Hmm...I guess this means I'm an entrepreneur?

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3/14/2018 7:35 AM
Edited Date/Time: 3/14/2018 7:57 AM

Long story, kinda short, but not really...

I'm number 3 of 6 kids (4 boys/2 girls), that grew up in a military family, mostly in Virginia Beach, VA. My mom used to make us sandwiches for school for me and two of my brothers. Two of the sandwiches were supposed to have cheese and one without. Mine wasn't supposed to have cheese and if it did, I would sell it for $0.75 to a kid named Wallace. I was 11/12 in 1976/77. These were sliced Italian meat sandwiches on a kaiser/poppy seeded roll.

My father, a Navy Chief, (from the mean streets of Chester, PA, outside of Philly - a hustler), overheard "the guys", fellow enlisted men, complaining about the sandwich offerings in the convenience store in the aircraft hangers on the naval base. He told them, knowing that his sons were selling their sandwiches at school, "that he knew someone that made a great sandwich"...my mom.

They challenged him to bring some to work the next day. He did and they loved them! The convenience store actually ordered a bunch of them and over the next several weeks our kitchen turned into a sandwich factory. We were making Steak, Ham & Cheese, Tuna & Egg Salad on kaiser rolls. I was 12, helping out...but I would have rather been on my BMX bike.

We did this for a while, I can't really remember how long, but then my father, approaching military retirement, had to go on his last 6 month cruise. I remember that it was the first cruise of the Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). So the home business was left mostly to my mom and myself while he was away. My younger brother, 10, was always playing sports and my older brother, 15, was pretty defiant about helping. This probably would have been mid/late 1978 or so.

There was a certain point that my mom and I had to stop production. I'm assuming, maybe health code or something. I was 12, I didn't care what the reason was, I was glad to not have to do it anymore. My father returned from the cruise, his last before retiring and we resumed production of making the sandwiches in our kitchen.

In March of 1980, 2-3 months before his retirement, my father made a handshake deal with the owner of a sandwich shop that was also providing sandwiches to the area naval bases. It was ironic that, I later found out, after making a handshake with the shop owner, the owner of the strip center, pointedly asked my father, a Black man, "How he got in here?" The strip center owner was very upset that he didn't know about the transaction. Oops. That man certainly would have done his best to prevent my father from acquiring the business.

I started working there at the store when school let out in June of 1980, at the age of 14 and worked for my father for 15 years.

Did I mention that my father is a bit of a difficult person to deal with? He's very difficult, so much that I felt i had no choice but to leave. I decided to study acting and moved to NYC in 1995. I never forgot the family business and after working in a high volume theme restaurant in NYC, The Harley-Davidson Cafe and then moving to Los Angeles I knew that we could turn our family shop into something special. I talked about it all of the time to anyone that would listen.

Years passed, decades passed. I pursued my acting in LA. Meanwhile my younger brother never left the family business. I kept talking about what we could do together. There was never anything that seemed like it would come to fruition. Meanwhile, I was working a bit as an actor in smaller parts, but was mostly broke in LA. Actually, between 2001-2008 I made my sole living with TV and commercials. However, I hit my financial rock bottom and went back to waiting tables in 2008. The difference was that I learned how to handle my finances and became debt-free and saved $100,000 in 5 years.

Still, not much REALLY progressive happening with the family business, although it was certainly consistently profitable. I thought it was a potential goldmine. There was even a period of 2 1/2 years that my younger brother and I barely spoke.

I called my brother on January 3rd 2017 to try to "mend fences" and we had a pretty good conversation. We spoke a few more times and on January 27th he called me and asked if I was willing to join a conference call with him and my older brother. My older brother and I had never really had a good relationship...but the answer and was, "yes, of course". We had a great 90 minute call and scheduled another conference call for a few days later. This time we included our youngest brother.

78 conference calls later, on August 12th 2017, we opened our own restaurant...without our father AND with our own money. No loans.

Our father didn't handle it well. Things got tense, extremely tense, but yesterday, his 85th birthday, we signed an agreement to acquire his store, starting today, 38 years after he purchased it on a handshake deal.

