Working at the abysmal failure called Fireflies Cafe

A case study in how incompetent management can torpedo a business

Aaron J. Alford
3 min readSep 6, 2019
This be their logo.

When I first arrived in Boone, NC, the first thing on my docket was to find a job. After a couple weeks I found a job as a dish washer in a restaurant. I didn’t really like the work environment, and getting yelled at in a small kitchen isn’t really my style. So I found a different job. This job was at a small soon to open cafe in Blowing Rock called Fireflies Cafe.

Fireflies cafe sucked. Here are a few things I noticed about fireflies.

The owner was very unprofessional

Okay, I should have noticed from our first meeting that I shouldn’t work with this man. During my interview he offered me a job without telling me what the job was, or providing a job description in way shape or form. That should have been a red flag.

His unprofessional conduct continued into the opening of the restaurant.

  • We never get paid on time.
  • He made promises to my coworkers about their salary which were lies.
  • He said he would pay us 7.25 an hour for training and the soft opening, he didn’t.
  • He had his 12 year old child there working for only tips, no salary.
  • He had me deliver food to people around the outlet mall while I was also trying to serve tables
  • He thought he would never run out of dishes, so he didn’t need a dish washer. We ran out of dishes constantly, and then I was yelled at for washing dishes so that we could serve food, which was OUR PRODUCT.
  • When we ran out of sweet potato fries, he would cut up a raw sweet potato and put it on a lukewarm grill and throw salt on it. He had a fryer right there. Customers would justifiable get upset at the disgusting trash he served them.
  • He often would take tables, as a server, and then just forget. People would have to wave me down, and ask where their server had been for the last 30 minutes.
  • He bought 1 bottle of ketchup for the whole restaurant. It wasn’t even a family size. We ran out of ketchup after like 4 hours.
  • His grill wasn’t hot enough to make a good grilled cheese. Minor complaint, but it counts.
  • One day I came to work, and I was the only server. We also were out of most of our top menu items, which customers were obviously not happy with. The responsibility for us being out didn’t fall on me or the cook, who was also alone by the way. The owner once again forgot to order his food stock.

This is a semi-exhaustive list of what I noticed, there were other things too but we don’t need to wax overly eloquent on the owner, he just isn’t worth it.

The owner didn’t quite understand what “environmentally friendly” means

The dude thought he was super pro-environment. He refused to let us have to go cups, for to-go orders, because it was just too devastating an impact on the environment. Presumably this is because he though paper production might be bad for the climate. Yet, he insisted that we should put a large piece of paper on every single table before every single use. He thought it was cute, because people could draw on the tables. So we can throw away a full roll of industrial card stock paper everyday, but to go cups for our customers just crosses the line?

The stupid paper on the table was not only a massive inconvenience to the servers who had to cut that paper every time a customer had the audacity of seeking a table, it was also super bad for the environment. We could have recycled it, that would have been helpful, but we didn’t have recycling so we were told to just throw it away.

When I pointed out this dissonance a in his environmental business policy (A couple times), he fired me.


Only a few weeks later, Fireflies was no more. What killed this reputable and upstanding establishment. Was it their failure to pay their workers? Was it the lack of ketchup? Was it the questionable child labor? Was it climate change? We may never know.



Aaron J. Alford

Media critique and memes. Writing about rhetoric and society. MA in Communication