The Donkey Diner has new owners, Sean and Sue Rubin, formerly of Boston, and now of Coral Bay. We're glad to say that The Inquiring Iguana played a small part in bringing the happy couple full time to St. John. They were reading News of St. John and saw our post about the Diner being for sale.
Sean and Sue alerted us to their arrival, and we took the opportunity to ask some questions and, thereby, introduce the Diner's new owners.
Where ya from?
Our home was in Boston until about 1 1/2 years ago. We were former corporate professionals that were plotting our "getaway" strategy for the last few years. We sold our home and put everything in storage. We traveled for a year or so before we settled into our new role of diner owners.
Sean was from the Bay Area and is a former Molecular Biologist. He moved to Boston in 2001 after we started dating. We married in 2004. I am a confirmed "New Englander" and worked in Financial Services previously.
Why are St. John?
We fell in love with St. John about 3 years ago. (Well – I've loved it since I was a child but Sean had never been here.) We've been here a few times looking at various business opportunities. We wanted to make sure that we did our homework and settled down on the "right" island.
Traveling is one of our hobbies, so we've been looking at various islands over the years. This past October, we decided to "knuckle down" and make a decision about which island. We initially thought it might be St. Croix for various reasons, but that didn't turn out to be the case (and then Omar hit). During this same trip, we checked out some other locations too but at the end of the day, we knew it made sense to stick with St. John.
I was already familiar with your blog, so I logged on to see "what was new" & saw your story about the diner & the Craigslist posting. The rest is literally history. We cross-trained with Clare & Doug a couple of weeks in November and took over the operations officially on December 1st. We've also been fortunate enough to befriend Clare & Doug's predecessors (Marc & Marc), so it's great to be able to carry on the tradition!
Any business experience?
This is the first business we've owned and as I mentioned, we were corporate professionals – so being diner owners is definitely a new experience. From a business perspective, however, our corporate roles still helped us in terms of managing staff /budgeting /marketing, etc.
We initially thought we wanted to own a bar and small guest house – as we started to evaluate the opportunity at Donkey Diner though, it really grew on us (i.e. hours of operation) and we're really happy we made this decision.
Our number one goal has been to make the transition seamless to our loyal customers because we don't want to disappoint anyone! However, we're definitely letting things "evolve" as needed….some initial "introductions" we've made include Home Fries (new cooking technique & seasoning – we're getting great feedback on that front), using different manufacturers for some of our items (e.g. Jones sausage – also another big hit), and tweaking our pancake batter (now includes ricotta cheese which makes them more fluffy).
We're continuing to test new specials & getting feedback to determine additions that we can possibly make down the road to the menu. We're also continuing to look at Hours of Operation but no immediate changes are planned there. For now we continue with:
- Breakfast – Wednesday – Saturday 8am-12pm
- Brunch – Sunday 8am-1pm
- Pizza – Wednesdays & Fridays 12pm-8pm
- KickAss BBQ – Saturdays 5pm-10pm (*Hosted by Brian & Beth*)
- Closed Mondays & Tuesdays
How's it going?
It's great – tiring but exciting…we definitely love the community in Coral Bay and we've been very fortunate to have both new and former visitors (tourists) come to see us.
What's the most, and least, surprising thing about the venture so far?
Hmmm – this is the first chance my husband and I have been able to work together professionally, so there's always new things we're learning about each others approaches / strengths & weaknesses. We knew that when we moved here, we'd need to be flexible & adaptable. So, the greatest surprise is generally the things you learn to "do on the fly". Sean has really been able to demonstrate his McGuyver skills here!)
We realized nearly immediately when we decided to move to Coral Bay that the community was special. People here really look out for one another and it's terrific having that "safety net" and our fellow business owners are truly helpful in providing us guidance, advice, etc. The list is really endless in terms of terrific relationships that we've already forged. So, I suppose the least surprising tidbit is that tight-knit communities still exist and blossom in the islands!