Daniel Island Grille celebrates a decade of 'Friends, family and fun' on DI
When business partners Brian Mahoney and Thomas Dowling decided to invest their time and almost all of their money nearly 10 years ago into opening Daniel Island Grille (DIG), they were unsure what to expect. The location had been the site of a previous eating establishment that had closed its doors due to financial troubles.
“When we first opened up, it was an interesting opportunity,” said Mahoney. “It was a failed restaurant and we were told that that property was taboo, (that) it wasn’t in a good location and it would never work. They were going to put a bank there. My business partner, Thomas Dowling, and I cast in every nickel we had to try and open that place up.”
One of their main goals when they first opened the restaurant, added Dowling, was to provide hospitality to those in the community, their guests and employees.
“Throughout the years, I can confidently say the hospitality we strived to provide, we have received ten-fold from the Daniel Island community,” said Dowling.
Being actively involved in the community has also been vital to their business model over the past decade, continued Mahoney. Without it, they may have not survived the harder years.
“I think what has kept us surviving during those lean years was our involvement in the community,” said Mahoney. “We stayed involved with every club and charity that we could. We were involved with the tennis tournament. We contributed to the better good of the entire island.”
Also essential to the Daniel Island Grille is the staff, added Mahoney. Throughout the time the restaurant has been open, hundreds of dishwashers and servers have been a part of the DIG team.
“What I value every day is the people that work for us and rely on us,” said Mahoney. “It’s the dishwashers and the cooks and the waiters and waitresses that are trying to build their lives. Thomas and I have a philosophy that we want to be the employer of choice. Even when people come and go in this industry, we want to try and better everybody that comes through.”
Many of these employees have been children of friends searching for their first job, stated Mahoney. Even their own kids worked in the restaurant before going to college.
“Being a place where some of these kids come in and get their first job is really fun and exciting,” said Mahoney. “A lot of my friends, their children have worked for us… Thomas’ children and my children both worked at the restaurant on Daniel Island. Now they’re off at college. It’s really been a platform for both of our families and many other families to teach their children responsibility, finance.”
Along with the many wonderful memories and milestones created throughout the past 10 years for the owners of DIG, Mahoney emphasized the restaurant’s current need to change and grow, as the island is doing the same.
“We are poised to make the changes necessary to survive with all of the new stuff that’s happening on the island,” said Mahoney. “You’ve got $3 to $5 million restaurants opening up. You’ve got new companies taking over the marketing at the tennis center. This was the first year in 10 years that we weren’t part of the tournament. Along with all of those milestones and all of those wonderful things that we’ve been part of, we really do have to continue to grow and evolve because the island is no longer a small, quaint island.”
Additionally, the building that houses the restaurant was recently sold to a new owner, presenting additional obstacles for the owners to face, added Mahoney.
“With that comes a new landlord and new challenges,” said Mahoney. “We have embraced everything that comes our way and we are prepared to be here for a very long time. We really love Daniel Island and the people here are what make it.”
And if business continues as it has the past 10 years, Daniel Island Grille will be on the island for a long time, indeed. At least 20 more years, to be exact, explained Mahoney.
“It’s really been an exciting run,” said Mahoney. “We’ve enjoyed being part of the community here. We have 20 years left on the lease and hope to be here for all 20.”
But the success of the restaurant also comes down to the patrons, added Mahoney.
“Thomas and I know that we can’t compete with the money that’s being invested in this island,” said Mahoney. “We hope that the small business concept and the ‘Family, friends and fun,’ which has been our tag line since we opened, will be enough. We feel like we’re an engrained part of the Daniel Island community.”
Keep an eye out for announcements on Daniel Island Grille’s Facebook page about an appreciation/anniversary party in August, when the restaurant officially turns 10.