.


[0:11:10.3] KM: I read Don — Actually, everybody  calls you Dugan, don’t they?


[0:11:13.7] DD:  Both.


[0:11:14.2] KM: Do they?


[0:11:15.3] DD: Some other names I can’t really say on the air but, yeah.


[0:11:15.9] KM: I thought Dugan —


[0:11:18.1] DD: Here and there, I get those but not too often, hopefully. Maybe they’ll have my back. I don’t know.


[0:11:24.7] KM: I read in one of your interviews where you paid homage to many of your past bosses and the lessons that you learned from each one of them. You are really —


[0:11:34.3] DD: I was extremely lucky I had some really great mentors and still do.


[0:11:37.5] KM: Eric from the Chenal Country Club embedded your knowledge in customer service.


[0:11:41.4] DD: Eric Bouche. I miss that guy like I can't even tell you.


[0:11:45.4] KM: Is he dead or something?


[0:11:45.8] DD: Sadly, he did pass away right before I bought Markham Street. Eric passed away probably three or four months before I bought Markham Street, growing pub. Out of all the people that I wanted to talk to about opening a business or running a business, he was the one. Sadly, I just — I don’t know. I couldn’t have a face-to-face with him. I did have a talk to him, I guess. Hopefully, I still look in them. I go and “Doogie, what are you doing,” so I don’t know.


[0:12:11.3] KM: Where’s he from?


[0:12:12.0] DD: He is from Marseille, France.


[0:12:14.3] KM: I wish people could see your face, because you really do miss him.


[0:12:17.8] DD: I do.  I still do and every now and then, I get to talk to his son, Christopher, and that’s nice. Christopher’s a good guy. He’s down in Florida, I believe, with his wife and, now, child.


[0:12:27.8] KM: I think good bosses make you a good boss. Then, from the Pleasant Valley Country Club, you learned a lot about fine dining.


[0:12:35.2] DD: I did. They had three separate dining areas there. They had the men’s grill downstairs but they also had a mixed grill upstairs. Then, they also had a fine dining area upstairs. The fine dining area I learned an awful lot about formal service, which at the time that I started working there, I was about 22 and I'd been exposed a little bit but not a whole lot.


My mother’s from Greenville, Mississippi and her mother is from Greenville Mississippi, so learning Southern hospitality was something that was in my family for a long time and learning the formal service just in the home was something that I already was familiar with but never formal service on how to do it in a restaurant. It just felt very comfortable and very natural to me. There’re some steps that get lost here and there and other restaurants. It just felt like I’d knew I was supposed to be there at that time. Does that make sense?


[0:13:36.2] KM: Yeah.


[0:13:37.2] DD: I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot there. The chefs that were there were really good that I worked under. I was only there for a brief period and then I got hired on by Eric at Chenal Country Club.


[0:13:49.8] KM: I had those backwards. Kelley's Bistro taught you team building and to work anywhere needed; kitchen, waiting tables, tending bar, hosting, managing.


[0:13:59.5] DD: That was a place that I really miss that place, too. Kelley's Bistro was owned by Craig and Diane Kelley. Craig's father was Al Kelley and his brother is Ted Kelley who was married to Virginia Kelley, which is Bill Clinton’s mother. That’s that whole crazy connection. Craig and Diane were living, I think, at the time in New Orleans, and Al decided that he wanted his one and only son — Al and Nancy Kelley decided that they wanted their one and only son at home in Little Rock, and they opened a restaurant for him and called it Kelley’s Bistro.


Craig trained in France to be a chef and then also at Le Cordon Bleu like actually at Le Cordon Bleu and then had worked in New Orleans at Commander's Palace and also in Vegas, so a few other places. Craig had incredible skill, great skills as far as being a chef. 


[0:14:45.2] KM: At what? At Chef.


[0:14:47.2] DD: He was an incredible chef and he came up with some really odd combinations that I was like, “How in the heck is that going to work,” and then, it does.


[0:14:53.3] KM: That’s when I heard of shrimp in grits. I was like, “What?”


[0:14:57.3] DD: He did this one dish that it just popped in my head. It was Midori shrimp. He took Midori, that melon liqueur, and reduced it down, and mounted it with butter, and then sautéed shrimp, and put the shrimp in there with it, and then did the salsa all over it.  It’s like a neon green plate and it had shrimp on it and it was fantastic.


[0:15:15.8] KM: It sounds fantastic.


[0:15:16.9] DD: It was fantastic, but I’ve tried to emulate or I’ve tried to repeat it, and I'm not as successful as he was at it. It’s something that we do around the house every now and then, but then, believe me, it’s every now and then.


[0:15:27.0] KM: Passes are tricky. You either have a knack for it or you don’t.


[0:15:30.8] DD: At the time, his wife, Diane Kelley, rented the front of the house. Crag rented the back. There were times that we were there, the dishwasher might not show up, or he needed help in the kitchen. If I just happen to be off work and I happen to be in there having a drink, and he’s be like, “Hey, man. Come back here and help me.” “Well, okay.” As long as I hadn’t had too much.


I’d go back there and help him sauté and I just watched him what he did and learned how to do a lot of what he did. When I was working at Chenal, also, I had the same scenario. I was the front of the house manager, but every now and then, something happens, and you got to go in the kitchen and you got to help out. I've never shot away from doing anything. I always figured, if anything, I would make myself more valuable to wherever I am because I know how to do these things.


[0:16:14.0] KM: I don’t think people realized that when you say it’s not in my job description, you’re limiting your value.


