GRASONVILLE — When Bill and Sherrie Oertel had the notion of starting a coffee shop in the Kent Narrows area, little did they know that Dessert First would grow so fast with local customers.
The latest coffee and pastry shop on Kent Island opened last month is at 433 Kent Narrows Way next to Harris Crab House. Yet for those who remember the location as an outdoor space for the restaurant, seeing it now in its latest iteration is a welcomed and delectable change.
“We’ve heard it so often from customers that they’re so glad we’re here,” Sherrie Oertel said. “The other thing we get is that it’s so nice to have something other than a bar in the Kent Narrows. This summer has been much work to get to where it is and both of us grew up working in restaurants.”
To see the menu full of pastries, ice cream and coffee drinks, it is evident it has paid off. The partnership with Rise Up Coffee, Harris Crab House and Peace of Cake in Stevensville has not only led to a dock-side view, but with local vendors for their products.
All the more impressive is the two are running a successful business while both having full-time jobs. Bill Oertel is an engineer at PRS Guitars while Sherrie works in medical equipment sales.
While many sleep-deprived nights have gone into their dream business, the two quickly say it is all worth it.
“You can’t really call it work, because its a fair amount of fun as well,” Bill Oertel said. “This has a different mentality than the traditional restaurant business. It’s a huge learning curve to learn about coffee because of the nuances, and Rise Up has been a great partner in all this.”
As lavished as any menu item can be, the Oertels said, it all starts with a simple cup of coffee and doing the basic things right.
The steady stream of customers throughout the day sipping on their orders and enjoying the cool bay breeze is just one of the many faces of Dessert First. The other is a packed house on Saturdays with a full line of eager customers waiting for a fix of meticulously prepared coffee and pastries.
“In my opinion, Queen Anne’s County has always been a community where you ,entertain yourself somewhere else,” Bill Oertel said. “But all that is changing with it becoming more of a destination for others to come here. People live here and they want to stay here now, and that means people want to be more local.”
That even means providing jobs for locals not readily looking to cross the Bay Bridge for work. Their background in the food service industry has given them a front row seat to many getting their first job. A coffee shop not much different and Oertels find that especially gratifying.
Their “family-based” place is just another opportunity for young men and women to get their start in the workforce and stay in their community as well.
“We actually weren’t planning on being open year-round till later, but we need to be now,” Sherrie Oertel said. “I want this to get bigger and become a meeting place for people. Where else can you get a cup of coffee and just sit on the water and talk with people. We also want to have a happy hour that isn’t alcoholic for people.”
Dessert First is open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. all week and is available on Facebook at www.face book.com/kentnarrows dockside.