Owning a restaurant in New York City is an enterprise best suited for the strong of stomach. After all, Manhattan’s glimmering buildings are nosebleed high, and the commercial rents they demand are more staggering still.

In spite of such fierce economic trade winds, Billy Waite ’02 has managed to launch a growing empire that has garnered nods from city-savvy news hubs including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and New York magazine.

Working with two partners, Waite arrived on the food-and-beverage scene in 2010 with his first restaurant, the Brooklyneer.

“I’ve been working in the restaurant business in one position or another since I was 16,” explains the native of Augusta, Ga., whose income from waiting tables fully financed his education at the College. “From dishwasher to line cook to waiter to bartender to manager, and now owner.”

Subverting New York’s long-practiced Manhattan worship, the hipster-happy Brooklyneer imports artisanal delicacies from the neighboring borough to the West Village. Manhattanites can sample rib-sticking sandwiches and hot dogs inspired by stomping grounds like Williamsburg and Greenpoint, or prized pickled offerings like Whiskey Sour Pickles or Napa Cabbage Kimchee.

Their second venture, Hill & Dale, finds its roots in Waite’s senior thesis on the history of audio recording.

“I went back and looked at my CofC paper,” says Waite. “That’s where I found the term Hill & Dale, which is an early method of audio recording.”

The Lower East Side establishment is outfitted accordingly with live music, vintage phonographs and recording memorabilia.

It’s not a stretch that Waite would then find inspiration from his CofC days for his third place. In 2014, the partners opened The Folly on Houston Street, a retro nautical gastropub designed with hand-painted, sea-centric literary quotes and subtle pirate chic. Salty city-dwellers can slake a thirst with draft beers while diving into seafaring pub grub like fish and chips and shrimp po’ boys.

After all, Waite knows from his college days that Folly Beach is always a crowd-pleaser. What’s more, he earned his island stripes back then by painting the Folly Boat, the beloved beached skiff that washed up on Folly during Hurricane Hugo and has since received countless coats of paint from locals wishing to share a message.

“I painted a birthday greeting to surprise my best friend,” he recalls, adding that he then had quite a challenging time getting the celebrant up that morning to drive to Folly.

Waite now entices famously fickle New Yorkers to his reimagined Folly, including the College’s New York alumni chapter, which held a gathering there this past fall and painted a canvas replica of the Folly Boat.

Have the all-too-real risks involved in joining the city’s unforgiving food-and-beverage fray given Waite valuable life lessons? “Don’t be afraid to trust and follow what you love, and not just what you think you should do to please others or the status quo,” shares Waite. “If you follow your heart, you’ll always be proud of it, and chances are much, much happier.”

– Maura Hogan ’87