[0:16:22.2] DD: I have a pretty simple phrase around our place. If somebody looks at you and says, “That's not my job.” “Guess what? You're right. It's not. There is the door. I’ll find somebody else's who’s not scared. Thanks.”

[0:16:31.5] KM: That's right. At Julie’s, you spent a lot of time in the kitchen.


[0:16:35.5] DD: Yeah, I did.


[0:16:36.5] KM: Then at LaScala & The Afterthought, you learned the nuts and bolts of running a profitable business, and that's where so many restaurateurs make a mistake.


[0:16:43.6] DD: Failed.


[0:16:44.4] KM: Failed.


[0:16:44.7] DD: They do. Wally Gieringer who now owns Krebs Brothers —


[0:16:48.7] KM: Really?


[0:16:49.5] DD: Correct. At the time, he and his two partners owned LaScala & The Afterthought. I learned more from Wally about how to work a balance sheet and a profit and loss statement and how to actually control labor and food cost and how that translates into profit, which translates in being able to pay people and making sure that you're making payroll and paying yourself, which is what a lot of people seem to forget.


They get in the restaurant business and think, “Well, as long as I can cover all my bills. I’m good.” No, you got to pay yourself, too. You got a house, you got kids, or at least, I did. I’ve got a house and I have kids, cars. You got things you got to pay for.


[0:17:28.0] KM: Do you get your financials, your income statement, and balance sheet every month?


[0:17:31.6] DD: Every month.


[0:17:32.3] KM: I don’t think a lot of people do.


[0:17:33.8] DD: No, they don’t.


[0:17:34.6] KM: When I was a young businessperson, I didn’t even know the difference between a balance sheet and an income statement.


[0:17:40.6] DD: Before I started working for Wally, I really didn't.


[0:17:43.1] KM: I feel sorry for my accountant. He had to go, “Okay, your income statement is what you’ve earned that month and what you spent that month. Then, your balance sheet is how much money you have in your checking account and how much, if you own, in your assets and liabilities.”


[0:17:58.5] DD: What are the liabilities you have? If you have a loan for your business, that’s coming out of your balance sheet and then show up on your PNL but it shows up on your balance sheets. Whatever you pay yourself does, too.


[0:18:09.6] KM: Was there something, after all these restaurants, that’s caused you to just u to say, “I think I’m going to go out on my own and start my own restaurant.”


[0:18:17.9] DD: It’s funny. After I left LaScala, I went back to Kelley's Bistro and was tending bar for them and helping manage. Then, Craig and Diane ended up getting a divorce, and then they wound up selling the restaurant. They sold it to a guy — We were all friends, and they ended up selling it to him. In the year and a half that he owned it, I could see the decline coming and I knew the end was near.


[0:18:46.2] KM: He won’t look in his income statement and balance sheet.


[0:18:49.1] DD: No, he wasn’t. That's one of the reasons but there’s a lot more reasons than I want to get into here. I don’t want to disparage him or his former families. At that time, I’m married. I’ve got two kids at home. I got to have a job. I’ve got to have some income. One of the guys, it was a client of mine, owned textbook brokers. It was James Barnes and Jimmy Bachelor. They said, “Well, you can come work for us. I said, “Well, okay. What am I going to do?” They said, “Well, we’ll put you work buying books.”


I did the weirdest job I’ve ever done in my life. I traveled around from college campus to college campus about textbooks from instructors. Publishers will send things out to them in hopes that they adopt it. If they don’t, then it just sits on their shelf and dies. I went around with this scanner. It’s about the size of an iPhone, a little bit larger number but not about much, and scanned the back of the books, told them what it was worth and paid them cash for it. I literally had to drive to each place, each little college, community colleges, all kinds of crazy little place, technical schools, all that stuff.


When I was doing that, after about a year and a half of that, my wife’s like, “Hey, I love you but it’s time to come home.”


[0:20:02.1] KM: A year and a half.


[0:20:03.0] DD0: A year and a half. I was literally traveling for a year and a half. At that time, and my daughter’s swimming competitively and my wife is coaching, so I would leave out Monday morning. I would go buy textbooks until Thursday afternoon. I’d come back Friday morning. I would go turn everything in. Then, on Friday afternoon, we would leave and go to whatever corner of the state we were going to for a meet that weekend, or if we’re going to Oklahoma City, or Dallas, or Shreveport, or Tunica, or Memphis, or Saint Louis, or whatever it was. Literally, I would spend two nights a week at home in my bed.


[0:20:35.6] KM: That’s hard. It is hard. That’s hard on you.


[0:20:37.1] DD: Had I been 25 and single, it would have been the greatest job on the planet because I could have gone anywhere I wanted to as long as I just shipped books back; but 31 and married and two kids, a little difficult.


[0:20:46.5] KM: I saw that in your bio that you sold books. I was like, “Where did that come from?” You went back and bought Kelley's Bistro, didn’t you?


[0:20:52.6] DD: Actually, what happened was Kelley’s went out of business while I was traveling, which I knew was coming. I could see it.  This other guy that was a customer of ours, Rick Millerick, took it over, and he turned it in the Markham Street Grill and Pub. Rick had never been in the restaurant business before but he always thought it’d be really cool to get in the restaurant business. He struggled a lot with it, and I talked to him on the phone quite a bit while I was traveling.


I’d call in, “Hey, you doing all right?” Then, he called me and asked me questions about things. I was home one weekend and I just said, “Hey, listen. I know you're not in good health.” He was having some medical issues and was going to have surgery. I said, “Well, why don’t you just come in and run your restaurant for you for a couple months while you’re going through this and recuperating?” He was like, “Okay.”


