Downtown Long Beach’s Drop Anchor restaurant is a community staple and a popular dining option for visitors. Once the location of Dooger’s, the restaurant took on a new life when Edward Hillard, also known as Eddie, took over the business in his senior year of high school.
A local himself, Edward places the community, his guests, and his crew at the heart of his business. Here’s his experience in his own words.
Why did you choose to start a business in Pacific County?
I grew up here in Pacific County, and I always describe it as a little slice of paradise tucked away from the world. It could just be that hometown feeling, but that’s always been my take on it. We have such a tight and supportive community, and I couldn’t imagine starting it anywhere else.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I had grown up working at Dooger’s here in Long Beach where my momma had worked since they opened in 1995 and during my senior year at IHS I had decided I wanted to take over when my boss planned to retire that following fall.
My boss and I went to Seaside to talk with the owner of Dooger’s, and he said he wanted to scale down the brand to just the seaside location. However, he told me he would lease me the building to open my own restaurant, and I thought: “That’s crazy! I could never open my own restaurant”.
I went to my mom and dad and told them how crushed I was that my plan had fallen apart and my dad said to us, “You and your mom know that business inside and out; together we could do it!” Then, I thought my dad was crazy too! After my mom and I talked about it for a few weeks, we decided to start the process, and our first day in business was August 1, 2019. Now here we are over two years later!
What was your mission when you started your business?
Our mission was to serve quality food with outstanding service to our amazing community. My mom had made so many strong relationships with guests of Doogers, and I had made many of my own from working there and other activities in the community. We wanted to serve and invest in the community that had cheered us along for so long.
How did you come up with the name for your business?
I remember we had asked a lot of our regular customers what they thought we should name ourselves. I remember we were talking to Frannie (a long-time team member of Doogers and Drop Anchor, and very near and dear to our hearts), and we had all decided it had to be nautical themed. Then, one thing led to another and eventually we landed on Drop Anchor
How do you define success?
To me, success is making a difference in somebody’s life. Leaving a positive mark, no matter the size. There are few greater feelings than preparing a custom request for a guest and seeing their smile, or giving somebody a great birthday dinner gathering, or buying somebody’s meal and giving them a hug when you can tell they’re not having the best day.
Getting to be a part of our guests’ lives and memories, feeling their joy or lifting their spirits, that is success to me; that is why we do what we do here.
What is unique about your business?
I think a unique part of our business is definitely my age, but another unique aspect is how in touch we are with our guests. My mom and I value the relationships we have with our customers so much, and we really all feel like a big family with our guests and team.
We actually have two big signs in the restaurant that mean a lot to me. One my mom made for me says: “May all who enter as guests, leave as friends”, and the other that I bought for us says: “Every family has a story, Welcome to ours”. Those two signs kind of remind me of what makes us unique.
If you had one piece of advice to offer someone starting a business in Pacific County, what would it be?
It would definitely be to show the community how much you appreciate them. Tourism is quite high in the summer months (Long Beach especially) but our local community is who helps keep us and our team alive in the unpredictable fall and winter months when the weather is a little less favorable.
For any aspiring business owner in Pacific County, here are a few key takeaways from Edward’s experience:
- Pacific County has a tight, supportive community, and it’s important to be a part of it to ensure long term success.
- Running a business gives you an opportunity to have a positive impact on the lives of others.
- Having a warm, welcoming atmosphere speaks volumes. Your guests will remember the little things long after they’ve left.