Ronnie Wolfe is not afraid to take a chance. Not only did he recently have gastric bypass surgery to lose weight, but he also left behind a successful towing business after 30 years to open a branch of the Daily Grind, a coffee bar and sandwich shop.
One would question why somebody trying to lose weight would enter into the restaurant business. Yet, the location explains it all. The Daily Grind is located in the Gold's Gym complex on Route 1, with a door opening right into the fitness club. Wolfe said that he works out every morning before starting work. He's also putting his newfound information on nutrition to work in his restaurant.
"We have lots of sugar-free and fat-free items," said Wolfe. "I want to make sure that other people don't eat the wrong things."
Wolfe said that he started in the towing business when he got out of high school. His father had been in the business and was moving to West Virginia. Wolfe purchased a truck and began his own business.
"My father gave me a $10 bill and advised me to fill up the truck with gas and not ask me for money again," said Wolfe. "So far I've never had to ask."
After 30 years in the towing business, Wolfe knows about eating poorly. Working on the road, he would just grab something to eat as he went along. He vowed that if he ever weighed 400 pounds that he would do something about it — and he did. To date, he has lost more than 100 pounds and convinced six other people to have a similar procedure.
While his parents were never involved in the restaurant business, there is a connection on the other side of the family. Wolfe's father-in-law, Herman Wiltshire, ran the Dixie Pig on Route 1 for years. Wolfe decided on the Daily Grind because he liked their product and their philosophy. He said he went to the owner, Ed Chatman, and said, "I live in Alexandria and I know a lot of people."
Wiltshire's daughter and Wolfe's wife, Kim Wolfe, is very much behind the business; she picked out the color scheme and helps out at the restaurant when her husband can't be there. She will continue working for the government during the week; the Wolfes have one daughter named Heather.
WOLFE IS NO STRANGER to Mount Vernon; he grew up in the area and graduated from Groveton High School.
"When I graduated from Groveton, I went back and towed cars [to the shop] for free and helped fix them," said Wolfe. "I believe in giving back to the community, everybody's treating me nice."
While business isn't quite where he wants it to be, he said, "Everything's picking up and going well."
Wolfe believes in customer service and will recommend something if a customer isn't sure what they want. If they don't like it, he gives them something else.
Mike MacNair, owner of MacNair Travel Management, has found the Daily Grind to be a handy place to stop. He dropped in one day this week after running into his parents, Don and Joan MacNair.
Don said that "they have one of the best bran muffins," while his wife said that "they are the only place in town to use coffee ice cubes in the ice coffee."
Gym members aren't the only ones to take advantage of Wolfe's place; employees like it as well. Shannon Sinn, who works in Gold's accounting department, said that she stops by everyday for a grande coffee or a FUZE drink. This is a bottled drink that has plenty of vitamins. Wolfe sells several flavors of those as well as several kinds of Nantucket Nectars. Sinn has tried the sandwiches as well.
"Everything's good and you don't feel guilty about eating here," said Sinn. "It's nice for members to come and get a cup of coffee. Every flavor is so good, they are constantly fresh brewing."
Freshness is key to Daily Grind's philosophy.
"Freshness is our biggest thing. Everything is made fresh here every day," said Wolfe. 'We have a baker who comes in every morning to make the muffins. Our beans come directly from Jamaica and are served within 5-10 days of being picked. We use all quality meats."
Wolfe is not worried about competition from other coffee or sandwich shops and is already looking to open another location of the Daily Grind. He said that people may not know the name, but that the quality of the food speaks for itself.