We did that, and before he went in for surgery, we were there one night. I told him I needed to work a couple weeks to get things straight and figure out my bearings and figure out exactly where everybody that was on stuff was, so I would know how to manage things correctly. I said, “Man, why don’t you just let me be your partner?” He was like, “Okay.”


[0:21:56.8] KM: I love this guy. 


[0:21:57.4 ] DD: I said, “Wow, all right.” We had a couple more drinks, and I said, “Why don’t you just sell me the whole thing?” He was like, “Okay.” That was our negotiation. I’m really not joking. People look at me like, “It couldn’t have been that easy.” It genuinely was that easy.


[0:22:10.1] KM: I think everything around you is easy.


[0:22:11.6 ] DD: Sometimes. I went home that night and woke my wife up and said, “Hey, I think we just bought a restaurant.”


[0:22:16.3] KM: How did you get the money? He just let you pay him out?


[0:22:19.2] DD: No. 


[0:22:19.7 ] KM: You have to go to the bank?


[0:22:20.5] DD: I did. I went to — At that time, it was First Commercial?


[0:22:24.3] KM: Banks don’t like to like to loan restaurant money.


[0:22:25.9 ] DD: I know, but I got it at a really great price. My father did cosign for me. The guys that I worked were — I guess it was First Commercial Bank at that time.


[0:22:34.5] KM: They changed name so much, I cannot keep up.


[0:22:35.7] DD: I know. It’s hard to keep up. The two guys that I went to go see were in-charged of lending department and they were customers anyway, so they knew the potential of what was there. They knew me. They’ve known me for about five years, so they knew that I wouldn’t do some yahoo going, “Sweet. We’re going to get a restaurant. Whoo! We’re going to drink it up.” It’s not —


[0:22:53.0] KM: How old were you when you bought that restaurant?


[0:22:55.4 ] DD: I was 32, 33.


[0:22:57.4 ] KM: That’s a good age to buy a restaurant.


[0:22:59.3 ] DD: I was old enough that I’m going to be a total moron, not that I wasn’t but on occasion.


[0:23:04.0 ] KM: Young enough to stand on your feet and the energy to do restaurant. It is hard work.


[0:23:07.7] DD: Yes, ma’am, it is. But I'm used to it. It's just what I do. I enjoy it. I’m very lucky to have a job that I enjoy doing. I count my lucky stars every day and say thanks to the man upstairs, because that’s honestly the only reason I'm here doing what I do and I enjoy doing what I do. My father always told me when I was growing up. He said, “Listen, I don’t really care what you do. Just find something you enjoy doing and you'll find a way to get paid for. Don’t worry about the money aspect.” I was like, “Pop, that doesn't make a lot of sense.”


[0:23:37.5] KM: It did.


[0:23:38.4 ] DD: It did and so far, it's done okay.


[0:23:40.6] KM: It went from Kelley's Bistro to Markham?


[0:23:43.7] DD: Markham Street Grill and Pub. Rick turned it into that and I bought it from Rick. 


[0:23:46.8 ] KM: Did you name it after your daughter, Skye?


[0:23:48.4] DD: No.


[0:23:48.8] KM: What’s Skye Bistro?


[0:23:50.3] DD: That's something that we currently have downtown, and it's inside of the grocery store, the little restaurant part that’s in there. I know when you were in there the other day, you saw—We had the market.


[0:24:0.7] KM: Yeah, the little deli counter over there.


[0:24:02.3] DD: Correct. We built in a whole kitchen over there and we just called it Skye’s Bistro after my daughter’s name.


[0:24:06.7] KM: Everything downtown is named after a family member.  There's Dugan, there's Stratton, your wife's maiden name, and there’s Skye after your daughters.  You got two sons, you got a name, so you got to buy two more business.


[0:24:17.7] DD: We’ve got Ronan’s Mac & Cheese on our menu. We’ve got Finn’s Steak Sandwich on our menus.


[0:24:21.5] KM: There you go. 


[0:24:22.3] DD: We got them covered.


[0:24:23.0] KM: How about your dad whose played such an important part?


[0:24:25.8] DD: His last name was on that building, too. It's important to me.


[0:24:29.6] KM: That’s true. Dugan is his last name, so it is a legacy.


[0:24:33.4] DD: He was alive when we opened the place, I remember.


[0:24:36.8] KM: Is he passed, too?


[0:24:37.7] DD: Yeah, he did. Sadly, he passed about, now, two years ago.


[0:24:40.9] KM: I’m sorry.


[0:24:41.7] DD:  He was in the last class who graduated from 1957 from Central High before they integrated.


[0:24:46.7] KM: Really?


[0:24:47.2] DD: He was. One of the things when we were opening Dugan's, when we’d already sealed the deal and gotten money all squared away without his help at all on this realm  because of what we done at Markham Street. He’s walking around in there, and I think we’d poured concrete but we hadn’t done anything else in there. He’s looking around and he’s like — He’s looking at the plans that we’ve got and he said, “Son, how much is this going to be?” I told him the amount and he was like, “Golly, man! Those banks are going to own you.” I said, “No, dad. They’re going to own my debt. They don’t own me. They own my debt, but the good news is that my fear of failure is stronger than anything else, so I'm going to drive. We’re going to make this work.”


