"Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life."
It's a familiar phrase that few seem lucky enough to live out, but talk to one of the employees up front at Little Philly Cheesesteaks in Poquoson and you quickly get a sense that while, yes, they're working...they're also a family just hanging out.
Customers are an important part of the family.
"We used to have a lot of seniors that would come in for their meals and stuff like that so we are missing them and looking forward to when they can come back," said Theresa Firth of the impact COVID-19 restrictions have had on the Wythe Creek Road cheesesteak joint.
Firth, a NASA contractor by day, got a job at Little Philly while on furlough last year. Today, she's still working both jobs.
Firth and co-worker Brianna Johnson, a ten-year employee, says it all starts at the top with owner Nealy Jack who's managed to keep all her staff employed during the pandemic.
They say Jack made up for lost lunch customers from nearby NASA Langley and Langley Air Force Base by adding dinner specials and advertising takeout on social media.
"She is like family to me," said Johnson.
A 40-mile drive to the south, Beach Bully BBQ in the Virginia Beach resort area is finding its own success.
General Manager Morgan Phipps says the around-30-year Oceanfront staple had a record sales day in the last couple weeks, largely from takeout.
Without looking at the numbers, she believes sales are actually up overall; a rare achievement during the pandemic, especially considering long-term construction going on in front of the restaurant's 19th Street location.
"People tell us we're a driving force in the community," said Phipps. "We help the schools, the city, everything. We try and do our part. We try to spread the love and do our part and I will say people are giving it back to us so we really appreciate it."
Phipps tells News 3 takeout orders have made up for a loss in catering, roughly 50 percent of typical business.
A new website and online ordering system have helped, Phipps says. Beach Bully has maintained its employees, but ongoing meat shortages and rising costs remain a challenge.
"Brisket is the one that's quadrupled as of this week so our food cost is going up. We're trying hard not to raise prices on everything," said Phipps.
But the support keeps coming...and it's a similar story at two-year-old Sawdust Road, a coffee shop located in an historic Pungo Village home.
The cafe on Princess Anne Road installed a drive-thru system that never cleared while News 3 was on site.
Manager Jennifer Romine says many who come through say it's their first visit.
"There are a lot of coffee shops that have closed down so [regular customers] have been spreading the word. Business has been doing great," she said.
Romine tells News 3 similar to Beach Bully and Little Philly, Sawdust Road has maintained staff.
But location on a busy road can be an advantage...and it's an advantage Baja Restaurant in the Sandbridge area doesn't have.
"You'll find very few places like us," said owner Jimmy Reeve, referencing the restaurant's waterfront location along Back Bay. "But being at the end of the road, we're not a drive by for any other use so it has its drawbacks as well."
Baja sits on Sandpiper Road, nearly four miles south of where main thoroughfare Sandbridge Road connects to the coastal community.
It's been at this location since 1975; expanding through the years and Reeve is determined to keep this local favorite up and running.
Right now curbside takeout is the only option, Tuesday through Sunday, but Reeve expects to open the inside cafe this weekend and some outdoor seating starting Friday, as Virginia begins to allow certain businesses to reopen.
"We're just really eager to get working again," he said.
Hours & Locations:
475 Wythe Creek Rd # B, Poquoson, VA 23662
Hours: 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Sunday
Beach Bully BBQ
601 19th St, Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Sunday
1791 Princess Anne Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday & Sunday
3701 Sandpiper Rd #4325, Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Hours: 5 p.m.-9 or 10 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday (Baja Coffee Company, 7 a.m.-11 a.m.)