Darren Welch emigrated to the United States from Australia 27 years ago, and moved to Mineral after marrying his wife, Karen Welch, Executive Director of the Louisa Arts Center.
A year ago, harboring a life-long dream of owning a drive-thru coffee shop, he sold his decade-old Northern Virginia-based concrete company and got to work opening DK’s Coffee & Ice Cream, which opened on December 12, 2022.
“I was commuting back and forth for the last five [years],” Darren said. “Before that, I lived in Northern Virginia, but I just got sick of the rat race up there.”
The Welches value smaller communities, which is another reason they chose to open up shop in Mineral. Both come from small towns themselves—him in Australia, her in England.
“My wife’s done so much for the Arts Center up in town. We love the small-town atmosphere, and we love being part of the community,” Darren said. “We’ve been married for five years; we got married in Louisa. Went and had a couple of drinks at the Courthouse Pub after. We’re pretty basic; we like to treat people right and build something.”
In this case, they’re building a wholesome new location for local kids to gather; especially with the high school so nearby. In addition to the gazebos gracing the front of the property, the Welches plan to add grass, and a playground for younger children.
DK’s Coffee & Ice Cream offers a delicious menu of ice cream, baked goods, and drinks; of particular note are their locally famous sausage rolls. Cultivating a fun work atmosphere is also on the menu.
“I’ve had people that I didn’t employ because they weren’t excited to work here,” Darren said. “You’ve gotta be excited and have fun. Still take it seriously, but have a good time.”
DK’s currently employs eight people, including one who’s off at college. The close-knit work family they’ve created is tangible, and people are at the heart of everyone’s favorite reason to come to work.
“[I love] meeting all the different people,” said Ashley Flak, DK’s baker who’s been on staff since they opened. “I love baking, obviously. I love getting all the feedback from people too; it just makes me feel good to know how much they enjoyed everything. I love it—best job ever.”
Kayla Ganzert, a more recent hire, echoed similar sentiments.
“Darren’s a mess, makes us laugh, picks on us a little bit but makes our day better,” Ganzert said. “[Also] meeting new people and getting to know them, since I’m new. Just talking to them and recognizing their faces and names.”
You can check out DK’s full menu and hours on their Facebook page, and keep up with all of their fun.
The Welches aren’t planning on expanding or selling anything fancy. Just the one location with ice cream, milkshakes, sausage rolls, muffins, cookies, and some beverages—everything homemade.
“This is gonna be it. I’m not looking to franchise; I don’t want to be McDonald’s or Starbucks,” Darren said. “We’ve got walk-ups, we’ve got drive-ups, everything’s fresh. This is enough for me; after this will be retirement.”
Despite the roadblocks that accompany starting a new business, Darren has remained undaunted.
“There really hasn’t been a challenge. I’ve been lucky; we’ve got amazing workers,” Darren said. “It’s just been learning how to make [everything] as you go.”
“My advice is just to enjoy what you’re gonna do, and have a good business plan,” Darren said. “Any business is scary to get into; you don’t know if you’re gonna make it, you don’t know what customers are going to do, but you’ve got to set it up right. Go in full-on.”