He was like, “Okay, if you say so.” He got to see five years of me busting butt and making this thing work. I can't tell you the number of times in my life that my father looked at me and just said, “You know? I'm just proud of you. I’m just proud of what you did. I’m proud of who you are.” There have been some times that have been very easy to not be so proud of me, I promise. There are sometimes I'm not proud of me, but he was always a huge positive influence in that regard, and that's something that I take away from him that I make sure that I try to instill in all three of my children as well. It's important.


Kids need to know that your parents not only do they love you but they’re proud of you and they’re proud of what you do and how you're doing it. If they’re not doing it well, then you got to call on them on that, too.


[0:26:21.6] KM: You can always find something to be proud of.


[0:26:23.3] DD: Always.


[0:26:24.2] KM: I think you gave great tip. You gave a great advice when you said your fear of failure is bigger. I think that's a great motivator.


[0:26:30.6] DD:  I hate failing.


[0:26:31.3] KM: I think that’s a fear that a lot of entrepreneurs have. This is a great time to take a break. When we come back, we’re going to find out more about Don Dugan buying and moving to his own restaurant; Dugan's Pub. We’re going to find out about Stratton Market and how you bought the Stratton Market and what his advice is for being successful and why he is successful. He’s going to give advice to up-and-coming wannabe restaurateurs. 


[0:27:27.2 ] KM: Many, many restaurants fail. Dugan’s Pub was successful right out of the gate.


[0:27:31.9] DD: Somehow or another. I don’t know.


[0:27:33.4] KM: Was that because of all your experience? If you could give a better information to help someone else reach their potential entrepreneurship? Would it be say, “Get experience?” That’s what you did?


[0:27:42.0] DD: Either get experience or find somebody that’s got experience to do it. If you’ve never been in the restaurant business before, listen. I consult but I'm not the only person in town that’s smart enough to be able to do this. There's plenty of other places in town that are locally-owned and really, really good. The whole yellow rocket concept group, they do a really good job. Peter Brave has been doing this forever and does a really great job. Mark at Loca Luna, he’s been doing this forever and does a really great job.


There's lots of really great independently-owned restaurants in Little Rock. That’s one of the things that I find the most incredible. How many independently-owned restaurants there are.


[0:28:18.1] KM: Good ones.


[0:28:18.8] DD: Chris Tanner does a great job at Cheers. There're lots of really great places.


[0:28:24.6] KM: Bruno’s.


[0:28:25.9] DD: Right. The Bruno’s.


[0:28:26.9] KM: Three generations.


[0:28:28.1] DD: Incredible, but their food is just still — It’s as good as now as it was way back then. As a kid, I remember eating there, and it was great then. It’s still great now. The Villa was here for years and it was a phenomenal restaurant when I was a kid. My parents loved it. You also have the The Faded Rose, Ed David has done a great job down there.


[0:28:46.9] KM: They moved here for a job from other cities and they come to Little Rock and they are amazed at the quality of food in Little Rock, Arkansas. I think it has to do with Jacques and Suzanne.


[0:28:56.8] DD: It’s funny —


[0:28:57.2] KM: They trained a lot of people.


[0:28:58.2] DD: It all started out of there, didn’t it?


[0:28:59.7] KM: It did seem like it.


[0:29:0.5] DD: You look at all the different people that came out of that tree. You’ve got Peter Brave. You’ve got Mark Abernathy. There’s so many that came out of there.


[0:29:09.7] KM: Coming from Franco’s.


[0:29:11.1] DD: Louis Petit. They all came out of that tree, and then how many other people have worked underneath them, and then how that's just grown.  Jacques and Suzanne's was a phenomenal place that was here in town.


[0:29:24.5] KM: We talk about this is the biggest little city.


[0:29:26.9] DD: Born and raised here, and I don't know that I'd want to live anywhere else unless it’s right on the ocean. Other than that, no.


[0:29:32.5] KM: I would like to be able to fly straight somewhere from the airport. That would be nice.


[0:29:35.9] DD: That would be really cool unless you’re going to Dallas or Saint Louis or Atlanta.


[0:29:40.8] KM: You’re pretty much stuck. Now, we got to find out — You’ve got Kelley's Bistro, which is now Markham's Bistro.


[0:29:46.6] DD: Right, right. Markham Bistro and Pub.


[0:29:47.2] KM: Now, you’ve decided you’re going to open up Dugan's Pub. What made that happen?


[0:29:53.7] DD: My wife and I were looking around and I was trying to find another location. We were trying to find something downtown. Quite honestly, I was irritated with the whole two percent tax that all the restaurants had to pay and the places out west were paying it but weren’t receiving hardly any of the benefit from it that I didn't feel like. I wanted to be somewhere downtown that we could do that and at least receive the benefit out of the tax that we’re paying, because a lot of what they're doing is driving people in town and convince your business and things like that.


[0:30:25.4] KM: You’re talking about the tourism tax that people pay on their food, and you felt like all that money was going to the restaurants downtown?


[0:30:31.2] DD: Right. Not necessarily to the restaurants, but what the Convention & Visitors Bureau was advertising was more in the downtown area. That's more in the revitalization of downtown.


[0:30:40.6] KM: Convention center.


[0:30:41.6] DD: That’s more of what they were trying to achieve, and I get it. I understand. There's not a lot of places that you can just walk around in West Little Rock, right?


[0:30:49.1] KM: No, right, and yeah.


