By Shaun Ryan
Nick Crouch is co-founder and co-CEO for DYNE Hospitality Group, which has an office at the link. PHOTO BY SHAUN RYAN
On the second floor of an innovative facility in Nocatee resides an office for one of the biggest successes the restaurant industry has seen in the past decade. Its story is a testament to the fruits of hard work, faith and a commitment to the betterment of others.
DYNE Hospitality Group owns and operates 94 Tropical Smoothie Café franchise restaurants across six states, making it the largest franchisee in the nation. But that number will soon be old news – Dyne opens between 15 and 18 new locations annually.
Its headquarters are in Little Rock, Arkansas, but the local office at the link — a much celebrated business address and cultural centerpiece — is the base of operations for DYNE co-founder and co-CEO Nick Crouch.
At 37, Crouch has achieved the kind of success dreamt of by many an entrepreneur. But to understand that success, one must understand his work ethic and philosophy.
Born and raised in Columbia, Missouri, Crouch’s first job in the restaurant industry was washing dishes at the age of 15. He earned a business degree from the University of Central Missouri and, as a golfing enthusiast, he moved to California, where he earned a degree in golf complex operations management and got a job at an extremely high-end club in Rancho Santa Fe.
It wasn’t quite the career he’d hoped it would be. Golf pros don’t make their living playing the game. But it brought him into contact with very successful people, the kind who could afford to fly in by helicopter for 18 holes.
“As a young man, I thought: How are these guys so wealthy?” Crouch recalled. “How did they become so successful?”
Propinquity provided opportunities to pick the brains of these people.
“This is the whole reason I’m in business today,” he said. “What I learned was that all of them owned a multitude of something.”
One way to accomplish that is through franchising.
At this critical juncture, a few words from one of the club members prompted Crouch, then 25 years old, to go into business for himself. The man told him he was wasting his time at the club, that he needed to get out and do something more.
A search for the right opportunity eventually brought Crouch to St. Johns County, where he ate lunch at the Tropical Smoothie Café on County Road 210 West. Inspired by what he experienced there, he popped into the kitchen to inquire about purchasing the franchise, which at the time was not for sale.
It took some doing — Crouch only had a few hundred dollars in the bank — but he was lucky enough that his family believed in him and gave him the loan to purchase the restaurant. And in 2011, he bought it. That’s when the real work began.
“I worked there open to close for quite a long time,” he said. He sometimes even slept in the back booth after long nights closing up the Café and preparing for the next day. He did everything he could to save his money, lived off of baloney sandwiches and other cheaper foods and focused on paying down his debt. He paid his debt back to his family and took his story to the banks, where he finally won the financial support he needed to add about 14 more restaurants over the next few years.
In 2016, the brand named him National Franchisee of the Year, an achievement aspired to by another successful franchisee, Glen Johnson of Little Rock.
Johnson and Crouch met at that conference and became friends immediately. The men ended up talking extensively about business, their values and a shared vision to help people. and inspire others. This culminated in a merger of their two companies to form DYNE Hospitality Group, their restaurant operating group, and DYNE Development, their commercial real estate development firm.
“Dyne” is a term in physics that relates to acceleration and is therefore the perfect metaphor for what followed: rapid growth. It was the embodiment of what Crouch had learned while working at the country club, and it provided a means to carry out DYNE’s mission: “Create opportunities using our God-given gifts.”
“We believe that the only way to create continuous opportunities for others is to be constantly growing our businesses. We strive to help our team financially, professionally and personally,” Crouch said. “We believe in taking chances on people who might not get a chance. … We believe each person was given a gift by God, and we try to align that passion or that gift with the person and then let them use that in a way that will benefit the company and themselves.”
These are not just words. The DYNE management always seeks to match its people with a career path that will best allow them to thrive, based on their strengths. In addition, the company’s Pyneapple Fund was created to provide financial support to employees in times of special need, and a scholarship fund was set up to help employees pursue goals through a higher education. The company’s DYNEWELL program helps its people achieve personal wellness goals.
As a community partner, DYNE conducts a clothing drive each December.