Vagabond Sandwich Company is a Downtown Bel Air Restaurant which uses locally sourced ingredients and creativity to fill up their customers with tasty grub. To understand Vagabond’s success in downtown, we must first learn about Ben Meyer, founder and owner of Vagabond.
Ben grew up in Bel Air and went to the chain of schools leading up to Bel Air High School. His family is from California, and every year they would drive cross country and “roadtrip” to visit extended family (hence the decor of the restaurant). This allowed Ben to experience the entire country, state by state, from a very young age. This led to him to road-trip all over the world in his twenties and thirties. If Ben wasn’t flying to another country, he was driving across this one. He moved around quite a bit, spending lots of time in Durango, Colorado and San Diego, California; but always returned to Maryland.
Here’s a snippet from Ben himself:
“My first job was in a restaurant called Heaps to Eat Cafe, which was behind what is now Pairings Bistro. I was 13, and Bel Air was much smaller. The Festival Shopping Center was just being built, and there was no Route 24. Well, there was, but it was what is now called 924. My art school was in the space that is now the Liquor Board, and I used to hang out at a Skate / Bike shop called Wheel Power which was where Skatology is now. I worked at many places as a kid, but when I turned 21, I began bar tending at Scotto’s Cafe in Festival. After quitting to go backpacking around Colorado and Utah for a few months, I returned and started working in the kitchen at Scotto’s. Years later, I ran their kitchen and fell in love with the restaurant industry. They expanded, opening Italian Sensations first in Bel Air, then Fallston, and finally in Perry Hall. I became the “Opening Specialist”. I managed each one as they opened and learned a lot about what to do (and what not to do) to open a successful restaurant.”
After many years Ben decided to bank on himself. He used every dollar that he had (literally), borrowed from his parents and sold everything he owned that wasn’t essential. With his money he purchased Dillweeds, a closing business. After some time, Ben changed the restaurants name to Vagabond, paying homage to his Californian grandmother who used to feed the Hobos, aka Vagabonds.
Vagabond’s logo is the hobo symbol for Courthouse which Ben explains, “Being sandwiched between two of them, I thought it was relevant.” Further, when Ben was 20, he was arrested for “Rogue and Vagabond” because he was loitering around a parking lot at night waiting for a friend. There had been car break ins earlier that day, so you could say that Ben was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Next time you’re at Vagabond, be sure to try the “Rogue Burger” as it is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the courthouse.
It’s been three and half years now since Vagabond opened their doors in Downtown Bel Air. There’s been much growth and success, such as the approval of a liquor license to serve beer and wine! As Ben would say, “The only thing left is to get Guy Fieri here and do an episode of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.” Ben admits, the first two years were tough. Now, Vagabond is in a good place with a growing staff and supportive community.
So, what has made Ben successful in Downtown Bel Air?
Ben spends his time doing fun things in the community like adopting families, sponsoring teams, offering college scholarships, hosting events, festivals and strolls etc… His motivation is to build a “spot”. A “spot” to grab a burger and a beer before heading out for the night. A “spot” to meet a friend for lunch. A “spot” to bring your kids to write letters to Santa. A “spot” that offers a great service and more importantly becomes a special part of each visitor’s life.
Vagabond has been a member of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance for three years now. Ben remains involved with the Alliance in the effort to create a vibrant community and a business friendly destination in Downtown Bel Air. To learn more about Vagabond or to see their menu, click here. To learn more about the Alliance and its mission, be sure to click here.