Learning the language led to sandwich shop success in Alexandria


When Yvener Volcy arrived in the United States after fleeing Haiti during the political upheaval in the early 1990s, he focused on learning the English language, a move that he felt was necessary for success. Fast forward about 15 years, and Volcy climbed the business ladder in Alexandria, bought a carry-out restaurant building, and is now opening the Corner Coffee and Sandwiches on Wilkes Street in Old Town.

I started as a dishwasher with no English, he said. I always strive to get better, America gives me so much opportunity.

At first, Volcy was a dishwasher at La Madeleines on King Street where he learned Spanish from fellow workers, and English as well by working with people and taking some formal instruction. He sees others that dont try to learn English and are left out of the business world, and have more difficulty assimilating to society. To me its disrespectful, he said.

Behind the counter at Corner Coffee, Volcy has a smile and a mission to make it work. Hes working with a menu that focuses on speedy service and good prices. His dedication will produce negotiable customer service, he said. In Haiti, Volcy was an accountant and he realizes how important pricing is. Customers will be able to come in and get a lunch for under $6 which is a bargain for lunch in the area.

Basically its a quick carry out, he said, although there is a small patio area for customers to dine in.

The cuisine will consist of sandwiches, soups, coffee and ice cream. One specialty he has in mind is the Caribbean Carnival sandwich, like a monster sandwich, with everything on it, he said. Whatever it is, well throw it in there, he said.

Opening day
Volcy bought the building from long time Alexandria restaurateur James Graham whose past design projects have included the Scotland Yard, Henry Africa, and Il Porto. His ailing health made him bail out of the restaurant business, but he is currently an advisor to Volcy at the sandwich shop. He begged me to sell him this, said Graham, pointing to Volcy as he prepared the shop for opening day on Sept. 15. He is giving away hot dogs and coffee on that day.

Roman Martino, a resident of the area, knows the sandwich shop from years past when another owner operated a carry-out from the location. These kinds of carry-outs used to be popular when I was a kid, he said. Martino lives on South Fayette and believes there is a certain amount of community surrounding a corner carry-out. I cant wait, man, he said.