Mike Day is a Wilmington Entrepreneur and Restaurateur (You may have seen him at one of his spots: Farmer & the Cow, FAIRE CAFE, Blitzen the Bar, or 9th Street Development Company). Read his story below as this week’s #PeopleOfWilmDE!
“I grew up in the area—from a time before my memory begins. I attended the University of Delaware and stayed close when I moved to New Castle. I always enjoyed coming to the city for their restaurants and shows and it has only gotten better since then. I worked in hospitality and then a few corporate jobs that kept me traveling, but Delaware always felt like home. In 2017, there was an opportunity to take over a space on Market Street. It feels like forever ago when viewed with all the growth the city has seen since then. I made the decision to move to the city in early 2020 (the timing, right?!) a couple years after opening Farmer & the Cow.
Three interesting facts about me are:
1. I am ordained and have performed a few weddings.
2. I started playing piano at age 6, and really love music.
3. I have three ridiculously adorable cats: Snickers (16), Louis (5) & Violet (5). They bring more joy to my life than I can describe, and ensure I start my day on time for their breakfast schedules. Cats, Coffee, Whiskey, Burgers – I’m not complicated.
As a small business owner, balance can be difficult to achieve, and busy weekends don’t make it easier! I’ll start most Fridays and Saturdays by stopping by Faire Café for a little caffeine boost and maybe a quick snack before heading to Farmer & the Cow to help for dinner service. It’s great to connect with so many people – visitors, residents, and sometimes the artists performing at The Queen that night. After shift, we all decompress with stories and a whiskey before heading over to Nomad to check out their great live music.
Now, the real treat is if you catch me not working, you’ll still find me for morning coffee and breakfast at Faire, maybe a craft cocktail, then an afternoon meal at Farmer because the Moo Caliente will always understand me. I’ll pop over to Wilmington Brew Works for a flight of whatever tasty creations they have on tap and hopefully get a spot outside during nicer weather. La Pizzeria Metro is a fantastic option for a snack with my flight. Dinner at Bardea remains a staple for me. During COVID, as restaurants reopened, I would grab a seat at the bar and enjoy an incredible meal put out by that team. Let’s consider it self-care. I always ended with dessert as their key lime pop won me over. I’m not much of a dessert person, but I simply cannot say no to what they’re doing there. I’ll likely end up back at Farmer to sip on a whiskey and check on the team. If you haven’t seen the assortment of whiskey, it really is something. Nearly 500 different whiskeys are available, so it’s quite easy to find something for your taste. A short walk down the street to Nomad, or just a bit farther and you’ll see me at Torbert. They’re making some great cocktails and push us to keep up with their creativity.
Sundays are for rest and recovery, starting with a bit of sunshine and listening to the Brandywine River at Alapocas Run State Park. Getting outside at any of our Wilmington parks is great, but there is something about the rushing Brandywine River that soothes the soul before getting back to work on Monday.
I continue to choose Wilmington because before COVID, I knew so many professionals that commuted to Wilmington from the greater Philadelphia or Baltimore areas for work, and I was one of them. The best decision I made, especially as a Wilmington business owner, was to fully invest into the community by staying local and making Wilmington my home. There is nothing better than knowing we are serving our friends and neighbors with every cup of coffee at Faire and every house-made burger at Farmer, and it’s a joy to support other small businesses in a similar way.
Wilmington has helped me professionally and personally through the community of people that live and work here. COVID really brought everyone together where we could share ideas and collaborate on how we can all move forward together. It became less of a competitive environment, and brought everyone to a greater path, working with some amazing Wilmington figures like groups from 9SDC and BPG. These two organizations invest so many resources back into Wilmington to create a growing number of projects and attract more people to the city. Having the opportunity to work closely with 9SDC really has given me a lot of inspiration on what we can do next.
I’m really excited about how much has happened around town (over the past few years!) Watching businesses reinvest their money and time into this city and pulling people from the surrounding areas to live downtown has been incredible. Being in hospitality, I would love to see more activities around the area. Let’s ditch the cars and have access to all the fun and excitement of a city within walking distance. We have so many great bars, restaurants, and show venues. I hope we can look towards more commerce and activities soon.
My advice to Wilmingtonians? Support local as much as you can. Everyone I talk to pours all their energy and their hearts into what they’re doing. We care so much about serving our community and putting the best out there every day. You’ll often find a lot of collaboration and comradery between the groups – we love what we do and we’re here to put and keep Wilmington on the map.
Wilmington is a city full of resiliency, and the community’s response during COVID really highlighted that for me. During the shut-down there was so much uncertainty, and throughout the pandemic we continued to meet new friends and neighbors that were willing to show up in unexpected ways. When we could not ‘go out’, we saw people eating outside together in the community as the City extended outdoor dining options and to go cocktails for our bars and restaurants. We saw restaurants ordering staff lunch from other restaurants, businesses checking in on each other and occasionally sharing supplies to hold them over between deliveries. In retrospect, there was a very real possibility some of us were not going to make it. I am proud, and truly honored, for the outpouring of support we were able to give (and receive) from our Wilmington community during that time.”