Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Dreams Are Made Of

According to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, unrequited love smells like bitter almonds. Had that love been reciprocated (and I think it finally was at the end of the book), I'm pretty sure the smell of almonds would be replaced with the aroma of D.P. Dough. Why, you ask? Because after six years of waiting, I was finally able to sink my teeth into these pockets of perfection, and now I am whole again.

A late-night (read: drunk) food staple in Ithaca and various other college towns, D.P. Dough makes calzones filled with a dizzying assortment of ingredients, so you're covered whether you need to soak up some of the booze with pepperoni and cheese, or if you find yourself so high that steak, eggplant, and ham sounds like a great idea.

I was able to catch up with the proprietors the other day, and between banking, commuting from NYC, children, and whatever else life can throw at you, they were gracious enough to school me on their version of the American Dream, a three year journey that taught them, in their words, "Everything."

Check out the interview after the jump.

Name: Mike Nagao
Day Job: Sleep because I manage the night shift.
Night Job: Not screwing up the store we spent 3 years planning and opening
Zone I would most miss after the apocalypse: Bangin’ Buffer Zone

Name: Scott Nagao
Day Job: Finance
Actual Day Job: Big Pimpin’
Zone I would most miss after the apocalypse: Roni Zone (X Zone when I’m in an intense mood)

Name: Jacquie Hembrey
Day Job: Finance
Dream Day Job: Running a little bakery/wine shop/coffee shop/ice cream shop
Zone I would most miss after the apocalypse: Danger Zone with a side of sour cream

Name: Jason Hembrey:
Day Job: Runs a logistics company (2 actually, but they’re affiliated)
Huh? : Logistics. Like a mom and pop UPS/FedEx. Doesn’t matter though, wanna grab a beer?
Zone I would most miss after the apocalypse: Any of them with hot sauce basically

Fidel Gastro: Among the three of you, there's not much in the way of cooking experience (at least not that I know of). How did D.P. Dough claw its way into your consciousness to the point of having to own your own franchise?
D.P. Dough: What?!?! No cooking experience? Dude Jacquie and Jason can cook and Mike thinks he can (just kidding, he can). Ok ok you’re right, none of us are classically trained chefs but at some point we all worked in a restaurant. Jacquie worked at a Japanese place, Jason did his thing at Panera and a Bar & Grille back in Kentucky, Scott was slanging pizzas at The Hut, and Mikey actually worked at Delaware’s D.P. Dough. Aside from that, food binds the four of us. We all love to eat and though none of us claim to be gourmands by any means, we know a damn good meal when we have it. Man we love food…

FG: So how did D.P. Dough claw its way into your consciousness to the point of having to own your own franchise?
DP: Oh yeah, your actual question. I’m gonna make a real long story short. Mike knew of D.P. Dough from his days at UDeleware. Scott was already using his salary to buy real estate and was looking for something else to diversify. Jason was researching franchises like Dunkin’ Donuts, Panera, and Subway to see if he could get into one of those. This was all separate -- none of us knew of each others intentions. Then one day Mike told Scott about D.P., then Scott and Jason were having margaritas and Scott “sold” Jason, and Jacquie was in London working her ass off so she didn’t have time to stop the proverbial train.

FG: Three of you (Scott/Jacquie/Jason) were or are in finance. Was it the numbers or the bespoke suits that initially led you down that career path, and did either contribute to your taking the road less traveled?
DP: We all kinda fell into finance for different reasons. I don’t think any of us were kids dreaming about LBOs or CDOs or any other mysterious acronym, things just happened. And for the record, bespoke suits rock and are still a part of our life.

FG: And as financiers, talk to me about the risk/reward of this venture, and what finally made you jump in with both feet.
DP: That is a funny question. The day we passed our health inspection – a story unto itself – is a day I don’t think any of us will ever forget, which isn’t something I can’t say about the first day I started in finance. Sure I was proud to have my first salaried job (Jason speaking here), but I was in tears when the inspector signed off. We built this thing. Literally. As for jumping in, it was a little less dramatic than that. I guess a better analogy would be that over margaritas we jumped in the kiddie pool with both feet, then waded into the shallow section, then treaded water at the deep end, then came out the other side more inspired and determined than ever.

FG: Biggest challenges along the way? Any recommendations for bankers-cum-restaurateurs?
DP: I can’t begin to tell you. I guess the biggest challenge was the totality of getting the store open (unhelpful, I know). Every time we thought we were screwed, we figured it out and knew we were home free. Then we’d get screwed again, and then we’d all know we were home free. Then again. You see the pattern here. So here’s my recommendation: have great partners who all believe in what you’re doing and all are willing to do whatever it takes.

FG: Talk to me about your employee situation. You're participating in some sort of work program?
DP: Yes we are. It’s a terribly designed program that helped us find some of our best employees. If you want to know more about that soapbox ask Jason next time you catch him in the store. Suffice it to say that our employees rock.

FG: I was able to keep tabs on the pre-opening status via social media, Twitter to be more specific. It's become a great way to generate buzz. Was that something you had planned all along, or did you get lucky with the timing?
DP: We knew social media was the way to go so we initially went with a Facebook group and page outside of our self designed site (Scott built our webpage). The problem was that while we were trying to update our blog, we were also trying to do the exact same thing with our FB page. It turned out to be redundant and we liked our website more so once we opened, we decided to let the FB page become run by the fans. We came across Twitter and realized how awesome a tool that could be and went with it. Twitter turned out to be great because we really get to interact with customers that way and chatting with our customers is probably the best part of the job aside from satisfying their hunger.

FG: Once D.P. Dough becomes a household name on Penn and Drexel's campus, do you envision a string of D.P. Dough franchises elsewhere? Any other food plans?
DP: We’re discussing the next move now. In the end, the vision of the franchise is set from above, but ideally we’d like to keep it tailored to college kids, city and suburban campuses alike. I don’t think any of us want to be a fast food chain because we still want to connect with our customers on a personal level. Who knows though really – 5 years ago none of us knew we’d own a calzone shop in Philly.

FG: I'm currently getting my MBA. Do you think I ought to try my hand at finance, or should I just try and open a restaurant straight away? If it's the first, can you get me an interview?
DP: That’s a good question (which is why you asked it I’m sure). Sans the jest – sorry, no we can’t get you an interview because we’re worker bees not queen bees – I think business experience and a business education are both very useful. We didn’t fully utilize what we learned in school while working in a corporation; on the flip side, working in a corporation taught us things the classroom didn’t. In the end though, the knowledge at the time when Jason and Scott shared margaritas 3 years ago was a fraction of what we needed in order to open the store. In fact, when people ask us what we learned along the way, we humbly reply, “everything.”

D.P. Dough is located right next to Distrito on 40th and Chesnut St in University City. They're open late, they deliver, and you can even order beer pong balls. Zones are in the neighborhood of $7.  Follow them on twitter @dpdoughphilly.


  1. great post. reminds me of a delicious madison, wisconsin treat known as the teddy wedger.

  2. great post. reminds me of the delicious madison, wisconsin treat: the teddy wedger.