Currently, I still live in LA, but I'm engaged in the Virginia Beach-based business on a daily basis, handling payroll, taxes, some marketing, etc. It's hard to believe that just a year ago we didn't have one store open and just a year later we have two open and operating.

Philly Cold Cuts

We make Cheesesteak Hoagies



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3/14/2018 7:40 AM

Nice read and best of luck to you with the new store!

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3/14/2018 7:58 AM

That is a very cool story. Good luck!

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3/14/2018 8:07 AM

Awesome news Stephon, you are doing what America is all about.

Keep up posted and thanks for sharing.

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"We don't rent pigs."

3/14/2018 8:15 AM

Good luck man! Great story

In the mid 70’s a couple of navy guys that rode motocross made a track at the navy base in Virginia Beach, I use to drive down there all the time to ride and race, they also held races, it was so cool being on the start line while fighter jets were winding up on the runway, it was called “golden eagles MC”


Anyway good luck with your new venture

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If you like uncle tony's meatballs, you'll love his sausage

Now that's Italian

3/14/2018 10:07 AM
Edited Date/Time: 3/14/2018 10:09 AM

That's a cool story. Congratulations and good luck on the future of the business.
Don't take me wrong but I have a question about the racism you implied that your father encountered. Was this first shop in Virginia Beach area as well? I was born in the 70's and have been going to that area since I was about 6 years old and even lived in Hampton Roads area for about 3 years. I'm just confused because there are way more black people in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton and Suffix area than white people. There are a lot of Hispanics as well. I remember going to the beach as say a 12 year old and being the only white person on a beach with what seemed like a 1000 people elbow to elbow. I drove down the strip to go to Back Bay last year and I'm not sure I saw more than maybe 5 white people across the whole strip. I'm just confused how someone is a victim of racism in an area where their race is abundant in such large numbers. Is this true?

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3/14/2018 10:14 AM

Hey Stephon, I thought I saw you at Lowes recently, trying to stuff something in a fridge and it wouldn't fit. Was that you? or maybe I saw you last time I was at the airport, flying Southwest, you had a bad ass outfit on.
just can't put my finger on it.

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3/14/2018 10:33 AM

Very cool, and a good read. Congrats on your new ventures and best of luck!

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3/14/2018 1:18 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/14/2018 1:20 PM

Thanks for sharing. Would love to check the place out! I have family in Virginia Beach. For sure will stop in and offer up some patronage next time in town.

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GP740
Since 1987

3/14/2018 3:23 PM
Edited Date/Time: 3/14/2018 3:24 PM

Turkey, bacon, tomato, sprouts, avacado.
Just call it the Cali ...

The avacado has to be fresh sliced not that jimmy johns paste shit ...

That is my go to sammich. Great story !! Continued success Stephon!!

Any t -$hirts yet? Merch baybee MERCH !!

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3/14/2018 3:28 PM

Uncle Tony wrote:

Good luck man! Great story

In the mid 70’s a couple of navy guys that rode motocross made a track at the navy base in Virginia Beach, I use to drive down there all the time to ride and race, they also held races, it was so cool being on the start line while fighter jets were winding up on the runway, it was called “golden eagles MC”


Anyway good luck with your new venture

Golden Eagles! I certainly remember it! I never went to an actual race there, but I did ride there once or twice. Our original store was and still is at the corner of Great Neck Rd & Virginia Beach Blvd...fighter jet noise all the time!

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3/14/2018 4:58 PM

FlickitFlat wrote:

That's a cool story. Congratulations and good luck on the future of the business.
Don't take me wrong but I have a question about the racism you implied that your father encountered. Was this first shop in Virginia Beach area as well? I was born in the 70's and have been going to that area since I was about 6 years old and even lived in Hampton Roads area for about 3 years. I'm just confused because there are way more black people in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton and Suffix area than white people. There are a lot of Hispanics as well. I remember going to the beach as say a 12 year old and being the only white person on a beach with what seemed like a 1000 people elbow to elbow. I drove down the strip to go to Back Bay last year and I'm not sure I saw more than maybe 5 white people across the whole strip. I'm just confused how someone is a victim of racism in an area where their race is abundant in such large numbers. Is this true?

Yes, this was the first shop in my family. The same shop my brother and I acquired yesterday. We've had several different locations over the years, but this has remained constant. It's located in the Great Neck area of Virginia Beach.

