I'm the Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. We launch undiscovered consumer products. It's also the birthplace of Citizen Commerce. I write about design, cultural anthropology, and start-ups, mostly.

Every entrepreneur needs a “local”

I’m getting a lot of St. Patrick’s Day greetings from my pals in Dublin.  Many of them will spend part of tomorrow at their “local.”  In Ireland, that’s your favorite nearby pub where you call round for a drink and meet friends.  Of course, being back in the (more work, less play) USA, my “local” is now a cafe where I drink coffee, not Guinness.  Whenever I need to meet someone, I suggest an 8AM breakfast at:

Via Lago, at 1845 Mass Avenue in Lexington.

It’s a far cry from pounding back a pint, but I still feel very attached to the place.  I’m always confident booking a meeting there:  it always has free tables for breakfast, it’s a family business, and the street parking is plentiful in the morning.  Just today, as I chatted with a first-timer customer at the next table, and gave him the Via Lago drill (you order at the counter, they bring your food to the table, the grilled muffins and breakfast roll ups are great, Dan behind the counter is very nice, etc.), I thought of the three years of odd, exciting, and important conversations I’ve had in this place.   Via Lago has become part of the “set” for Daily Grommet, for all the time I have spent there.

Here are a few of the experiences I’ve had at the place:

  • Three years ago, I met with Steve Woit, Publisher of Xconomy to ask him which startup I should pursue–mine (Daily Grommet) or helping another CEO I really liked.  Very Confucius-like, he told me to do both until I could figure it out.  I did that for three months while I raised our first capital.
  • I’ve pitched the business there many times.  One of my current investors is a very sweet, smart, and totally guileless man who says whatever is on his mind and never, ever intentionally offends.  But within about 20 minutes of first meeting, he said, “Is it OK if I tell you that you are very attractive?”  I already had a good “read” on this man (and his charming innocence) so I just laughed.  Far better to hear that than be compared to a dog’s dinner.
  • I used to regularly meet another fellow startup CEO there for breakfast until we somehow used up all of each other’s advice and wisdom.  So we just stopped meeting, by unspoken mutual agreement.
  • A respected local venture capitalist sat at the corner table and told me, “If I were an entrepreneur I would never raise venture capital.  I would not want to deal with the likes of me.  Far better to bootstrap your business, sell for $10-20M and retire in peace.”
  • My worst experience was once meeting an employee there to talk about their need to exit the business (gracefully) and having that person quit on the spot (not at all gracefully).  It was like watching a car crash.
  • I was there today with WaySavvy CEO Michael Raybman, for a regular mentoring session.  I’m going to remember the early days of his business in association with Via Lago too.

 

Me, with Michael Raybman CEO WaySavvy

I live in the same town as Via Lago and I see lots of local people meeting casually:  cops, moms, retirees.  I might look casual to them too, in my coffee sessions, but the time spent there has been anything but.  It feels like living history every time I open the door.  It doesn’t hurt that the front door also opens onto the Lexington Battle Green…birthplace of the American Revolution.

Finally, I’d love to hear about other people’s “locals.”  Just throw a comment up with the name and place, and maybe a reason why it works for you.

3 Responses to “Every entrepreneur needs a “local””

  1. Dan Weinreb

    I so totally agree about Via Lago. I meet people there for breakfast very frequently. The first time I talked to Jules after having been introduced was at Via Lago. Oh, by the way, it was nice seeing you at Via Lago yesterday morning!

    Reply
    • Dan Weinreb

      (Clarifications: Jules and I just happened to run into each other while I was there meeting some people from a startup. Also, I’m not any of the people described above.)

      Reply
  2. skill-guru

    I have been to Via Lego so many times for lunch and I never felt bored. They always had something special everyday and I like their turkey sandwich best.

    Reply

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