It all started with a truck...
The Story of Cafe Diem

The seed of Cafe Diem was actually planted well before the truck.  Cafe Diem truly began with a decision to take a different path after being laid off from my long-held, let's say less-than-inspiring, office job in the summer of 2013.  In that moment, I decided to stop settling and making excuses for why I couldn't do what I truly wanted to do, which was to start my own business.  I decided to just go for it.  To Seize the Day, if you will.  So without any experience in the coffee or smoothie and juice business, I decided, naturally, that I wanted to start a hybrid coffee shop and smoothie/juice bar.  But I wanted to put my own spin on it, a twist.  Living on or near the Jersey Shore most of my life and wanting to build a life on the ocean, I decided to bring my idea to the beach...in a truck.  And so baby Cafe Diem was born. 

The story of finding, buying and building the truck is full of interesting characters and crazy twists of fate that would make for a compelling novel unto itself, but that's for another time.  Long story short, after months of searching for the right truck, I finally found the perfect, albeit old and beat up, ice cream truck, which was left for dead in a parking lot in Neptune, and made a deal.  Here she is the day we met and here's me showing her off to my niece, Emily.  Emily's not very impressed...

Transforming a 1983 Chevy P30 Stepvan that's on its 9th life into a modern mobile coffee shop/smoothie bar was a daunting challenge that required lots of ingenuity and pure grit, not to mention the expert hands of almost every trades person I knew (this, again, deserves it's own chapter).  Somehow, though, on the tightest of budgets and with more than a lil help from some friends, I was able to open July 4th weekend in the summer of 2014 in Lavallette, NJ.  From day one, the response was overwhelmingly positive.   People really appreciated what I was doing and soon I had a quickly growing fan base.  It was a very busy summer, though stressful at times.  Without any experience running a food truck or precedence for what I was doing, there was a lot to learn.  The curve was steep and unforgiving.  There was lots of cleaning up spills from not properly securing stuff, lots of running around like a madman in the morning making juice and stocking the truck with supplies, lots of late night frantic runs to the supermarket, and lots of coffee.  It was crazy, but fun.  Best of all, folks loved what I was selling.  The previous winter/spring I visited the best coffeehouses and juiceries in New York City noting my likes/dislikes of each.  I also spent many hours taste testing different coffees and tinkering with recipes in my own kitchen to figure out the healthiest and best tasting concoctions.  I didn't just want to build a cool truck, but one that served amazing stuff to boot.  To finally bring the fruit of that labor (quite literally) to the people and receive such a positive response was really rewarding.  Here's one of my first employees, Lisa, who begrudgingly doubled as a model for much of the summer.  Hi Lisa!

 

It was a successful summer, but it went very fast.  The frosty bite of winter came as fast as the summer went and soon the thought of serving smoothies on the beach felt like just a dream.  I ran the truck as a drive thru in an empty parking lot for a while, which I thought was a great idea, but apparently not everybody shared my enthusiasm.  The winter of 2014-15 was a long one.  On the bright side, though, I was offered a space to open a location at Wallach's Farms, an old fashioned farm market where I bought my produce and made my juices, and I took it.  As I had the year before with the truck, most of the spring of 2015 was spent building out the store.  We wanted the store to capture the spirit of the truck so we incorporated its colors and much of its style into the build-out and on June 3rd, Cafe Diem Brick-N-Mortar opened for business.  Here's a shot from that first day.  If you look closely, you can see a hand still stocking fruit...

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To help expand Cafe Diem's horizons and menu, we decided to offer more food options in the store, specifically plant-based food.  Enter Mollie, a good friend with a deep passion for vegan food and cooking, and our journey of consciously revolutionizing diets by designing delicious and nutritious plant-based dishes and desserts began and continues today.  Now, this might sound like a lofty, high-minded goal for what started as small truck serving coffee and smoothies on the Jersey Shore, but Cafe Diem was never just about the stuff we serve or even the truck, for that matter.  Cafe Diem was and is primarily an idea. A philosophy.  About taking a risk.  Being different.  Breaking the mold.  It just so happens this idea was fated to take the form of beautiful smoothie bowls served on the beach from the window of a truck and delectable raw vegan samoa cheesecakes served from a store inside a farm market.   I hope you'll come see us some time and partake in this idea.  I promise you, it's delicious. 

Truly,

- Darren