A lot has happened since April 22, 2013, when Greg Vogeley opened Drip Café in Hockessin.
He expanded the Lantana Square Shopping Center eatery twice and opened a second location in Newark.
“Hockessin is my baby, and Newark is my pride and joy,” he said.
He also started roasting his own coffee, and more recently, he signed a lease for a new concept.
That’s not to say it’s been an easy ride. There was a time when Vogeley didn’t have enough to pay all his staff, and not all his ideas panned out the way he expected.
But on the cusp of Drip’s 10th anniversary, Vogeley is in a good place, and he plans to celebrate with a custom beer from Dew Point Brewing, the return of classic dishes and a May 3 wine dinner.
It’s a double anniversary in some respects. The hospitality veteran is also marking nearly 25 years in the industry.
An early start
Vogeley was 14 when he got a job washing dishes in a Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, pizza parlor. His older brother had just bought a car, and the young teen wanted to start saving so he could buy one, too.
At Clarion University, the Grateful Dead fan studied the business behind the music industry, including finance. He wrote a business plan for a music club for one class, demonstrating the early start of an entrepreneurial spirit.
However, jobs in the music industry weren’t plentiful in the Philadelphia region, and to earn money, Vogeley sold shank-proof pencils and bulletproof vests to prisons.
When a series of sales jobs ended, his mother suggested a job with benefits at Starbucks.
Vogeley found his calling at the espresso machine and moved to Brew HaHa!, where he trained baristas for the rapidly growing change.
He managed the Panera Bread on Kirkwood Highway but missed the coffee culture and latte lovers. He realized that he wanted to own a coffee shop.
Drip Café arrives
While working at RedFire Grill & Steakhouse, Vogeley wrote a business plan for a food truck, Drip, specializing in coffee.
A friend, however, suggested opening in a vacant space in Lantana Square.
Vogeley knew it well. It was in the same shopping center as Redfire, and the friend, Ben Cordova, had opened Over Coffee Café in the same space.
After Cordova closed the business, he’d rented the equipment to Café Reve, which also closed.
Vogeley jumped at the opportunity, and Drip Café quickly built a following for its coffee and brunch fare.
Jessica Ruff of Wilmington, for instance, comes for the London Fog, a tea latte, and the bacon-flecked pancakes with apples, bacon and salted caramel.
She’s not alone. People magazine featured the dish in its pages, and Fox 29 traffic reporter Bob Kelly spotlighted the pancakes on his segment “Breakfast with Bob.”
Hits and misses
Still captivated by food trucks, Vogeley put The Brunch Box on the road. But in the end, the truck required too much time and labor.
“The juice wasn’t worth the squeeze,” he said. So, he sold the boxy black vehicle.
Expanding the Hockessin and opening the Newark location were better bets.
“I fell in love with construction during the renovations,” he said. “People ask me what I know about the restaurant industry, and I say, ‘HVAC.’”
However, the restaurant business had taught him other life lessons.
“I actually missed payroll,” he says of the early years. “That taught me a lot because the greatest responsibility we have as business owners — no matter what the industry — is to our employees. It’s not just my family or the people who work for me; it’s all their families. That’s the weight of ownership.”
He took a hard look at his pricing, operations and financing.
A coffee bar at 1201 N. Market St. was short-lived. He opened in July 2019 and closed it on March 16, 2020.
The pandemic had arrived.
Weathering the storm
With restaurant dining rooms closed to the public, Vogeley accelerated his plans to roast coffee.
“What I thought would be my rock became my rope,” he said.
The lifeline included a website that sold coffee to friends, family and customers.
However, the website also allowed him to accept donations for first responder and health care worker meals — some 1,500.
Vogeley used excess donations to make meals for Emmanuel Dining Room, which passed his name on to World Central Kitchen.
The charity purchased 10,000 meals from Drip Café and Cosmos Restaurant to distribute at the dining room’s site.
These initiatives helped keep Drip afloat during difficult times.
Back on firm footing, Vogeley has a lot to celebrate.
Beginning the week of March 27, he will offer Carmel Apple Pancake Stout, a Dew Point Brewing Co. beer.
The craft brew is designed to complement breakfast dishes — and weighs in at a hefty 10% ABV.
Vogeley can toast to his new project — Roja & Verde — near the Newark Drip Café, which will share that restaurant’s expanded kitchen.
The new eatery was inspired by Drip’s prep cook, Maria Gonzalez, whose tamales and salsas are beloved by the Drip team.
RELATED STORY: Do you fondue? Might want to try this new Milford restaurant
Drip Café will also bring back old hits, including the Power Sandwich, made with egg whites, mozzarella, turkey sausage, spinach and a power jam — blueberries, strawberries and chia and flax seeds — on multigrain.
A $1 from the sale of each classic will go to the Food Bank’s culinary training program.
A five-course wine dinner on Wednesday, May 3, will also benefit the program. The wines are courtesy of Paul Cullen, and well-known area chef Dan Tagle is creating the Italian-inspired menu. Tickets are $90 each.
Vogeley can raise a glass to the fact he now “owns the restaurant instead of letting the restaurant own me,” he said. “It was a lot of putting out fires instead of preventing fires in the beginning.”
But he wouldn’t trade any of it.
“This is what I was put on this earthy to do,” he says. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Share this Post