[0:30:50.9] DD: Correct. If you don't have a car and you’re stuck at the Crowne Plaza, then guess what? You’re still just stuck at the Crowne Plaza. I was trying to find a place downtown that I wanted to go, and we looked at a couple of different places. I looked at Villa Rouge at that time, which is now Big Whiskey’s and put in a bid for that spot, but at the same time somebody else had already put in a bid for that spot, which was Daniel from Big Whiskey’s. I didn't realize that at the time that we were making the bids and the Daniel — They went with his bid as opposed to mine because he was already a perfect commodity.


[0:31:18.2] KM: Were you going to move your Markham Street?


[0:31:20.6] DD: Why am I going to move, I was going to open a second.


[0:31:22.0] KM: You’re going to open a second. 


[0:31:23.0] DD: It’s what I wanted to do and I figured, “That would be so fantas —” It’s the first address on Markham. I won’t have to change my logo. I don’t have to change my menu. I don’t have to change anything. I can do exactly what I want to do. I do exactly what we’re doing now and just do it downtown.


[0:31:35.8] KM: You were going to call it Markham, too?


[0:31:37.6] DD: It’s going to be Markham Street Grill and Pub. It’s going to be the same thing because it’s still on Markham.


[0:31:41.9] KM: You didn’t get that one, so Dugan’s came up.


[0:31:44.1] DD: I didn’t get that, and about a month later, I got a phone call from one of the guys at Moses Tucker that we’d been talking to. He said, “Man, I’ve got a couple places I want you to come look at,” and I was, “Okay.” My wife and I loaded up. We came down and met him and looked at the space that we’re currently in but we also looked at this space Dizzy’s is in. At the time, I think Vermillion Water Grill had just closed. We looked around in there, and I told Rett Tucker at that time — I was like, “Man, are you sure that this will be a spot that you'd want me to be in because I’m going to open a pub. I don’t know if this is necessarily what you want in your business. Your offices are a couple of floors above us. I don’t know if that’s going to represent quite the way that you want to do.” He was like, “What do you mean by that?” I said, “Well, I mean it’s going to be a pub, you know.”


[0:32:33.6] KM: It’s like chairs. Who doesn’t want to have chairs on the corner?


[0:32:37.0] DD: Right. He said, “Well, think about it. But let’s go over here and look at this space.” We walked over to that corner at 3rd and Rock and it was in the bottom of River Market Tower. I walked to that corner, and I looked northwest, and then I looked back to the east, and I looked south, and I said, “Every car that comes to the center section has to look this way, at this corner where we would be if we were here.” My wife said, “Yeah, it sure would.” “Every person that drives past there is going to have to look at our building and see what we are before they keep going.”


[0:33:13.3] KM:  You are so right on. It goes better there than it does where you originally looked at it. It really does.


[0:33:18.5] DD: Absolutely. There were rocks on the ground when we send the lease and when we made the decision to do it.


[0:33:24.7] KM: What does that mean there were rocks on the ground?


[0:33:26.1] DD: There were literally rocks on the ground.


[0:33:27.5] KM: They had and you built the building?


[0:33:28.4] DD: The building was there, but it was just a shell on the bottom floor. They’d already have the condos upstairs that they had done, but downstairs, there were no demising walls, there is no concrete poured for any of the flooring. None of that.


[0:33:41.4] KM: Do you rent space or do you own it?


[0:33:43.2] DD: Currently, we rent. We lease it. Hopefully, that will change after we finished paying off our initial loan to operate the business.


[0:33:49.7] KM: They are open to selling?


[0:33:51.4] DD: I'm sure everybody’s open to selling.


[0:33:52.9] KM: That’s true. That started off and has been solve since the day you started.


[0:33:58.8] DD: We’ve done pretty well.


[0:33:59.7] KM: You just started off right and have been solving ever since. You did a business plan on paper.


[0:34:04.4] DD: Absolutely. Yeah, yeah.


[0:34:06.6] KM: I think everybody need to do a business plan.


[0:34:07.3] DD: Writing a business plan is the most painstaking, pain in the rear, thing that you don’t want to do, but it is the most crucial and necessary, because it helps — Go back and look at it at least once a year and so that way you stay on track with what you’re doing.  


[0:34:21.1] KM: Was there anything that happened that you didn’t expect to happen?


[0:34:23.7] DD: Oh, absolutely. Right when we first started, we had a lot more big groups that were trying to come in and we couldn’t accommodate them.


[0:34:30.1] KM: Oh, a party room.


[0:34:32.6] DD: Right. We didn’t have one. I was just kind of stuck. I was like, “Gees! I would love to seat 25 people in here, but you guys do that. I’m going to have to close down the restaurant.” We didn’t plan for that contingency. Once we’ve been open for about 8 or 9 months, the space that was next door was a pharmacy closed, and I went straight to Jimmy and Rett and I said, “Hey I would like that space.” They said, “Sure. We’d love to give you that space. We would however like see some hard retail in there. I said, “I don’t really know anything about retail.” They were like, “Aha, great.” “Oh. Okay.”


What we would up doing and the comprise that we made was the back part of that space we use is a party room. Now, when you going into Dugan’s, if you turn left, I think just kind of keep following it around you’ll go into a party room that holds about 30. In the front part of that space, we did just a small little bodega type grocery store. At that time it was just milk, bread, eggs, cereal, toilet paper, paper towels. All the basic things that you needed.


[0:35:36.8] KM: For all those apartments down there.


[0:35:38.2] DD: Right. For the condos that are there and the apartments that are there and there weren’t as many at the time as there are now. It wasn’t near as full then as it is now. It was a little tough getting that going.


[0:35:49.8] KM: Did you think you had done it wrong.


