Derrick Hayes’ Journey from Philly to Atlanta, Inspiring Generations and Cultivating Community
In the vibrant city of Atlanta, when conversations turn towards flourishing Black businesses, the spotlight inevitably lands on a true culinary gem – Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks. This eatery has carved a delectable reputation for itself, dishing out a savory “Taste of Philly” across the sprawling expanse of metro Atlanta.
A recent conversation between FOX 5’s Eric Perry and Derrick Hayes, the founder and owner, painted a captivating picture of aspirations transcending mere appetites. Hayes, with the soul of an entrepreneur and the heart of a nourisher, seeks to satiate not only stomachs but also the yearnings of the soul.
An Odyssey of Endurance: A Glimpse into Big Dave’s Origins
Sitting within the welcoming confines of the original brick and mortar establishment in Downtown Atlanta, Derrick Hayes, brimming with nostalgia, shared insights into his journey. “Life,” he muses, “is a marathon, not a mere track meet. Run your race.” These words, overflowing with wisdom, encapsulate his attitude towards life’s trajectory. The atmosphere of gratitude permeates as he reflects on the evolution of his dream, brick-by-brick.
From its humble beginnings within a 700-square feet Shell gas station location, Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks has now blossomed into a constellation of several metro Atlanta locations, including the recent additions in Jonesboro and Lawrenceville. The metamorphosis from that diminutive gas station to being an esteemed establishment within Mercedes-Benz Stadium reflects the remarkable distance covered.
A Fusion of Roots: Philly and Atlanta United
Derrick Hayes, a proud native of Philadelphia, proudly declares, “I’m Philly-born and raised.” This declaration carries with it a resonance of cultural identity and history, a connection unbroken. Yet, it’s Atlanta that provided the fertile soil for his aspirations to take root. “Atlanta gave me a shot. Atlanta gave me hope and opportunity,” he asserts. A desire to share the essence of his roots with the people of Atlanta has fueled his culinary journey.
A Culinary Journey Through Generations
For Derrick Hayes, the art of cooking isn’t just a means to generate revenue. It’s an homage to the generations preceding him, an embodiment of their legacy. “That’s who made me understand I had the skill and the power of cooking,” he explains, recognizing the profound influence of his ancestors. In particular, he acknowledges his grandfather’s role, the one who instilled the skill and passion for cooking within him. The act of cooking became his lifeline, a form of salvation. This sentiment is evident as he recounts the choice his grandfather offered him: church or Sunday dinner preparation, a choice that paved his path.
The memory of his father, a constant presence through a pendant around his neck, keeps Derrick Hayes motivated and grounded. “When I look down at him, when I’m having my hardest days, I know he is right by my side,” he shares, encapsulating the power of ancestral bonds.
A Philanthropic Culmination: Love, Success, and Giving Back
Derrick Hayes’ narrative is one of love and success, and it extends beyond his culinary endeavors. His marriage to Pinky Cole-Hayes, the owner of Slutty Vegan, resulted in a partnership that extended into philanthropic realms. Together, they offered life insurance to individuals earning less than $30,000 annually, a gesture of profound impact during challenging times. The streets of Atlanta witnessed their generosity, with employees distributing meals to the community.
Empowering Futures: Nurturing Aspirations
Beyond his own journey, Derrick Hayes is an advocate for young Black men. He recognizes their untapped potential, often obscured by societal biases. Drawing from his own experiences of overcoming stereotypes, he seeks to guide and inspire these young minds. “Some of us have a mind so sharp, the world don’t know what’s missing until they see it,” he asserts, underlining the brilliance within underestimated individuals.
A Global Identity: Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks Beyond Borders
As Derrick Hayes envisions the future, he’s resolute in expanding the brand’s horizons. “We are about to show the world this brand is not just an Atlanta staple,” he declares with determination. The vision transcends local boundaries, seeking to etch Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks as a global culinary landmark, a symbol representing community, unity, and progress.
In essence, Derrick Hayes’ journey is an embodiment of culinary artistry, interwoven with heritage, resilience, and benevolence. Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks stands as a testament to his values, an icon of flavor that nourishes both body and soul.