A dinghy is commonly known as a small boat, often open with mast and sails. They are small but mighty crafts, ready to navigate the ocean’s tides. On land, we have a hospitable and resilient dinghy of our own — a flavor-packed neighborhood restaurant and market that is a result of a vision three years in the making.
With the warmest arms, The Pink Dinghy welcomes guests to submerge themselves into its oasis to feed their mind, body and soul, as owner Stephanie Dietz describes it.
Our team dreamed of bringing this Spotlight together and feel honored for the time spent with Stephanie to learn about her story and the ebb and flow of the business over the past three years.
How It All Began
Stephanie is a Virginia Beach native, who had a dream of opening a restaurant since she was three years old. When she graduated high school, she explored different professions, including fashion merchandising and psychology. She found herself working at a café, which drew her back to the idea of starting her own eatery.
She moved to New York and set out to become a chef, where she gained 10 years of experience. Stephanie reflects, “New York was great because I acquired so many skills and was surrounded by such diversity. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of cuisine.” She left New York to move back home to Virginia Beach and opened a donut pop-up shop. “I can never get enough of the hustle. I kept weaseling my way into the food scene.” In addition to the donut shop, Stephanie and her husband, John, opened a Dominican food pop-up. They found themselves hosting their first event at Bottlecraft Beer Shop after receiving an invitation from Chase Pittman, who opened the shop in 2016.
Later that fall, Chase started renting The Pink Dinghy building and was imagining the breadth of opportunities to turn it into a gathering spot for friends and strangers to break bread together. Having met in high school, the pair rekindled their friendship and began creating a culinary vision for this small and intimate space.
Much has evolved since the original conception of the Dinghy. “We got the keys in 2018 and our original concept was Latin American food, but we have veered away from that — and that is okay,” Stephanie shares. “It keeps things fun and interesting which comes from having a collaborative kitchen. I want my staff to come to me with [food] ideas.” The restaurant has grown its menu to include touches of varying flavor profiles as inspired by the team.
The Pink Dinghy brings coastal charm to The Alley in the ViBe Creative District and has created a destination for guests to connect over an eclectic and rotating menu of small plates, often Latin American and Asian-inspired, natural wines and tropically influenced cocktails. They happen to whip up some of the most flavorful empanadas, thirst-quenching ‘painkillers’ and freshest donuts in town.
The vibe is ‘sit down and stay awhile.’ The restaurant may have a DJ spinning tracks in the wooden dinghy that rests on the roof. On the weekends, the VB Flea hugs their building with a setup of local artisans and vendors for the community to shop.
Visit the Dinghy knowing there is heart behind every move made. “I hope [guests] feel the warm embrace and leave feeling like they made a friend. We want people to feel safe and comfortable here,” Stephanie explains. “Our goal is to provide great hospitality while wowing you with our food and drinks.”
Proudest Moment & Biggest Obstacle
There are proud moments aplenty for the Dinghy, but Stephanie shares, “It was surreal to step back at the birthday party; I thought, wow, we made it a year.” The celebration follows an incredibly tough couple of years filled with unforeseen challenges and heartbreak. “I felt so proud seeing my team buzzing in and out of the crowd. It was really comforting after such a wild year.”
The restaurant faced unimaginable impediments prior to opening, including a car crash into the building and the start of a global pandemic. The team’s perseverance did not let up; they pivoted and evolved to do whatever they could to bring this experience to the community. Months later, the Dinghy family lost Chase unexpectedly. “He and I worked well together. He was more of the wild side and I am a little more rigid, but he would guide me down a spontaneous path that I may have not considered taking. We were a good balance.” Chase’s spirit lives on in more ways than one but the legacy he leaves behind with his vision for this little pink building is something the community will forever cherish and remember him for.
The future looks bright for the Dinghy. There are exciting developments in the works — ehm, expansion! The restaurant is building out to make the dining and cooking spaces larger as well as building up to create a rooftop bar for extra space to hang out. Stay tuned on their Instagram or Facebook pages for updates!
Advice for Aspiring Business Owners
Words from the wise, “throw your timeline out the window.” Stephanie says, “Don’t hold yourself to a standard when you have to rely on others to obtain your goal. Go into it expecting the unexpected. It is going to happen.” Stephanie is a beautiful result of never giving up on your dreams. Work hard and fight for what you believe in.
Experience All The Pink Dinghy Has to Offer
“Come to the Dinghy if you want a friend,” Stephanie smiles. Visit the restaurant at 609 19th Street, Virginia Beach, Va. Drool over the brunch, lunch and dinner menus on their website.