[0:35:51.5] DD: Yeah, because I don’t know anything about retail. I really don’t. I know in the restaurant business you buy for one and sell for three and then the grocery business, you buy for one and sell for one and a quarter. I had a conversation with Charles about that. When I saw him, I was like, “Holy crap! How did you do it all that time?” He just, “Just the volume. You got to move people through it.” I said, “Man, I guess so. But oh my gracious!”


[0:36:12.4] KM: That’s why small grocery store are suffering, I guess.


[0:36:14.5] DD: Oh, man. Yeah. It’s a tough business. I’m not good at it.


[0:36:18.9] KM: You could sell convenience.


[0:36:20.0] DD: My wife on the other hand has figured it out and has done really well with it. I am terrible on it.


[0:36:25.7] KM: You don’t price match. You can’t possibly price match Walmart or Kroger. You got to pay for that convenience of being down town.


[0:36:32.5] DD: To a degree, we have to. If we don’t, then people can go, “Oh, you’re so expensive.”


[0:36:36.2] KM: How does Terry’s Finer Food do so good? Because of convenience up there. They’re a grocery store that’s done well for decades because were like, “I don’t want to go park miles away and going Kroger and spend 30 minutes. I’m going to run in here and buy a couple of things.”


[0:36:50.5] DD: Right. That’s part of what we do


[0:36:51.5] KM: How did you end up putting liquor in there?


[0:36:53.7] DD: While we were in there, we went ahead and applied for a beer in a small farm line license. In a grocery store previous to this session of our legislature, you could get a license that allowed you to sell beer and small farm one. Small farm one is just dictated by the fact that they sell less than 250,00 gallons a year. You got things like Mad Housewife and Brownstone and some others that you’ll see in Kroger and Walmart currently. We got that and we were selling some, and a lot of beer, and some wines, but they’re not really great wines. People are still going to the liquor store to go buy what they wanted, because I’d rather have a bottle of Honig than a battle of Mad Housewife, I promise.


I got approached by a friend of mine that said, “Hey, if you had an opportunity to buy this license, would you be interested?” I said, “Yeah, I’d be interested.” “At least talk it out and see maybe that we can’t, but I don’t know. Let’s talk about it.”


[0:37:47.3] KM: This license is a license for a grocery store to sell hard liquor.


[0:37:51.3] DD: Right.


[0:37:51.8] KM: Which there’s not very many.


[0:37:53.5] DD: Oh, there are only two active in the state, and one is at a Walgreens in West Memphis, and we have the other one. It was right there at 3rd and Main, it was the Newsmart. Do you remember Newsmart being there at 3rd and Main right next towards at Bennett Supply?


[0:38:05.0] KM: Yeah.


[0:38:05.4] DD: Anyway, it was the license that it was in there. I think Dennis Bailey is the guy that owned it. The opportunity came up to buy it and we negotiated and got things worked out and we bought it. We did not want to go right back into that space. A lot of times, with liquor store — Actually, almost every time, with liquor store permits, they can go right back into where they were, and moving them is a kind of a bit of a trick. We had had precedent on that particular license that had been moved three blocks 10 years before, so we kind of used that precedent and said, “We’re going to move it again.” We wanted to go to another place that was there on Main, but at that point they adopted, or they invoked this rule that you can’t go within a thousand feet of a church or a school, and East M being right there, kind of hosed.


However, had we gone right back into the spot where it was, we could stay there because it had previously been permitted there. We decided that — Yeah. We decided that it was kind of a dump and not really where we wanted to be and not what we wanted to do. We had the opportunity to move it right down next to Dugan’s Pub and put it in where Stratton’s Market, the little bitty small market currently was.


We decided to do that, and at that time we were 1015 feet from door-to-door from the school and we were 985 from the Episcopal Church that’s right there behind us. They were like, “Man, we’re good. We’re Episcopal. We’re fine.” Well, Whiskeypalians. What do you want?” No. No. They’re fine. They call themselves that.


With the school, they were like, “Okay, you’re 1015 feet, you’re good.” So we did that. We moved it in there and we started to stock and about that time the people that were on the far end of the bottom of the building, they were doing Herman Miller office furniture and setting up office-scapes and things like that for people. They were looking to move, and Jimmy and Rett came and said, “Hey, if these guys  moved out, would you guys be interested in taking over the space?” We’re like, “Pssh! Yeah. We’re busting at the seams. We need it.” They moved out and we took over that space. Now we’ve got all three spaces in the bottom of the River Market Tower.


[0:40:19.9] KM: When I wondered, because when I was at Dugan in the back party room, you go through that wall, you go back to the party room and then you come out and you look in the back of that grocery store in Deli and I was like, “Who is that over there?” I had no idea it was y’all. It was like, “They’ve got a doorway between Dugan’s and that place.” I thought that was unusual. Now, I know it’s yours.


[0:40:37.2] DD: It is unusual, and it “saves lot”.


[0:40:40.1] KM: You have found a way to get increased revenue by adding to your product line at your grocery store, and the product line is alcohol, your 12-foot wine wall.


[0:40:50.7] DD: Right. That was something that I absolutely thought we had to have. I wanted something that looked grand. Something that looked cool. It’s got a library ladder. I was like, “Yes! Library ladder. That’s a good idea. Let’s do that.” My wife was like, “You are so goofy.” I said, “I know, but it’d be awesome. Let’s do it!”


[0:41:06.8] KM: It’s like beauty and the beast. I love a library ladder.


