“When you own a business, the business owns you.” I’m sitting outside of Danny’s Deli & Car Wash, masked and socially distant, with the owner, Danny Kellogg. It’s an early Tuesday morning, the marine layer is thick, and the only other people up, it seems, are the street cleaners with leaf blowers in hand just outside the iron fence. I push my phone closer to Danny, hoping the voice memo app is recording every word I’m unable to hear.
“There’s a lot of drawbacks in owning your own business, but I’ve always had a love for fishing Channel Islands,” Danny says. “Being my own boss gave me the ability to work hard every day. So anytime the ocean went calm, I could find a way to leave work and go fishing.”
I ask what it means to have a business “own you,” and he explains that although he can take off for the occasional calm day or two, a week without stepping foot into the building is a no-go—and that is also his trade secret. “As the owner,” he says, “you’ve got to be on top of it all the time. Employees just don’t do things the way you would do it, which is understandable. You’ve got to watch your business closely.”
Danny is a third-generation business owner, his father and grandfather before him. Though he was raised in Santa Barbara, Danny speaks frankly, chooses his words carefully, and has this approachable, mid-Western air about him. Which makes sense, considering his grandfather was from Indiana, where he owned a clothing business before moving the operation to Carpinteria. (The store was actually two doors down from where we sit today, in the same strip of shops as La Tiendita.)
With that kind of background, the best business advice his family passed on was to watch your payroll and pay attention to costs. “And, if at all possible, don’t buy new equipment. Try to find stuff that’s used because new equipment is really expensive,” Danny says. “And don’t go into debt!”
After 37 years of being in business, Danny says that the advice he would tell his younger self is to put your heart and soul into your business. “You need to find a piece of property that you can buy as in, work-to-own. Property leasing is harder because the more you make, the more you pay in rent. You’re working for somebody else,” Danny says. “If I were to do things differently, I would have opened a business where I was working to buy the piece of property.”
From reading the vintage sign out front, the one adored with two four-leaf clovers, some may not realize that Danny’s Deli & Car Wash is actually a bait and tackle shop, too. A nod to his passion for sport fishing, fishermen can step inside, grab a few lures and a tri-tip sandwich to go, while checking out his local wall-of-fame, which includes Danny holding record breaking catches of the day. I wonder how this building grew into a motley crew of businesses, and he shares that when the rent doubled about a year into signing the lease, he opened the deli to increase earnings and the bait and tackle shop eventually followed suit.
Danny admits that although he’ll never finish everything that needs to be done within the business, his ability to take care of what’s most important at any given moment on a continuous basis is the key to his success—his work ethic. “With three businesses here, it’s a lot, and I have it all stored in my head,” Danny shares. “A key to my success is probably how much I can store in my head and stay up on my responsibilities.
As I reach to stop the voice recording app, I ask Danny what makes his tri-tip sandwiches so “famous,” gesturing to the word splashed across the awning above the front door. “Oak bark,” he says. “Oak bark gives it a great flavor. That’s what Santa Maria barbecues use. And that’s a good trade secret, too.”
Danny’s Deli & Car Wash is located at 4890 Carpinteria Ave. Visit https://www.restaurantji.com/ca/carpinteria/dannys-deli-/ for more information.