The Faces of Williamsburg

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March 18, 2011

12:45 AM

By Walter Hickey

Every day, students venture out of the College of William and Mary’s bubble and into greater Williamsburg. We spoke to several local business owners, staff and alumni to discuss their interactions with students and to discover a little more about the people that cook students’s food and cater their business to the Tribe. Some of them have watched class after class of students come and go, whereas others have lived here for less time than the current crop of seniors. Students will instantly recognize some of them, others have bonded with just a small group of adventurous TWAMP, and still others remain altogether behind the scenes. Town Gown relations can sometimes seem an intractable divide, but each of these people bridge the gap in their own way every day.

Mark Welch ’88 – Local entrepreneur and owner of New Town’s Comic Cubicle

How long have you been in the area?
I graduated [from] William and Mary in 1988. I majored in psychology and minored in sociology. I started the business in 1992. Nineteen years next month.

What prompted you to go into business?
It started as a hobby. Essentially, I’ve lived in Williamsburg all my life, and I got tired of there not being a comic book store in Williamsburg. I always wanted to open one. I didn’t think it was a practical thing to do, but I finally got tired of there not being a comic book store around and having to go elsewhere for my comics, so I said, “I’m going to do it.”

Have you done business with William and Mary students?
Oh, definitely. I enjoy dealing with them and just watching them over the years. In fact, some of my best customers I met when they were undergraduates at William and Mary. This was the ’90s, so now they’ve gone on, they’re pushing 40, and they’re lawyers and screenwriters. One of the undergraduates from when I first started who bought comics from me is the screenwriter for the new Thor movie that’s coming out. He’s in Hollywood now and doing the next X-Men movie, too. I see a little bit of everybody.

Any advice about owning a business that you think undergrads should have?
I live this. Seven days a week. You’ve got to get engrossed in it, and if you want it to succeed, you’ve really got to live it. There’s a lot of sacrifice, but it’s worth it. Do what you like. It’s amazing to be able to take a hobby and make it into your livelihood. You wake up every morning, and you want to go to work. That’s the best part of all of it.

Chanelle Jerveis – Wawa Night Shift

How long have you been in Williamsburg?
My entire life. I’ve been working at Wawa for three years. Sometimes it’s a little hectic because I only work [the] third shift, so I get a lot of the rowdy crowd sometimes.

How has working with late night William and Mary students been?
Good, for the most part. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s a little annoying. I like most of them. I have my pick that I know by name. It’s a good deal.

What do you do outside of work?
I have two girls and a husband. One girl is a bowler. The oldest one wants to go to William and Mary … it’s nice.

Chris Skeens – Domino’s Manager

How long have you been in Williamsburg?
Born and raised here. I’ve worked for Domino’s for five years. I’m really just focused on work right now.

How are your interactions with William and Mary students?
It’s been good, a really good experience.

Where are you looking to go from here?
My goal is to be a Domino’s franchisee. There are steps to it. You start at a general manager level, then you move to supervisor, and then you can jump to franchisee.

Any suggestions for William and Mary kids ordering pizza?
Just be prepared with your order before you call. That’s our only complaint.

Sibilla Dengs ’98 – Owner of Art Cafe 26

When did you start the cafe?
The business started five years ago. The Art Cafe 26 is what people call “a place that’s different.” We do regular art shows, primarily international artists, but, once a year, we feature an American artist, a rising star. We have entirely European food. We have an Austrian award-winning head chef. Most of all, I would love to see my students back. I would love to do a French breakfast night, in pajamas, between eight thirty at night and midnight. You need a student body that’s open to that.

How did you come to attend the College?
I finished my degree that I started when everybody starts their studies. When I was 20, I had a terrible car crash. I was unable to attend college because I was really sick for many, many years due to the injuries. When my husband was transferred from Europe to the United States, I took the opportunity to finish my bachelor’s in Williamsburg at William and Mary and then went on to the University of London to do my Masters in Southeast Asian Arts, 15th — 19th century. Then I wanted to come back home and wanted to give something to Williamsburg that I missed at the time, and here I am, five years later.

Have you been involved with William and Mary since?
My daughter graduated from William and Mary in 1995 and founded the European club. So the Dengs family has been involved with international students forever. We hosted parties for one year every four weeks and would have 20, 50, maybe 100 people in our home. My daughter organized a shuttle service from PBK to our house. In between, my daughter studied business. She would arrange a private dinner for around 20 guys from all over the world, so I have — really — children from all over the world. When I have time, or when I get out of Art Cafe 26, I want to go back and take care of international students again. I enjoyed it so much.

AJ Garrelts – Green Leafe Head Chef and Kitchen Manager

How did you become Head Chef at the Leafe?
Busting my ass. I grew up in Yorktown and worked at the Yorktown Pub for my first kitchen job. Then I moved over here to Ben and Jerry’s when it was still here in New Town. I decided that I hated scooping ice cream for yuppies. I ended up at the Green Leafe downtown on Scotland Street because my friends Corbin, Chris and Daniel worked there. I decided, “Well, I can cook,” and here I am.

How has it been working at a popular student haunt?
There are these interesting William and Mary kids that like to come in and chug their mugs on Sundays and do their mug margaritas and work on their school stuff in there. They seem to enjoy my food, so that’s good. I enjoy working with all you William and Mary students.

Do you have a favorite thing on the menu?
My favorite thing on the menu is — I don’t think I have a favorite thing on the menu. Anything I make for specials is probably my favorite thing on the menu.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?
I play magic cards. I enjoy building Legos. I write, and I do artwork.

Where are you looking to go from here?
I’m looking to own my own restaurant eventually. I’m looking to go to the Cordon bleu in either London or Sydney, Australia to get a degree, just so I have a piece of paper. And I’d like to open a restaurant. A little bistro with a greenhouse.

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Walter Hickey
  • Walter Hickey

Senior Staff Writer Walter Hickey '12 is an Applied Mathematics major from Harriman, N.Y. He was previously Online Editor.

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