By Roz Rogoff
Crowdfunding for Denica's Real FoodUploaded: Jul 12, 2013
I discovered Denica's Real Food Kitchen, also known as Denica's Café eight years ago after attending a wine tasting at Winecentives in Dublin. I noticed that the bakery on the corner was expanding into the adjacent store to add a Taco Lounge. I decided to try it and that's when I became hooked on Denica's Oatmeal Raisin Walnut cookies.
My Maverick would always find its way to Denica's whenever we were in Dublin, and we were in Dublin a lot for maintenance and repairs. It took many visits to Ray's Auto in Dublin to put my Maverick in optimum mechanical shape.
Once all of the mechanical problems were fixed, I directed my attention to the interior and exterior. Tears in the driver's seat needed to be repaired. Ray Shams, owner of Ray's Auto, recommended A-1 Auto Upholstery on Dougherty Road. A-1 is only a block away from Denica's.
I took my Maverick into A-1 on April 1st and met Harry Sachs at 10 am for an interview on his candidacy for City Council. I had a coupon for a free crepe with an entrée, but I didn't feel like eating much so I just bought coffee and an Oatmeal Raisin Walnut cookie. Harry was not familiar with Denica's but he liked it so much he asked if he could take the free crepe coupon home for his wife. No problem.
I noticed that Denica's started a Loyalty Program, which was just like a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) assignment I used in the Management Information Systems course I was teaching for University of Phoenix. It looked to me that the Freitas' were planning to expand and might have bought a CRM application or hired a consultant or both.
I was right about the expansion plans. I received a letter last week inviting me to "support our growing family as a member of our Founders Club." The Founders Club package offers a lot, but costs a lot, $999.99. I love Denica's but not that much.
I wanted to contribute to this, because I believe in Denica and James and I was hoping one of the two new restaurants they are planning would be in San Ramon. When I was running for the Dublin San Ramon Services District (DSRSD) in 2010, the Freitas put up one of my signs in their restaurant window and another one at their home in South San Ramon. They recently moved bigger house in Castro Valley, so now they don't live in San Ramon anymore.
The restaurant is still in Dublin and takes about 15 minutes to get to on Dougherty Road. I usually stop at Denica's if I have to be in Dublin for some other reason. My reason today was to bring my Maverick back to A-1 Auto Upholstery to have a dash cap installed on my cracked and weather dash pad.
I dropped my Maverick off at A-1 Auto Upholstery and walked the block down to Denica's. I got there about 11:10 and it was packed. The alfresco diners were lining the sidewalk. Inside almost every table was taken and there was a line at the cookie bar. Whoa. This was the busiest I've ever seen it.
I didn't see James or Denica out front. They have a big crew of people working there now. I bought two cookies and placed an order for Denica's Scramble Sautéed mushrooms, green onion, Andouille sausage and eggs topped with melted pepper jack cheese, served with potatoes and toast. The potatoes are cut in chunks with the skin on and sautéed. Everything was delicious.
I wanted to join the Founders Club and the letter said to bring it in and ask for a Manager. So I did. I also said I wanted to interview Denica or James for my blog in the San Ramon Express. I wore my San Ramon Observer t-shirt and handed out business cards for my blog.
One of the Managers came over and took my application form. I asked if I was the first one to apply and he said, "No," but he was surprised by my form. There's a bargain basement in the Founders Club for tightwads and po' folks who can't afford a thousand dollar membership. I opted for the Silver Snickerdoodle Level at only $499.99.
The $1000 Gold membership is worth $1250 for credit on meals and cookies, etc. There are other bonuses, including a gift certificate for breakfast or lunch on the spot and a Denica's dozen (14) cookies. My Silver membership is half of the Gold membership; so my gift card is for $625 with a bonus of 7 cookies.
While I'm not the first person to sign up for the Founders Club, my Silver membership card is 001. So I guess I'm the first tightwad to sign up.
I offered to write a check, but the person I gave the form to said they don't accept checks. Since the form came with a return envelope, I suppose Denica and James would accept checks in the mail, but I gave the employee a credit card for the purchase.
I asked if Denica or James was there, and I was told she was in the office. I saw her come out of the office and asked her for an interview on the expansion plans. She graciously said yes. So I asked a few questions about what they are doing, why, and how.
They are planning to open two new restaurants, but neither one is in San Ramon (awww). One is in Walnut Creek and the other is in Livermore. They already sell cookies on line through mail order and they are bottling salsas for sale too.
I asked Denica how they came up with the idea for the Founders Club and if she and James are working with a consultant. She said they came up with it after speaking to other restaurateurs and they did it all on their own.
I asked how many Founders Club members they hoped to get and how much cash they are trying to raise. Denica said 50, which would be $50K if all of them are Gold members. They have 4,000 names on the mailing list, so it should be easy to get 50 to 100 at the $1000 and $500 levels.
I'd wish them luck, but they don't need luck. They have good ideas, good food, good management, and hard work. After seeing the crowds of satisfied customers this morning, I know their expansion plans will be a success.
If you haven't tried Denica's yet, check out the huge selection on their menu. No wonder it is so crowded most of the time.