When I was in there, I bought Farmer’s Market strawberries from you. Then right next to that, Deli for lunch.


[0:41:18.5] DD: Correct. When we moved over into the third space, we installed a full kitchen in the middle part there. We’ve got a roaster that we do whole chickens on every day. We’ve got a convection oven, we’ve got a stove top, and then we’ve got a slicer, and we slice Deli meats and cheeses and we make sandwiches and we’ve got a menu that we do right there.


When we first started it, we did Skye’s Biistro more as a French flair kind of a place and it was something more that we wanted to do. My daughter was making [0:41:49.2] and things like that.


[0:41:51.4] KM: How old is your daughter?


[0:41:52.3] DD: She’s 22.


[0:41:54.2] KM: Your daughter is 22?


[0:41:55.1] DD: Yup.


[0:41:56.2] KM: How long have you been married?


[0:41:58.1] DD: 16 years as of May 1st.


[0:42:0.0] KM: Oh, I’m sorry.


[0:42:01.2] DD: No. It’s fine. We dated for five years before we got married.


[0:42:04.5] KM: I was going to say —


[0:42:05.7] DD: She’s my wife’s daughter from her first marriage, but I adopted her when she was eight, about a year after we got married. She looked at me and said, “Would you adopt me?” I was like —


[0:42:13.4] KM: You married an older woman?


[0:42:14.6] DD: No. She’s six months older, but yeah, I don’t know.


[0:42:17.9] KM: I was going to be excited if you had. Because something older woman, I was going to be, “Yay!”


[0:42:24.8] DD: She’s six months older, so yeah.


[0:42:26.1] T: The new President of France is married to an older woman.


[0:42:29.8] KM: Really?


[0:42:30.4] T: Emmanuel Macron, his wife is like 20 years older than him.


[0:42:33.2] KM: What?


[0:42:34.2] DD: That’s awesome, I didn’t know.


[0:42:36.1] KM: I didn’t know the French did that. You know, he’s got a girlfriend too, I’m sure.


[0:42:39.3] DD: Come on, they’re French. I’m sure he does.


[0:42:41.3] KM: I shouldn’t say that.


[0:42:41.7] DD: You’re probably right though.


[0:42:43.2] KM: Out of all the stuff you’ve done, what is the most intimidating thing that you’ve done?


[0:42:49.2] DD: God! Paying taxes. I freaking hate it. Oh my gosh!


[0:42:52.4] KM: Scare you?


[0:42:52.9] DD: Yeah, because if I screw up, then not only have I paid the taxes, but I’ve screwed up and then now you got to pay more to get it straight. It’s just dumb. The way that the system is set up, it’s set up for you to basically fail. If you don’t have an accountant to keep you straight and you’re trying to do it yourself, you’re screwed. Unless your brain works that way, which my brain does not work that way.


[0:43:15.1] KM: You couldn’t own a restaurant and have your brain work that way.


[0:43:17.8] DD: I can’t sit in a cube. I’m not that guy. I’m not. My brother is that guy. He currently does it, and he loves it, and he’s great at it.


[0:43:24.8] KM: Is he an accountant?


[0:43:25.4] DD: No, but he does IT security, but he’s on a computer all day. He loves it, and he’s great at it. I am terrible at sitting still. I’m awful at it.


[0:43:35.0] KM: I know that that was the very first question I asked my mother before I ever even started my business. I said, “How do I pay taxes?” because that was the very first thing I’m scared of, and she said, “Well, cross that bridge when we get to it.” It really is the truth of what she said.


[0:43:49.5] DD: When I was, I guess, working for Wally — At that time, I was the general manager of LaScala & The Afterthought, so all these stuff fell on my head to make sure it got done every month. He was my backup to make sure that I was doing it, but then I’m just looking at him and I’m like, “Man! How do you keep all these straight?” He said, “We have really good accountant on purpose.” I was like, “Okay.”


[0:44:10.5] KM: Their worth their money.


[0:44:11.6] DD: Right. Pay them and shut up and be happy.


[0:44:15.1] KM: I do think that you can just jump into something and then when it gets to the end of the year, hire somebody else to do your taxes for you.


[0:44:21.8] DD: Absolutely. We do a system now that Wally taught me that I still do. We have all of our month-end stuff done by the 5th and to the accountant by the 5th.


[0:44:32.9] KM: Of what?


[0:44:33.3] DD: Of the beginning of the next month. For April, we had everything done and to the accountant. We had all our bank statements reconciled, and a lot of that stuff I do online with a QuickBooks online. It’s 25 bucks a month and it’s worth it, every penny. The reports you can get out of that thing are incredible.


[0:44:49.9] KM: You run your restaurant with QuickBooks online?


[0:44:51.6] DD: Absolutely.


[0:44:52.5] KM: You can do it from anywhere because it’s online.


[0:44:53.8] DD: Yup. I can take all my report stuff and go enter it in and do all that.


[0:44:57.0] KM: Are you your main manager, or do you have another manager?


[0:44:59.3] DD: I have a general manager, her name is Dominique Greer. She’s been with us for, I guess, almost four years. She started out waiting tables and tending bar.


[0:45:07.3] KM: And you promoted her.  


[0:45:07.9] DD: Absolutely.


[0:45:08.9] KM: She runs the restaurant. Who runs the Deli and who runs the grocery store?


[0:45:12.7] DD: My wife runs the Deli and the grocery store, or is in charge of it all. We’ve got a gentleman, Steven Burrow who is our chef. He was the chef at the Clinton Center for about six years, and he is our chef that is our general manager over there.


