Boston ‘Mom and Pop’ Shops-Chapter 2: Vee Vee-Jamaica Plain

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 02/15/2016

This series, introduced in a blog post on 1/30/16, celebrates ‘Mom and Pop’ shops in the Boston area, and possibly beyond. These blog posts are dedicated to owners of restaurants and small businesses who respond to a questionnaire designed to capture their experiences of owning, working, and operating a business together.

Vee Vee is a 35-seat neighborhood restaurant opened in 2008 by Kristen and Dan Valachovic at 763 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain, MA. Thanks to Kristen and Dan for their insight and experiences. If you’d like details about the “Reiki session gone awry,” you’ll have to visit their restaurant…

SNS: Please provide a very brief description of your restaurant and mission.

Kristen & Dan: Our goal is to create a comfortable neighborhood restaurant with simple, tasty food for both vegetarians and omnivores, featuring local beers and a small, but excellent selection of wines.


What are your individual titles, roles, and responsibilities?

Kristen: I’m a server and host, also in charge of bookkeeping, payroll and pretty much all admin stuff. Dan tends bar, hosts, and is in charge of the physical plant. He also knows where every single thing in the restaurant is. If you can’t find it, just ask — he knows.

Where did you grow up and how did you end up in Boston?

K: I was born and raised in Dedham, MA, spent a few years in Brookline, and moved to JP in 1994.

Dan: I grew up in upstate NY. I had a rock band with some high school friends and we came to Boston in 1991 to make a go of it. I moved to JP in 1994 as well, when the band thing was fizzling out.

As a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you “grew up?”

K: I thought I would be an artist — whatever that means.

D: A rock musician.

What other jobs have you worked besides restaurants?

K: For many years I had a “real job” in the design field; first as an interior designer, then in graphics. I continued to work part-time at my old firm through the first year we were open. I remember on the restaurant’s opening day I had a deadline at my design job. It was stressful doing both, but I had to make sure we had some reliable income.

D: Sadly, nothing too interesting.  My first job was at the bottle return counter in the local Grand Union.  My next job was slightly cooler– clerk at Strawberries Records and Tapes.  After that, all of my jobs were restaurant-related.

K: Dan always forgets, but there was a period of about a few years in there where Dan worked landscaping. He took a step back from restaurant work for a breather, and I must have as well because that was the only time in our 18years together that we had “normal” schedules. We both got up in the morning, went to work, came home and had dinner together every night. We had weekends off, too. It was weird. Not terrible, but ultimately not for us…

Dan on the bar

Dan on the bar

What was your first restaurant-related job and where was it?

K: There’s a tiny restaurant in Endicott Circle in the Dedham called Fisherman’s Restaurant. I worked there for one day in junior high school until they fired me. Then it was on to a multi-year stint at Mister Donut on Route 1 in Westwood. This was in the 80’s, when it was apparently acceptable to have a teen-aged girl or two working alone at a donut shop on the side of the highway.

D: I worked for a summer as a delivery driver at a steak delivery spot called “Steak Out”. I wish I still had that hat…

How did you meet?

K: In 1998 when Centre Street Cafe moved to its current location, owner Felicia Sanchez turned the old spot (current home of Ten Tables) into a little Mexican place called Mi Casita. I lived around the corner and was a regular customer, so Felicia hired me to design the sign and asked me to coordinate with Mi Casita’s manager, Dan. I set up a meeting to discuss the sign with him, and he didn’t show up.

D: I had a lot going on…

K: I wasn’t impressed. He seemed entirely uninterested in talking to me, and I had no romantic interest in him. But then, we found ourselves finding excuses to be together. We never had a proper date and have been solid since then.

How long have you worked together?

K: I ended up working weekends at Mi Casita in order to be close to him; it was a small place: a cook, a server, and a dishwasher. Later our friends opened Zon’s, and we were both on the opening staff, Dan as manager, me as a server (I was still working full time in design).

How many hours a week do each of you work at your place of business?

K: Dan is actually there more than I am, he likes to putz around. I’m probably there officially 30 hours a week, but I’m in and out of the office, plus doing things from home. We work on the floor together on Friday and Saturday nights, plus whenever else we need to.

Did anyone give you any advice before you started working together?

K&D: Well, everyone said it would ruin our relationship. It hasn’t.

