A Bungalow Tale
Keith and Cheryl Early opened the first Bungalow Billiards and Brew in Chantilly, Virginia in January of 1997. Locating an existing operation with the right footprint in Chantilly, Virginia, Keith set out to convert a former Carlos O’Kelly’s- then Quincy’s Steak House- to his stylized version of a Bungalow. “A special use of the term “Bungalow” was developed in the Catskill Mountains of New York, between 1930 and the 1970s, to denote a cluster of small rental summer homes. The old bungalow colonies continue to exist in the Catskills”. The thought process being that you start life in a small bungalow with your parents- and the only place you want to be when you grow up is a bungalow at the beach, the mountains, or the islands- SOOO....The bar and dining areas denote the arts and crafts element found in most bungalow homes and the pool tables with their green felt, the yards surrounding. So consequently “Bungalow Billiards” would be a good place to hang while you’re trying to get to your special bungalow.
Keith and Cheryl easily fell into their roles. Although there were many times that those roles overlapped, they became comfortable with Keith in the “back of the house” and Cheryl in the “front of the house”. In both areas of the restaurant, Keith and Cheryl demanded the best product available served with uncommon hospitality. Cheryl’s past experiences as a server, bartender, fine dining captain, flight attendant, wine distributor and, most importantly, the mother of four children quickly shined through. Cheryl’s passion for exemplary service and attention to even the smallest details, and Keith’s ability to diagnose the information he received and forecast and implement the changes needed to accomplish their goals, made Bungalow Billiards in Chantilly a success. After the first year they began to realize their goal: a restaurant centered on great food, games and features that would enable people to interact in a clean, unique, and comfortable environment, and an atmosphere in which employees could earn a living and still have fun. A true “eatertainment” facility…The brushed stainless-steel bar, the bar top covered with pictures of family and friends, travel spots and current events complemented the brightly colored furniture. The Bungalow roof lines above the bar and an eclectic collection of décor (Bungalow Stuff) would become a consistent part of the design of all future Bungalows.
Soon, Keith and Cheryl decided that it was time to open another restaurant and they selected the Cascades Marketplace in Potomac Falls, Virginia, for their next venture. Building on the Bungalow theme, they went a step further and added a “porch” to the interior of the restaurant. With the walls decorated with memorabilia from trips taken as children, the infusion of a relaxed “Camp Bungalow” theme, dormers on the roof above the bar and a viewable “faux” beer brewing system. The Bungalow Billiards & Brew, Co. in the Cascades Marketplace opened in November 1998.Keith wanted to keep The Bungalows close enough to each other so that he and Cheryl would easily be able to monitor their progress. He continued to look throughout the Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C. for the next site. The availability of a location in The Villages of Shirlington in Arlington, Virginia was completed through e-mail with the landlord from Key West.
Exactly one year later The Bungalow’s Tiki Surf Club opened. Keith and Cheryl continued to add to the existing theme of Bungalow Billiards & Brew, Co. They renamed the interior porch “The Love Shack”, created a visual rendition of the overtones of tiki culture, upgraded the Bungalow’s standard audio/visual package and again displayed memories of their youth… this time from Keith’s surfing days and surfboard collection. More important was the management team that was being assembled. They were and continue to be the power behind the operations. Keith & Cheryl were the rudder and navigators. One week after opening Keith & Cheryl turned it over to that team. The Bungalow in The Villages of Shirlington opened in February 2001.Time spent with family, friends, and employees at their home in Nags Head, North Carolina, would become a major design influence for The Early’s next Bungalow.
The roof and dormers were covered with wooden cedar shingles and decorated to resemble the infamous lifeguard stands of the Outer Banks. Murals of surfing, sailing, and fishing and a tribute to the Wright Brothers 100 Year anniversary adorn the walls, including a sailfish caught by Keith on a charter trip with his three sons. The porch evolved into a room with 30 seats, its own bar with a patriotic motif and “a state of the art” audio/visual system throughout. The Bungalow OBX in Manchester Lakes opened in June 2003. The Bungalow staff had grown from 20 to over 150. The requisite additions of a Director of Operations, and a Human Resources Department- required that new offices be built. The same friends and customers were still coming into Chantilly every week, but they had been joined by hundreds more…In 2003, Keith and Cheryl decided that the lady who had started it all needed some T L C. The Chantilly store had a 3,000 sq. ft. space that had been used for storage as well as a staging area to build the other restaurants. To put it into production they decided to knock down some walls, construct offices, replace the existing kitchen, create additional banquet, restaurant, and bar seating – and attempt to never close the restaurant throughout the process. A completely remodeled kitchen, new executive offices and “The Monkey Bar” at The Bungalow Original in Chantilly opened in November 2003.
In November of 2008, Keith and Cheryl sold the Cascades location to two former Bungalow Employees – Brian Jenkins and his wife Taylor. Brian was a bartender at Chantilly, and Taylor was a longtime waitress there. They met at the Bungalow, started dating, fell in love, and married. The Bungalows continue to adhere to the principles of great food, exceptional service, and a clean and comfortable environment for guests to enjoy themselves. In 2010, expansion and refinement of their original concept took place with the openings of The Bungalow Alehouse in Gainesville and Potomac Mills. The Alehouse features more emphasis on dining and the great food that has become a Bungalow trademark. In 2012 they created and opened the Bungalow Lakehouse their premier Flagship site. A promise kept to Cheryl when Keith built the first Bungalow that someday he would build her a site to behold. Keith and Cheryl continue to work in their restaurants every day…. and now, so do their children as well as the children of their most trusted associates and friends. The same customers and friends continue to visit…The Bungalow Nation…. It started in Virginia…. Just like another great concept …. hmmm