DeLand businessman Dan Reed has worked at Checkers, been a salesman for a liquor company, played in a John Cougar Mellencamp cover band, and tended bar at Cafe DaVinci, which he owns to this day.
At 48 years old, Reed will now take a seat on the DeLand City Commission starting in November.
Who’s Dan Reed?
Many DeLandites know Downtown mainstay Cafe DaVinci well. The bar originally opened in 1993 as a beer-and-wine bar under the ownership of history and antiques buff and former Lake Helen Mayor Mark Shuttleworth. The atmosphere was different then, with an audience coming for wine, cheese and jazz.
When Reed and his business partner Mark Dam leased the business from Shuttleworth in 2011, it had been closed for a year and was mostly collecting dust. Lately, the establishment is frequented by patrons of all ages, backgrounds and interests. Stocked with liquor in addition to wine and beer, the bar hosts live music, drag shows and much more.
“We’ve always had a good mix of people, lots of diversity,” Reed told The Beacon. “And honestly, for the amount of people that come here, and as busy as it gets, we have very little trouble.”
While Cafe DaVinci was Reed’s first run at owning a business, he had worked plenty of jobs, including some in the liquor business as a salesman and a manager.
Reed first moved to Florida from New York, where he grew up, in 1993.
“I moved here with a girl,” he said. “Her mom lived in Holly Hill, and I had nothing going on where I was living up there in Rochester. I figured I could be poor anywhere.”
His first job in Florida was at a Checkers in Daytona Beach — it’s still there, too, at the intersection of Nova Road and Brentwood Drive. Through a number of other gigs, Reed eventually met business partner Dam, and the two settled on wanting to buy a bar. Reed had already fallen in love with — and moved to — DeLand.
One day in 2011, after talking to the then-owner of the Blind Pig Pub about potentially buying that bar — the owner didn’t bite — Reed and Dam walked over to Cafe DaVinci on Georgia Avenue.
“We walked around the corner, the big gates were open, and Mark Shuttleworth was in here talking to a couple of people, and I walked in, and I love this place so much,” Reed remembered. “Soon as you walk in, you remember how it makes you feel when you come in here.”
Since then, Reed’s business venture has splintered off into a complex family tree of businesses. Former employees of his now own and staff businesses in locations Reed once owned: Wander Bar Cocktail Lounge in Downtown DeLand and Inn Between, across from the DeLand Amtrak station on Old New York Avenue.
Reed owns the real estate for Inn Between, as well as Brass Rail. In addition to those, Reed owns 303 North Woodland Blvd., the current home of Wise Axe DeLand.
Reed is also connected to Neighbors Artisan Taqueria outside of Cafe DaVinci and The Brass Rail of DeLand, and he and his then-wife Melisa Reed opened The Table Restaurant in 2017.
Reed’s ties to DeLand go beyond business. He has two children — Brittany and Dan Jr. — and one grandson.
His work keeps him busy — a little too busy sometimes, he admitted. He’d like to have his “foot out the door” in the next decade so he can enjoy some time spent not working.
Where he stands
While the DeLand City Commission is a nonpartisan board, many voters want to know where their local representatives stand on national issues. When it comes to political parties, Reed is a registered Republican, but he said he considers himself more of a Libertarian than a Republican.
“I have Republican views on a lot of things, I also have Democrat views on a lot of things,” Reed said, adding, “I want everybody to just be themselves and do what they want to do.”
Florida is a closed-primary state, so voters only have a voice in the primary associated with their political party. For many non-party-affiliated Floridians, this means they don’t have much of a say in who will represent them until the general election. So, many pick one of the two major political parties when they sign up to vote.
“When I registered to vote, I literally just flipped a coin,” Reed said. “I don’t want to be either, to be fair, but you have to vote in the primaries.”
Reed is also supporting Chris Cloudman, who is also a registered Republican, in his bid to be mayor of DeLand.
“I love Chris,” he said. “He’s my friend, and loyalty goes a long way with me.”
Still, Reed spoke highly of Cloudman’s opponent, Reggie Williams, a Democrat, and said he is looking forward to working with his peers on the City Commission, whoever that ends up being after the general election Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Cloudman was instrumental in convincing Reed to run for the DeLand City Commission. When he takes his seat on the City Commission in November, Reed will occupy the seat Cloudman had to give up to run for mayor.
Since Cloudman vacated his seat, Reed was elected to serve the remaining two years of Cloudman’s term. Reed, if he chooses to run again, will be on the ballot in 2024.
Reed has wanted to play a role in DeLand politics for some time, and the first step was when he applied to the Planning Board several years ago. He knew experience on that board could lead to a spot on the City Commission.
“I knew at that time that the City Commission would have to read my application,” Reed said. “So I wrote on there — because it says ‘Why do you want to do this’ — ‘It’s my first step to becoming mayor.’”
That got the attention of DeLand’s current mayor, he said.
“I work out at the same gym that Bob Apgar does, and he cornered me one day, and he was like, ‘I see that it says you want to run for mayor someday.’”
It’s not out of the question, Reed said, but he wants to start with the City Commission. His management of Downtown DeLand’s Cafe DaVinci keeps him too busy now for the mayoral role.
“You have to go to a lot of grand openings, you have to get requested to do speeches,” Reed said. “If you don’t do that, then you’re not a good mayor. If that’s something I ever choose to do, I want to do a good job.”
Reed had to resign from the Planning Board when he was elected to the City Commission. Leaving the board behind, he praised the hard work done by its members, especially that of civil engineers Jeremy Owens and Albert Neumann, and low-impact development proponent Buz Nesbit.
Top of mind for Reed are the same issues many DeLandites are worried about: controlling growth, expanding the city’s housing supply, and making the city’s streets more accessible.
“The growth will be big; the housing will probably be right up there with the growth,” he said.
It’s unreasonable to think DeLand’s perpetual growth can be halted, but the city could be doing more to manage it, Reed said.
“I think we need to make sure our infrastructure is strong and capable of supporting the growth that we already have before we look at expanding further,” he said. “That’s very important.”
One way to do that, Reed noted, is to make sure developers know the city is serious about what it requires of them.
“We have to let developers know we mean business,” he said. “We’re not just telling you because we want to hear ourselves say it; we have to live up to those standards.”
Housing is important, too, Reed said. The city doesn’t have enough housing. Not just affordable housing, he said, but anything other than single-family homes.
“This town screams for apartments,” Reed said.
He added, “We have a lot of single-family houses. Not everybody’s ready to buy a house. Not everybody can buy a house. Not everybody wants a single-family house. There are plenty of people that want to live the apartment life until they figure out what it is they want to do with their life.”
Specifically, he’s supportive of proposals to expand residential offerings in and around Downtown DeLand.
“A real strong residential base always makes for a great Downtown,” Reed said.
Another thing that makes a great Downtown is walkability and accessibility, he said, and that’s something he’d like to see expand, too.
The number of topics the City Commission has to tackle and understand can seem overwhelming, Reed said, but he’s looking forward to representing DeLandites. As for a future in DeLand politics beyond his newly won seat on the City Commission, Reed said he would just have to wait and see.
DeLandites looking to get to know their newest DeLand city commissioner can find Reed at Cafe DaVinci, where he might be drinking a beer or singing with his new, unnamed-for-now band. If you can’t find the bearded politician and businessman at DaVinci, he might be over at Wander Bar Cocktail Lounge sipping an old fashioned.
He’ll be even easier to find after Nov. 15 when he and the other newly elected city commissioners and mayor will be sworn in.
With a few exceptions for holidays, the DeLand City Commission meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of every month in the City Commission Chambers in DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave. The meetings are open to the public.