How would you describe your working relationship?

K&D: “Good cop/bad cop?” Maybe a little of that, but also, in day to day operations we trust each other enough to go with something if one of us feels strongly about it. We pick our battles for small stuff, but for bigger things we always have to be on the same page.

Is working together harder or easier than you anticipated?

K: Easier. We came about our division of labor organically and it seems to work well. I can’t imagine doing this solo, though!

What do you like the most about working together?

K: Seeing our hopes come to fruition, but also having Dan’s perspective instead of just my own. He often sees things I miss and vice versa.

What do you like the least about working together?

J&D: Difficulty in stepping away from work, from thinking about it and talking about it 24/7/365.

How have you avoided killing each other?

K: Dan is very calm and patient, that’s why he hasn’t killed me yet. We defer to each other’s strengths.

What do you rely on your partner to do in the restaurant that you’d hate doing?

K: Taking care of broken equipment. I don’t speak the language and I’m not especially handy.

D: Paying the bills

What qualities do you value most in employees?

K&D: Commitment to our vision, loyalty, respect.

What is the wildest thing that’s ever happened at your restaurant?

K&D: A Reiki session gone awry, at a table, on a jamming Friday night. It was shocking and gross, let’s just leave it at that.

What do you enjoy doing most when you’re away from the restaurant/business?

K&D: Heading to the outer cape, definitely. It’s our happy place. We don’t have a house there, but aspire to someday. We also love a good road trip to experience other restaurants and bars. Portland, Maine is a favorite.

Any issues you care deeply about that you want to share?

K&D: We love our JP neighborhood. When we decided we wanted our own place, we never considered looking anywhere else. It’s like a small town in the big city.

Do you cook at home?

K&D: We had our kitchen redone last year, so, yes, finally we can cook at home. We have 2 nights off together, one we go out, one we eat in. Often we’ll have overly ambitious cooking plans but then end up doing something simple like spaghetti carbonara.

Do you schedule ‘date nights’?

K&D: We’re good about having date nights, pretty much every Monday. We really try to stay connected in a way that doesn’t involve working. Once upon a time we had things to talk about besides the restaurant, and we don’t want to forget that. Our last date was a big one — a 6-day trip to the Caribbean, very relaxing.

What are some of your favorite Boston area restaurants?

K&D: So many restaurants, so little time! We love other Mom & Pops like Seven Stars Street Bistro and Brewer’s Fork, although we don’t get to Charlestown nearly as often as we should. We also love Neptune Oyster, Toro and eating at the bar at Mistral.

Any dreams\fantasies about opening a restaurant completely different than Vee Vee?

K&D: All the time! Sometimes we look around and think maybe we should have done this or that differently, and wonder what it would be like to start all over.

What characterizes your favorite type of customers?

K&D: We have an excellent group of regulars and it often feels like an ongoing conversation with old friends. We just continue where we left off the last time they were in. We love that. But we also love when someone comes in for the first time and tells us how comfortable they feel, like they’re a guest in our home. That’s the best.

What are you most proud of about your restaurant?

K&D: We’ve been doing this for 8 years now, and I’m thrilled that we we’ve been able to create the neighborhood spot we envisioned, with wonderful customers and an outstanding Vee Vee family. We couldn’t ask for better people around us.

Any advice for couples thinking about  opening a joint, or working together in a restaurant/small biz?

K&D: Figure out where your partner excels and let them run with it. Trust your guts. If something feels wrong to either of you, it probably is.

K: If you’re thinking about opening a place, have a firm vision. It can be tempting to try to be everything to everyone, but the sooner you realize you can’t, the better. That said, a bit of flexibility can be necessary, too. There’s a balance in there somewhere. Also, your relationship with each other should always be more important than the business.

D: Choose the name very carefully. You’d be amazed how often people mistakenly assume that we are a vegetarian or vegan restaurant just because of our name.


If you’d like to participate in this series, please email And please forward this blog post to ‘Mom and Pop’ Shop business owners who might enjoy sharing their stories. I’m also seeking a Boston media partner to share these posts. Thank you.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. No compensation was exchanged between Vee Vee and Patrick Maguire/Server Not Servant in exchange for publication of this post. Sharing of this post by Kristen and Dan Valachovic, Vee Vee and affiliates via social media is anticipated but not required. Thank you.

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