[0:45:27.0] KM: You mean Clinton Library?


[0:45:28.5] DD: Correct.


[0:45:29.6] KM: Okay.


[0:45:29.8] DD: Steven runs that over there. Steven has been with us for about 10 months, I guess, and —


[0:45:35.6] KM: Do you have turnover?


[0:45:36.8] DD: A lot.


[0:45:37.7] KM: Restaurants usually do.


[0:45:39.5] DD: Typically yeah. I always kind of try to stay with a core group of people. You know what I mean? Keep a core group. You’re always going to have one or two on the periphery that come and go, and that’s fine. We had a girl that came to us last summer that was in town to train with the rugby league that’s here, or the rugby group that’s here and she needed a job. It was just for the summer. She wound up being a phenomenal waitress. Is she going to stay? No, because she’s got another life in Florida where she’s going to school and finishing up, but she was here just to train. That’s one of those kind of people that are just on the periphery that come and go. You keep a good solid core group of folks and I think the people that we’ve got apparently in our core on our front of the house have been with us for about three years, for a restaurant, is phenomenal. The guys in the back of the house, I think the core group is about 2, 2-1/2 years.


[0:46:25.5] KM: That’s pretty good.


[0:46:26.0] DD: Out of my kitchen, which at least the consistency.


[0:46:28.0] KM: You know, you get in that restaurant business, you just get sucked in because the money is so good.


[0:46:31.5] DD: Yeah. It can be.


[0:46:33.1] KM: It can be, really. Are you going to do it forever?


[0:46:35.0] DD: Probably


[0:46:35.8] KM: You like it?


[0:46:36.6] DD: I do. I love it. I’m the first guy to jump in if the drains need cleared or if toilet backs up, “Okay. I’ll go fix it.” That’s the part of the job that’s really kind of crumby sometimes and I really wish somebody else would take the lead on it, but they all look at me and go, “Are you going to fix that?” “Yes.”


[0:46:52.5] KM: I remember my boss, Aaron Ross at Sir Loin’s Inn when I waited tables there, which I love waiting tables also. He was saying one day about being the boss and he said, “The boss is the person that cleans the toilets when nobody else will.


[0:47:04.5] DD: That’s true.


[0:47:05.2] KM: Really?


[0:47:06.1] DD: Yes, really


[0:47:07.9] KM: What are your hours?


[0:47:09.3] DD: We are open 11:0 every day.


[0:47:11.1] KM: Every day.


[0:47:12.1] DD: Every day. Monday through Friday.


[0:47:13.1] KM: When do you close?


[0:47:13.8] DD: We close at 1, Monday through Thursday, 2 on Friday and 1 on Saturday.


[0:47:18.3] KM: Oh my God! At night?


[0:47:19.8] DD: Yes ma’am. 10:0 on Sundays. Our kitchen is open till midnight every day, except for Sunday.


[0:47:28.3] KM: You mean you can eat down there till midnight?


[0:47:30.0] DD: Oh, yeah.


[0:47:31.2] KM: I did not know that.


[0:47:32.7] DD: Yeah, absolutely.


[0:47:33.4] KM: There’s nowhere that does that.


[0:47:34.7] DD: Right, that’s why we do. There’s people that work in restaurants, the get off work and they’re like, “I’m hungry. I don’t want to go Waffle House, I don’t want to go to iHop.” Great, don’t go there. Come here.  


[0:47:42.1] KM: You get out of the movie and you can’t go get a dinner, except for Faded Rose. They used to stay up till 11.


[0:47:47.5] DD: Right. They still do, because I’ve been there at 10:45 and sat down to eat recently.


[0:47:52.9] KM: You serve dinner till midnight.


[0:47:54.6] DD: Yeah.


[0:47:55.4] KM: Every night, but Sunday night.


[0:47:57.1] DD: Right. Everything we do, we make fresh. We have one small chest freezer there, like what you can buy at Home Depot. It’s literally the size of one of our tables at work, and that’s it. Everything else is done fresh or we don’t do it. We’d hand batter, hand make every — Chicken strips, we hand cut chicken breast to make strips and then we hand batter them when you order it.


[0:48:19.7] KM: They’re not coming from Sams’?


[0:48:21.1] DD: No ma’am. We don’t do anything prepackaged and we don’t open bags and pour it in. We don’t have the blow in the back type stuff. That’s just not what we do.


[0:48:29.5] KM: Oh my gosh! We’ve got to go. I’m so glad you came on today. You are so interesting.


[0:48:33.0] DD: I appreciate you having me.


[0:48:34.1] KM: Listen. You’ll enjoy this. This is your gift for birthing a business. You get a cigar, and you smoke.


[0:48:38.0] DD: A cigar? “You win a cigar. Say the secret word, you win $100.”


[0:48:42.9] KM: I knew he’d like that. Who’s our guest next week, Tim?


[0:48:45.3] T: Next week we will be talking with Steven Bentley and Diana Court, talking about Riverfest.


[0:48:50.5] KM: Oh! That will be good. That’s a big business over there. Also, if you have a great entrepreneurial story you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. Send a brief a bio, or your contact info to and someone will be in touch. Finally, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me.


If you think this program has been about you, you’re right, but it’s also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next Friday. Until then, be brave and keep it up.




[0:49:30.7] T: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it? Jot this down. Within 48 hours the podcast will be available at Click the tab labeled “Radio Show”, there you’ll find today’s segments with links to resources you heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal: to help you live the American Dream.



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