While recently filming for our upcoming “people of indie restaurants” video series, we interviewed a number of operators, including the proprietors and some of the staff at Capital Club 16 in Raleigh, NC. We asked them why they like being a part of an independently owned restaurant, why they believe indies are important in their communities, and more. Here’s what they had to say:

Jake Wolf, co-owner

Why are independent restaurants important in their communities?

Locally owned independent restaurants are a great asset to the community because they give such a variety to their community, they give a flavor to a community that makes it different, exciting and unique. We are the people of Raleigh, and when people come into our city, this is what they see...independent restaurants are a good representation of what the city is all about.

What advantages do independent restaurants have over chains?

Independent restaurants have the unique benefit of knowing our customers, and knowing what their roles are in the community. It is a much more down-to-earth, much more grassroots relationship with the community if you are an owner-operator.

How important is it for you as owners to be present in the restaurant?

Our presence as owners is definitely recognized by the guests because we treat them like they are in our house. If I can’t make it out to greet them, they know I’m back there in the kitchen cooking. They know that what is going into that dish is effort and love. They can feel that. Meanwhile, my wife, Shannon, has been here up front greeting customers from the first day, and four years later, many of them have become good friends and have watched our son grow from a baby to a four-year old boy.

Paul Hesselblad, manager/bartender

What kind of people do you tend to find working at independent restaurants?

Most people I’ve worked with in independent restaurants are passionate people who have other interests in their life, whether it be music, art, film, dance...all sorts of things. They are just driven people in general. And when you find a place like this you can really get fired up about what you’re doing. You have a support group and everything gels together and as a group of passionate, driven people you get stronger at what you do. You learn from each other. We eat, we talk, we share thoughts, we joke. And we build our lives around working together here. We’re going to be supportive of whatever you do here and outside of work. If you are a musician, we’re going to go to your shows. If you’re an artist we’re going to go to your galleries. If you make jewelry, we’re going to buy it. It’s just part of helping everybody progress and we’re all in this together.

What have you learned from being able to work directly for the owner of a restaurant?

Jake Wolf is one of the hardest working men I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s the owner, the chef, and he’s in here doing it harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. And he doesn’t get to spend much time with his family because this is his bread and butter. But one day I was standing at the host stand, and I looked at Jake and his wife, Shannon, and their son Johnny, and they were sitting at a table, having a meal. It was a Tuesday night, the sun was setting and it shined on the words “Capital Club 16” in the window, and I said to myself, ‘That’s the American dream. It actually exists.’ That moment when I saw him sitting there having dinner with his family, in his own establishment, I thought, That’s doing it right. That’s doing it with heart. And I thought that this is something I want to do one day as well if I get the chance.