Workplace the best classroom for Dave Levesque of Brewed Awakenings

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He’s a successful businessman.

He’s highly opinionated.

And he’s someone that has had a very unique pathway to achieving his goals. 

As a freshman at Central High School in Providence, he “missed” 97 days of classes (must have been Russian disinformation), never walked into the cafeteria or gym, and only made an effort to attend math class because he “loved math.”

He “technically” left school for good in his sophomore year because he was “more interested in making money” and was what some may describe as a “rabble rouser.”

Dave Levesque decided to go to work instead.   Already washing dishes at J&D Restaurant in North Providence, he moved up and learned front-end prep work, launching his career in the hospitality industry.

(Authors note:  Dave and I are not related.  Levesque is a very common French name – but we still call each other “Cuz”). 

Dave is the son of Joe (the legendary bartender at Capriccio Restaurant in Providence who unfortunately passed years ago) and Kay (who managed the Johnson & Wales University Bookstore for many years).

Dave grew up in the Silver Lake section of Providence along with sister Karen and brothers Brian and Jeffrey.

First job was 25 cents an hour

 

Thanks to mom, he was offered a job in the mailroom at Johnson & Wales University (for 25 cents more an hour).

Not to miss a nickel, he also did valet work at Capriccio Restaurant at night, and started his first business, Commonwealth Vendors, then East Coast Coffee (an office coffee supply business) and then Bella Baskets (a gift baskets store).  He then teamed up with Ocean State coffee, a direct competitor to form Ocean Coast Beverage so that the two companies could have extra purchasing power as one larger company.

When he was around 30, he started his first Brewed Awakenings in Johnston in 1996, and started down a path that would steadily open other Brewed locations throughout the state – five in all. Providence in 2001, South County in 2003, the 2nd Johnston location in 2009, Cranston in 2011, Warwick in 2014.   In 2017, he received a liquor license in Johnston and later in the Warwick location as well.

Covid would hit the hospitality industry hard, so Dave made the tough decision to close 2 of the locations, leaving the retail stores in Johnston, Warwick, and Cranston, all with reduced hours, closing earlier with the clear intent to increase as staffing improved. 

Warwick is busiest

Asked what the busiest location was, Dave quickly said. “The busiest by far is the Route 2, Warwick store, due to its size and commerce all around it.  You have businesses that open from morning until late at night, 7 days a week.”

The Warwick store, like all Brewed locations, not only serves breakfast and lunch sandwiches and special coffees and pastries but has a liquor license and meeting room.

Dave said, “Warwick’s liquor license adds another flare if someone wants a beer or a mimosa with their sandwich, or an expresso martini afterwards.” 

Breakfast and lunch are served all day long and the stores open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The Warwick store is open until 6 p.m. 

He is about to launch his 4th store on 1234 Oaklawn Avenue, in Cranston (the old Superior Bakery and Athenian Deli building), and went through the first hurdle when on May 7th, the Cranston City Council gave their approval to open the store.

Plans have been drawn up and they will soon start “knocking down the building, and we will build a new 2-story building with a full basement, effectively creating 3 floors.”  Dave continued, “Its footprint will be about 4,500 square feet, with 13,500 SF of usable space.”

He continued, “It will pretty much be the same model as the Route 2 Warwick store” and is now preparing the necessary information the city requires for a liquor and entertainment license. 

The new (and second) Cranston location will also serve as the Brewed Awakenings Corporate Office.

The new store will add another 30 or 40 employees to their existing 90-person workforce, the majority being full-time positions paying “competitive wages.”

According to Dave, “we prefer full-time!”

Positions include managers, assistant managers, barista’s and alike.

He explained, “We’re trying to keep our old philosophy.  We train our employees in all aspects of the business.   Today, you could be working on the register.  Tomorrow you could be making sandwiches.   We try to cross-train everyone.”

He added, “Nobody in my company makes less than $20/hour with tips.” 

Dave continued, “The new Cranston store in an ideal location because it is within 15 minutes of our other stores.   At that location we can have our corporate offices, retail store and commissary that feeds the other stores.   And the best part is that we don’t have a landlord.” 

He is also scouting for a location in Newport but hasn’t found the right spot yet.

 As mentioned before, Dave is no potted plant.

“I’m highly opinionated when it comes to politics.  I’m a big supporter of President Trump.  I’ve been in his company many times, including a few times at Mar-a-Lago.”

 Asked why he supports Trump (not exactly the number one choice in Rhode Island last time), he said, “I’m supporting him because his policies are common sense policies good for businesspeople and all people in general. They are policies based on low taxes, and are pro-business, pro-American and it doesn’t matter who you are – everyone has an opportunity.  There are blinders on.  He supports every person out there. When he was in it was all common sense.  If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.  There has been no President better economically than Trump.”

 I knew he was on a roll, so I kept the question line going.

 “There was growth all around.  Now things are tough.  If you’re a new guy or girl trying to open a coffee house, good luck!   Things are tough.”

Work ethic

Asked what he would change in the workforce if he could be explained, “I wish there was more focus on teaching people to have a stronger work-ethic.   Why not be the best you can be at the job you have so you can move up.   People devalue themselves.  That’s the training.  Don’t devalue your time.   That’s how people notice you.”

Asked the obvious question; whether he had any personal political ambitions, he said, “the only way I could do something would be to get out of business.  At this point, no.  I support common sense candidates on both sides.  Candidates that are pro-business, and who fight for lower taxes and smaller government.”

 So, if you walk into this successful Levesque family business in Warwick or Cranston or Johnston, don’t be surprised if you see Dave greeting customers.  He works with his wife Natallie (who is Brewed’s Chief Financial Officer), and you might also see daughters Jessica and Lacey (Jessica worked in the Johnston store and Lacey still works there) greeting customers.

Or, if you’re the talk radio listener type, I’d bet the house that you will hear Dave offering his not-so-subtle opinions on politics and politicians.  It’s in his blood (must be hereditary).

 The kid who “missed” high school more than he attended did pretty well for himself.

There’s something to be said about hard work and dedication.