Red Bank brothers and restaurant veterans Aiden and Louis Ardine share a passion for connecting with people – something they often did when working on Bond Street in Asbury Park.
After the stressful and pandemic summer of 2020, they quit their jobs on Bond Street – Aiden was a bartender, Louis a barback and a handyman. Last December, the brothers traveled to Las Vegas to visit their grandmother. They passed through states they had never visited, states that they believed were filled with untold stories. The trip had a huge impact on them, which led Aiden to ask Louis, “Could you consider market across the country with me?
They have started planning their trip – which will begin May 1 – and are partnering with the Community Foundation of Catering Workers (RWCF) to raise funds for workers in industry and small businesses affected by the pandemic. Along the way, the two plan to speak with business owners across the country, share the stories of those businesses, and encourage people to donate. Aiden and Louis plan to pay their own expenses so that all the money they raise can go to the fund.
“We will try to give a platform and a voice to small businesses and individuals,” says Aiden. As for Louis, he’s “excited to see America through a new lens” as they speak with dozens of business owners across the country.
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Table Hopping: Tell me about your experience in the restaurant industry.
Aiden Ardine: I have been working in Asbury since I graduated from college. I figured if I was a bartender I could move to any city or move across the country, and I would still be able to support myself while looking for a real job with no quotes. Four years later, I realized that any job that pays the bills is real work, and the bartender gave me the flexibility and the means to pursue my other interests, like writing and travel.
Louis Ardine: I was not a bartender per se. I had worked at Bond Street before and then took a year off but enjoyed the job because it was a part-time job and you meet people. I learned a lot from people – it was really cool work. When Bond Street got a PPP loan, I was able to come back and do maintenance work because I am very practical and can do carpentry. I also had another job with a coffee roaster called Maiden Coffee Roasters which was cool because they were teaching me a new skill.
TH: Has walking across America been an idea in your head for a long time?
AA: We were definitely, given our upbringing, open to such an idea. We grew up hiking with our dad who was from Maine, so at a very young age he showed us this appreciation of being outside in nature. We’ve always made it a priority to get out, hike and camp, and we’re both runners. When I was abroad, I hiked through northern Spain called El Camino de Santiago, and spent a month hiking.
THE: I have always loved to run. Cross country has helped me a lot to have free space and to learn on myself. I remember reading [Christopher McDougall’s] delivered Born to run, and I was thinking about how you could run across America – never take it too seriously, but it was always floating.
TH: Who will benefit from your walk?
AA: If we wanted to do something like this, given our track record, we wanted to help give back to our community and make it charitable. I started researching people with Covid-19 impact on the restaurant industry. We have found a group called Restaurant Workers Community Foundation, and 100% of the money we raise will go straight to them.
TH: What will the RWCF do with the money raised?
AA: They provide direct aid in the form of grants to individuals, as well as funds for regional nonprofits that might have a better way of distributing funds in their communities than a national organization would. They also offer interest-free small business loans to businesses that have been affected by the pandemic.
TH: How are you going to raise awareness in the restaurant industry along the way?
AA: We are planning to have a huge social media presence as this is the movement of the world right now. We’re trying to connect with small businesses along the way, to tell a little bit about their story, how the pandemic has affected their business, and what they want people to know about their experience.
TH: What are you most looking forward to?
THE: In New Jersey, we live in a bubble in terms of diversity and ideology. I think of my group of friends; we all agree on the same things, and it’s obviously a crazy time in America. I think the restaurant model and the idea of breaking bread could help us learn and experience other aspects of American culture. You may disagree with someone on political matters, but you find that you actually have a lot in common outside of that. It will be super interesting and I’m happy to hear more about it.
TH: How long will your trip last and what do you plan to do next?
AA: I hope we will be done by the end of September. We will be crossing the Golden Gate Bridge with our friends and family there with us, and I guess I’ll have to start writing a book about our experience. Hopefully by then we will have raised more than our goal of $ 30,000 and helped contribute to a meaningful conversation about how the restaurant industry does business. Sharing a meal with people is one of the best and most powerful human experiences. We just want to honor that throughout our journey – I think it’s something that a lot of people can understand and relate to.
Aiden and Louis start their walk on May 1st. Follow the trip on their Instagram, ArdinesxAmerica, and learn about the people and businesses they talk to along the way on unmutedstories.org. To show your support, make a donation at the Community Food Service Workers Foundation.
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