Meet Damian and Sheree Marciante of Victoria’s Diner in Dorchester

Today we’d like to introduce you to Damian and Sheree Marciante.

Damian and Sheree, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a couple, we had independent careers in the business world – Damian a degree in Biology/Chemistry, working in BioTech and Sheree with an M.B.A. who had worked in the newspaper industry. We had long dreamed of having our own business and working together when our children were older and more independent. When the BioTech firm Damian’s was working for was bought out – he took a package and we began looking. It took over a year to find the right restaurant. We knew we wanted to own a restaurant as Damian had a passion for cooking which was inspired by his mom, who had immigrated from Sicily as a World War II war bride. She patiently taught him the family recipes and loved that he took an interest in learning how to cook alongside her. Their family trips to Italy and Sicily demonstrated to him how important food cooked lovingly for family and friends would bring them all together around the table for laughter and conversation and it was so comforting to him (and his family). He loved being part of that.

When we heard about Victoria’s Diner being for sale – we knew immediately – that was our fit. Sheree having grown up in Dorchester had been a customer of Victoria’s – her parents had their first date there – and they knew what Victoria’s meant to the neighborhood and the City. Victoria’s was a landmark, it was iconic and beloved by all types of people – young and old – neighborhood people, college students coming to Boston to study, tourists, well-known politicians and city celebrities. There are so many stories you hear at Victoria’s – there is a rich past history and yet still many new memories to be made. A DINER is Americana. Not fancy food, home cooked food you can count on. Breakfast all day every day. After all, at Victoria’s you can have anything you want anytime. We loved that. We wanted a restaurant – but we wanted to serve folks in a “down-to-earth” environment. It all seemed great… but having not come from the restaurant world we had no idea what we were in for… most expected we would not survive, we wouldn’t last – after all, this was a big restaurant, open lots of hours and this was our first venture into this business… it has been seven years and we have operated Victoria’s Diner longer than anyone else who has owned the Diner – since the original family. We are proud that we are truly a family owned and operated restaurant. All three of our children have worked here while they were in college and they too learned the restaurant business right alongside us… their input and help has been invaluable to us. We couldn’t have done this without their love, patience and assistance.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
This restaurant has probably been our most difficult job ever. Victoria’s Diner desperately needed “hands-on” owners who were/are there all the time. If we had known what we didn’t know – we may not have done this. Our business and management backgrounds certainly helped a lot. But we had a lot to learn about the restaurant business and we had to learn it quickly. The Diner, unfortunately, had not been kept in very good repair. The hood system was not up to date and we were almost shut down because of it the first few weeks, but we were able to replace the system in sections while we remained open… there was fire in the ac/heating system on the roof due to faulty wiring that had been done before we purchased – and this happened during the first few months of ownership too. We had no heat in the dining room and it was freezing. We had to buy space heaters to keep the dining room warm enough to stay open until we could get the heat repaired, which was not easy to do faced with the challenge that it was the middle of the winter.

We had inherited a few staff who were not happy with having new owners or new (very necessary) policies. So, a group of them got together walked off the job in the middle of a busy Saturday shift but we called in other staff and kept on serving customers, all of whom were very understanding. And, these were just in the beginning… more was yet to come! We have had our fair share of bumps in the road and have run into some difficult situations but have learned a lot about ourselves. We are extremely blessed as we have some really great co-workers and they, along with our children, have been very supportive. We have gained confidence with each issue that we have been able to persevere through – and with each problem we have solved – and for every obstacle overcome – there has been an opportunity to gain additional knowledge and experience. As a matter of fact, we recently acquired another beloved neighborhood Diner that was closing after 90 years and we did not want that to happen. We felt fairly confident that we could help make it “what it once was” to the South End neighborhood of Boston, Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, est. 1927. We reopened Charlie’s this past July and are operating Charlie’s 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch and soon for dinner we hope!

Victoria’s Diner – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Victoria’s Diner is an institution in Boston. We are an old-fashioned Diner – unique and different from the many chain restaurants. It has been in the same spot since 1949. We are coming up on 70 years in business and our diner has a vintage look (but with updates). We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner – all three meals (most restaurants/fast food places, etc. only do one or the other). In fact, our slogan is – “The FOOD you love, ANYTIME you want. EVERYDAY at Victoria’s!” because you can order anything at anytime of the day or night!!! We are open 16 hours a day, 4 days a week and 24 hours a day, Thursday, Friday and Saturday…

We are one of few places you can go in Boston at 3 a.m. and select ANYTHING from our menu. We are an original – serving breakfast all day, everyday. A lot of other restaurants are jumping on that band wagon now. We offer catering, have two function rooms, have a FULL liquor license and a FULL entertainment license. We are a gathering place for people, all types of people get together at Victoria’s – it’s a melting pot like America itself… you never know who you will see here. We are proud that we serve good food at good prices and people from all walks of life dine at Victoria’s. People down on their luck can afford to eat here at Victoria’s and they might be sitting near a mayor or senator! We are recognized by our LOGO – our trademark Victoria’s Diner sign and logo – a long legged lady with angel wings holding a serving tray with a Dome Cover – it is on our menu, our ads, our website, our large outdoor sign – it’s a traffic stopper… people take selfies in front of it all the time….

Do you feel like our city is a good place for businesses like yours? If someone was just starting out, would you recommend them starting out here? If not, what can our city do to improve?
We love Boston. We love the people, the diversity, the history. The neighborhoods and architecture in the various neighborhoods – the triple deckers and old Victorians of Dorchester, South Boston and Roxbury, the beautiful brownstones, cobbled and brick streets of the South End, North End, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, all of them. By the way – we love our Boston accent… we do wish the MBTA would be available to riders earlier and later in the day – longer hours so that our staff could use it as we are open late and we open so early in the morning. The other thing is traffic can be difficult here in Boston, too – it seems lately, no matter what time of day or night – it’s like rush hour a lot of the time and we don’t know when that started to be the case…. the city is just busier.

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