I lived in Virginia Beach for 25 years. I moved to NYC in '95, but I always go back to visit...and now work, lol! I wouldn't at all say that VB is mostly Black. Yes, even if you add in Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake I don't think it's mostly Black, overall. I believe Hampton Roads, as of the 2010 census is around 60%+ Caucasian.

Yes, the oceanfront has changed a lot since I've been gone, so I can relate to what you are saying. The situation my father encountered was with a single individual and not what I/we experienced widely growing up and owning a business there, but trust me, the "race thing" is alive and well. The bank definitely didn't give my father a loan to acquire the business.

In our particular situation in relation to owning and running the Great Neck/London Bridge cheesesteak shop from 1980, we started with a mostly Caucasian customer base that has become VERY diverse over these decades and haven't had issues with race. The support runs long and deep. By contrast, we had a location in Portsmouth for 20 years, in a mostly Black, lower income area and we did have problems, sometimes monumental problems, but also a deep loyal customer base.

The area surrounding the original store, actually both stores, are certainly in higher income areas. Overall, customers have treated us royally for nearly 40 years. That said, assuming you aren't a minority, I understand why it might be hard for you to relate to the "race thing". I have to say that's interested to watch people, of all races, realize that it's actually a Black-owned and operated business.

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3/14/2018 5:04 PM

Dirty Britches wrote:

Hey Stephon, I thought I saw you at Lowes recently, trying to stuff something in a fridge and it wouldn't fit. Was that you? or maybe I saw you last time I was at the airport, flying Southwest, you had a bad ass outfit on.
just can't put my finger on it.

Ha! Several people have asked about that commercial, but no, it's not me. I did do a Lowe's commercial a while back in 2016, but it's not me in the one you speak of. Hopefully, i'll book something soon, but it's been slow of late.

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3/14/2018 6:03 PM

Stephon wrote:

Golden Eagles! I certainly remember it! I never went to an actual race there, but I did ride there once or twice. Our original store was and still is at the corner of Great Neck Rd & Virginia Beach Blvd...fighter jet noise all the time!

Dude that's so cool!!!!! I use to ride wIth east coast surfing champion Ron mallot, I have pics I have to dig them up

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If you like uncle tony's meatballs, you'll love his sausage

Now that's Italian

3/14/2018 6:51 PM

FlickitFlat wrote:

That's a cool story. Congratulations and good luck on the future of the business.
Don't take me wrong but I have a question about the racism you implied that your father encountered. Was this first shop in Virginia Beach area as well? I was born in the 70's and have been going to that area since I was about 6 years old and even lived in Hampton Roads area for about 3 years. I'm just confused because there are way more black people in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton and Suffix area than white people. There are a lot of Hispanics as well. I remember going to the beach as say a 12 year old and being the only white person on a beach with what seemed like a 1000 people elbow to elbow. I drove down the strip to go to Back Bay last year and I'm not sure I saw more than maybe 5 white people across the whole strip. I'm just confused how someone is a victim of racism in an area where their race is abundant in such large numbers. Is this true?

Stephon wrote:

Yes, this was the first shop in my family. The same shop my brother and I acquired yesterday. We've had several different locations over the years, but this has remained constant. It's located in the Great Neck area of Virginia Beach.

I lived in Virginia Beach for 25 years. I moved to NYC in '95, but I always go back to visit...and now work, lol! I wouldn't at all say that VB is mostly Black. Yes, even if you add in Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake I don't think it's mostly Black, overall. I believe Hampton Roads, as of the 2010 census is around 60%+ Caucasian.

Yes, the oceanfront has changed a lot since I've been gone, so I can relate to what you are saying. The situation my father encountered was with a single individual and not what I/we experienced widely growing up and owning a business there, but trust me, the "race thing" is alive and well. The bank definitely didn't give my father a loan to acquire the business.

In our particular situation in relation to owning and running the Great Neck/London Bridge cheesesteak shop from 1980, we started with a mostly Caucasian customer base that has become VERY diverse over these decades and haven't had issues with race. The support runs long and deep. By contrast, we had a location in Portsmouth for 20 years, in a mostly Black, lower income area and we did have problems, sometimes monumental problems, but also a deep loyal customer base.

