Christopher A. Daniel, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Two days before Derrick Hayes, 33, lost his father to lung cancer in 2009, his dad told him he didn’t want him working for the man, getting “mistreated and being taken advantage of like he was his entire life.”
Those words stuck with Hayes who moved to Atlanta, and used his life savings to open Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks, a grab-and-go eatery named after his late father.
Hayes, 33, who was raised in West Philadelphia, has grown his business selling cheesesteaks served on a soft Amoroso roll with three cheeses, his late grandfather’s seasoning recipe, mushrooms, peppers, and onions from a small space next door to a gas station into a profitable enterprise with two brick-and-mortar locations and a 26-foot food truck that only serves egg rolls.
Hayes originally planned to open a concept selling water ice. But the Philly treat didn’t immediately turn a profit. After ordering a cheesesteak in an Atlanta restaurant that left him unimpressed, he installed a griddle and a fryer that barely fit in that tiny convenience store kitchen.
Big Dave’s popularity took off after a visit from Philadelphia rapper/actress Eve. The Grammy winner was in Atlanta filming Barbershop: The Next Cut.
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