PHOTOS: Matthew Gaulin
After a shaky start on a solid dream, Dippity Duey’s in Oxford is finally flourishing, thanks to owner and head chef Dwayne “Duey” Cyr.
Sometimes happiness cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Not when it means doing what you love, and even if it means immense sacrifices.
Dwayne “Duey” Cyr knows about sacrifice.
He left a lucrative job working in The Villages, scraped together his life savings and bought a truck and trailer to pursue a new career as a mobile chef.
“I decided I was just going to put all my cards on the table and see what happened,” says Cyr. “I got to a point where all my money was gone and I was back at square one in my life. I ate breakfast for dinner most nights just to survive, but I never gave up. I never doubted myself because I had good vibes that this was going to work. It had to.”
Taking a chance
Tuesday through Friday, Cyr’s mornings start at 3a.m. to prep the fresh food he serves every week at Dippity Duey’s Mobile Kitchen. Like clockwork, he pulls up at his usual spot: Exterior Spaces Landscaping on U.S. Highway 301 in Oxford.
Breakfast starts at 6:30a.m. and the day doesn’t end until lunch is finished at 1:30p.m. Then it’s a quick trip to Sam’s Club, the landfill and to another store to buy propane before heading to his home in Ocklawaha to clean, eat, bathe and sleep before starting it all over again.
For some, the monotony could be taxing. Not for Cyr. He takes comfort in knowing he’s providing a service people appreciate. And he loves seeing people eat his food.
“It’s all worth it when someone smiles and says it’s the best sandwich they’ve ever had,” he says. “It makes my day and inspires me to keep getting up at 3a.m. every day.”
Cyr’s passion for food is one that started early. His father, Louis Cyr, was a chef and he showed him early that being in the culinary industry was a labor of love.
“My dad was gone a lot, but I always wanted to be with him, so I would go peel potatoes with him just to spend quality time,” he says. “I grew up in the kitchen and he taught me most of what I know about cooking. But he also showed me that working in culinary was cutthroat and it was hard to trust people. I loved cooking but it didn’t tickle my fancy at the time.”
Instead, Cyr built a career in management. He initially left his home state of Michigan to help launch Villages News Network before moving into retail. He started working in La Bodega, The Villages’ first retail business.
“It was a small market, kind of like a mini Winn-Dixie,” says Cyr. “That store is where I learned to cut meat.”
He eventually worked his way up into managing the warehouse for Southern Lifestyles, which was a home furnishings store in The Villages. All the while, Cyr would watch chefs on channels like The Food Network and think to himself, “I could do better than this.”
The opportunity came to see if he could indeed do better when Southern Lifestyles went out of business.
“I’ve never been afraid of hard work, so I knew this was my chance to do something food-related,” he says. “So I cashed in my 401(k) and got to work on creating what is now Dippity Duey’s.”
Starting from the bottom
His knowledge of The Villages helped Cyr settle on the U.S. 301 location he knew would be perfect for attracting the town’s blue-collar workers. Nothing else but fast food was nearby.
“I wanted to be different,” he says. “My thing is I want to give people something I would eat myself. I want to make food that is hot, affordable, plentiful and good. Keep it simple.”
Therefore, Cyr serves mostly sandwiches with other down-home comfort foods like homemade soups and chili. Nevertheless, sandwiches don’t mean flavorless tuna on rye or slices of turkey crammed into an average hoagie.
Cyr’s sandwiches are jaw-dropping masterpieces that leave customers full and fully satisfied. And he starts with the bread.
“Rolls are the base for your sandwich; therefore, I always use good rolls and I keep them warm and toasty,” he explains.
Next, he makes everything fresh, from some of the meats to the condiments.
“For example, for my Meathead sandwich, I make a meatloaf fresh every day. And whatever I don’t sell I give away and I start fresh tomorrow. I also make my own breakfast sausage and my own Italian sausage. And I roast the garlic I use for my roasted garlic mayo,” Cyr says. “Bottom line, I love to eat and I know others do, too.”
All the menu items are named after family members. Some of the customer favorites include The Meathead, a meatloaf sandwich served on a buttered, grilled hoagie and topped with smoked provolone cheese, grilled peppers and onions, and homemade roasted garlic mayo; The Christina, a grilled, chipotle-spiced chicken breast topped with sautéed mushrooms, bacon, pepper Jack cheese and chipotle mayo; and The Dwayne, a grilled ham and cheese served on a warm, buttery hoagie.
And don’t call Dippity Duey’s a simple food truck or a “roach coach.”
“I take pride in keeping my kitchen clean,” he says. “I am very picky about making sure everything is done right and kept sanitary.”
Though Cyr started alone, he is now enlisting the help of his girlfriend, Victoria, as his business starts to boom. After months of struggling and watching his bank account dwindle, Cyr is happy to see results — finally.
“Trying to build a customer base was exasperating and tiring at times but I never regretted it,” he says “Now calls are starting to come out of the blue and people want me to participate in their food truck rallies or to cater events. It’s crazy. Now I’m nervous about the growth, but it’s a good problem to have.
“I wake up smiling every day because I’m building something the right way, and I never think about the money. I know if I make you a good sandwich you’ll be back.”
For more information about Dippity Duey’s, visit facebook.com/DippityDuey.