The area surrounding the original store, actually both stores, are certainly in higher income areas. Overall, customers have treated us royally for nearly 40 years. That said, assuming you aren't a minority, I understand why it might be hard for you to relate to the "race thing". I have to say that's interested to watch people, of all races, realize that it's actually a Black-owned and operated business.

Thanks for elaborating with me. I love your story. I really hope you and your brothers find solitude in something that you enjoy and makes you happy.
I am Italian descent and I have experienced shit loads of racism in Virginia Beach area towards me for being white. That is why I was confused. I don't really want to tell the story but I once got the ever loving shit kicked out of me on Virginia Beach after I saved a drowning black guy and pulled him to the beach. As soon as I got him to the beach, I got piled on and left bleeding in the sand. Being I was the only white guy, I have to think it was a very racist thing. Shit, I didn't even see the guy I saved walk away. Someone had to have taken care of him.
Or try being white and go fishing on Buckroe Pier or James River Bridge on a Saturday night, or any night really. It isn't hard at all for me to relate to the race thing. It just surprised me when you talked about racism in an area where I have encountered so many bad situations just for being white.

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3/14/2018 6:55 PM

FlickitFlat wrote:

That's a cool story. Congratulations and good luck on the future of the business.
Don't take me wrong but I have a question about the racism you implied that your father encountered. Was this first shop in Virginia Beach area as well? I was born in the 70's and have been going to that area since I was about 6 years old and even lived in Hampton Roads area for about 3 years. I'm just confused because there are way more black people in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton and Suffix area than white people. There are a lot of Hispanics as well. I remember going to the beach as say a 12 year old and being the only white person on a beach with what seemed like a 1000 people elbow to elbow. I drove down the strip to go to Back Bay last year and I'm not sure I saw more than maybe 5 white people across the whole strip. I'm just confused how someone is a victim of racism in an area where their race is abundant in such large numbers. Is this true?

Stephon wrote:

Yes, this was the first shop in my family. The same shop my brother and I acquired yesterday. We've had several different locations over the years, but this has remained constant. It's located in the Great Neck area of Virginia Beach.

I lived in Virginia Beach for 25 years. I moved to NYC in '95, but I always go back to visit...and now work, lol! I wouldn't at all say that VB is mostly Black. Yes, even if you add in Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake I don't think it's mostly Black, overall. I believe Hampton Roads, as of the 2010 census is around 60%+ Caucasian.

Yes, the oceanfront has changed a lot since I've been gone, so I can relate to what you are saying. The situation my father encountered was with a single individual and not what I/we experienced widely growing up and owning a business there, but trust me, the "race thing" is alive and well. The bank definitely didn't give my father a loan to acquire the business.

In our particular situation in relation to owning and running the Great Neck/London Bridge cheesesteak shop from 1980, we started with a mostly Caucasian customer base that has become VERY diverse over these decades and haven't had issues with race. The support runs long and deep. By contrast, we had a location in Portsmouth for 20 years, in a mostly Black, lower income area and we did have problems, sometimes monumental problems, but also a deep loyal customer base.

The area surrounding the original store, actually both stores, are certainly in higher income areas. Overall, customers have treated us royally for nearly 40 years. That said, assuming you aren't a minority, I understand why it might be hard for you to relate to the "race thing". I have to say that's interested to watch people, of all races, realize that it's actually a Black-owned and operated business.

Loyalty , and respect. Imagine that! I have an Italian customer who owns an old liquor store in a very black and somewhat run down part of town. Like you, 40 -50 years ago it wasn't always that way. He said the same thing, they have been there so long and have a very diverse and loyal customer base and very few issues ever. A little respect goes a long way. I go out of my way often to patronize certain businesses around town in search of the good stuff.

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3/15/2018 8:30 AM
Edited Date/Time: 3/15/2018 4:34 PM

Thanks for sharing. I love subs so much. When we traveled we would search out mom and pop sub and pizza shops. Love them. Then i found out i have celiac and the worst part was not being able to enjoy that anymore. Hoping for much success for you.

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I don't have to be as smart as you hope to be some day anymore. wink