By: Steven Hicks
Early one June morning in 1997, well before dawn, John “LJ” Burr and Al Steiginga unlocked the door to their new business. They began to prepare for their first day open to the public. Two friends who met in college and surfed together took a first step in a journey that would continue to this day. The door they opened that June morning was to the first Long Doggers restaurant in Indialantic, now a Brevard icon.
DETERMINED, PLANNED GROWTH
After that first Long Doggers opened in 1997, there were immediate plans to grow, but not until the right location came along and the processes were in place. Burr insisted that while each restaurant have its own personality because of its location, the guest experience needed to be consistent. In 1999, the second Long Doggers opened on Post Road in Melbourne. The third location followed in Satellite Beach, the fourth in Palm Bay. Number five was on Viera Boulevard, and reinforced a theme they wanted to keep: Long Doggers are neighborhood restaurants for locals, not a chain with mass-produced food and uniformed staff. Most recently, the sixth Long Doggers opened in Cocoa Beach, on State Road 520, a block back from the intersection of 520 and State Road A1A.
“WORK HARD, PLAY HARD”
You’ll discover a common thread throughout the staff, management, and owners of these restaurants. It is a “work hard, play hard” mantra that keeps everyone sane through the long hours this type of work carries. From finding Steiginga ushering guests into their seats with a bullhorn and calling for refills of drinks, to their famous twice-a-year parties for staff and their families, the people of Long Doggers certainly know how to enjoy themselves and each other. You’ll likely catch the manager of the Satellite Beach restaurant surfing at dawn before he opens his doors, and Steiginga has probably run or biked quite a few miles already when you see him at lunch. Viera’s manager has been known to take calls on his boat on his day off, fishing the Indian River flats. These are real people and your neighbors whom you’ll get to know as a regular guest.
Try this: next time you’re at the Indialantic Long Doggers, ask about Bud and Stella Long.
The Same But Different
Twenty years on now, Long Doggers eschews the outward traits of a chain. These are six specifically local restaurants with the same name. If you haven’t been to a Long Doggers (is that possible?), you’ll need to try all six. Each has its own vibe created by the management and staff on site. From Indialantic’s small surf shack feel to Post Road’s college vibe, Satellite Beach’s neighborhood hangout style to Palm Bay’s locals’ bar, Viera’s local sports headquarters to Cocoa Beach’s big, bright surf-mecca outdoor deck, each is uniquely Long Doggerst and uniquely successful.
On July 29th, at Nance Park in Indialantic, Long Doggers will hold its 20th anniversary celebration. Called Long Doggers Beachside Bash, it will feature live performances by Common Kings, Beebs and Her Moneymakers, The Ries Brothers, and 23 Treez. Do a web search for Common Kings, listen to a little of their music and then imagine dancing to it on the beach on a hot July night in Indialantic. Long Doggers certainly has this “radically relaxed” thing down to an art. For updates and ticket information on this once-every-twenty-years event, visit LongDoggersBeachsideBash.com.