Sabrina De Sousa + Alissa Wagner, Co-Founders of Dimes
Opening their third storefront in less than four years, Sabrina De Sousa + Alissa Wagner of Dimes are changing NYC one meal (and dime bag—but not the kind you’d think) at a time.
The Female-Owned NYC Eatery You've Seen All Over Your Feed
You know that NYC restaurant people keeping posting about? It's owned by Sabrina De Sousa + Alissa Wagner, co-owners of Dimes. We sat down with the duo to talk about everything from what they love about being in New York to how they came up with their infamous name.
What inspired you to start Dimes?
Alissa Wagner: When Sabrina and I first opened Dimes we were really inspired by the community and wanted to open a restaurant you could go to everyday and never get bored of; a place where you felt really good after eating there. A place where you could get clean, healthy, organic, and locally sourced foods and not break the bank. We really wanted to speak to our peers and the way the were eating at the time. We just felt that was not being represented in the restaurants that we saw around the neighborhood. And since then, it has changed a lot in the city, but I think when we began Dimes that was a really large part of the process.
So community has been a huge part of Dimes.
Alissa: Yes, our restaurant is primarily made up of regular customers who all live within a few blocks of the restaurant and it is so amazing to be able to walk in and see them everyday and know people on a first name basis. I think it creates a home away from home for us and for the people who eat here and live here.
How has New York influenced you?
Alissa: New York is a constant influence to us in running the restaurant. I think it’s really exciting and it feels amazing to be able to operate in a city that has so many things brewing and developing on a daily basis. We are surrounded by the most talented, creative people in the world and it’s really exciting to be able to take from those people. The energy on the streets and the energy in the restaurant all affects the type of food we are making and the type of environment we are creating—it’s just a really amazing place to be.
Let’s take it back a little. When did you both meet?
Sabrina De Sousa: Alyssa and I both got into food many many years ago, we actually met about ten years ago. We worked in a restaurant together in downtown Manhattan for a few years. We worked so we could do a lot of traveling and save up money. Alyssa went to college, I did some college; and then Alyssa went to culinary school, she studied at Natural Gourmet, and that’s where she really expanded her culinary experience, working back of house, and I continued to work front of house.
You have to tell us. What’s the story behind the name?
Alissa: It took a little while, but when we finally said the word Dimes, it made complete sense to us. Dimes is very tongue and cheek. It can mean a perfect 10, or there’s the old school saying, “five and dime,” for a corner shop. Also, we’re two girls and that’s kind of directed at women—beautiful women, nice girls. It can mean nothing and anything at the same time, so we liked the vagueness and the openness for interpretation with the word.
What sets Dimes apart from other restaurants in New York?
Sabrina: I think what makes Dimes different from other restaurants is our willingness to explore our different creative potential, in terms of using Dimes as a platform to do different kinds of projects other than food. We made a chair that we sell at the market, we have a line of apothecary goods, we just did a collaboration to make a chocolate bar, we are really excited to use our creativity to do different things that interest us, whether inside the world of food or outside the world of food.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?
Alissa: For anyone looking to start a small business, I think you just really need to be confident and go for it. It is really easy to talk yourself down and be worried of success or failure. But, I think the most important thing is you are doing what makes you happy, and if you have an idea you should give it all you have and pursue it.
What’s up next?
Alissa: Since we opened up Dimes in 2013 we have had a continual state of growth, we opened two new spaces last year after moving the restaurant across the street, so we now have three storefronts. I think in the next chapter of Dimes we are really looking forward to establishing our roots here a little more in Chinatown and also be able to take on other projects that interest us. We are doing a charity benefit dinner in Ojai in April that we’re really excited about. It’s nice to take on those types of projects in new spaces and broaden our horizons a bit.
Dimes specializes in more than food. The NYC eatery also has a marketplace and there’s a little something for everyone to take home along with their take-out. Here are a few of our favorite featured items:
1. Beauty Apothecary by Dimes
The Dimes beauty line is all about being a hundred percent organic, just like the menu. So after you treat yourself to some healthy eats, be sure to give your skin some love with their housemade lip balm, salt scrub, and rosewater spray.
2. The Dimes Dime Bag
These dime bags aren’t what you think. They don’t hold anything you can snort or smoke, but you can cook with its contents. A pile of the mini baggies sit to the side of a locally-source spice bar, ready to be personalized for your tastes.
3. Cassie Griffin's ceramics
Creative dishes attract the most creative friends, like ceramicist Cassie Griffin. Cassie’s mugs and vases line the market’s shelves with abstract, colorful designs and details. And if they look good at Dimes, imagine how great they’ll look in your kitchen.
For more on Dimes, visit their website here.