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September 15, 2015     Cape Gazette
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Cape Gazette TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15 - THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2015 9 Saltwater Portrait )) Restaurant owner preaches, practices environmentally friendly ideas By Chris Flood cflood@capegazette.com ary Cannon is passionate about his work. But, he said, he wishes he could spend more time at the beach. "I'll have been within 100 yards of the beach all day, and not once did I make it down there," said the owner of the Gary's Dewey Beach Grill recently. "I'll be like, 'What was I thinking?'" Cannon, 52, is well over 6 feet tall and still has the neck and shoulders of a college football player - he played at University of Delaware in the 1980s. He said he loves hitting the beach early on a summer morning when the waves are beginning to kick up. "The beach is so cool at 8 a.m. in the morning. The lifeguards are working out, there are people walking, the beach hut girls are getting ready, "he said, adding he makes a point to get out from time to time. "If it means getting up half an hour earlier, I will. I'll sleep during the winter." Cannon grew up in rural New Jersey, but he's been spending summers at the beach his whole life. He lifeguarded for five summers on the Jersey shore before discovering Dewey Beach during college. He said he had never heard of the town until he followed some of his college teammates down to the small beach town 30 years ago. He got a job working at the Bottle & Cork and has been in the area ever since. The town was still finding itself, Can- non said, with a you-know-what-I-mean laugh. There was still drinking on the beach, and it had just become incor- porated, he said. Dewey has long been an end-of-the-road destination for the young-at-heart, but it was incorporated in 1981, making it the youngest town in the state. Cannon opened Gary's 25 years ago. For the first five years, the restaurant, on the northeast corner of New Orleans Street and Coastal Highway, was open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. After Labor Day, Cannon said, there was no- body around. During the winter months those first few years, Cannon spent time as a personal trainer in Aspen, Colo. Cannon said Aspen was a place where people were active year-round and had like-minded thoughts on living through environmentally sound practices. "It's an environmentally friendly place, and I always thought Dewey could be one of those places," he said. Cannon practices what he preaches. He takes pride in the fact that Gary's CHRIS FLOOD PHOTO GARY CANNON, Gary's Dewey Beach Grill owner and CNC Solar partner, was living an en- vironmentally friendly lifestyle long before it became the popular thing to do. UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE ATHLETICS PHOTO Gary's Dewey Beach Grill owner Gary Cannon played football at the University of Delaware in the mid-1980s. Here Cannon is making his way around a left tackle. Gary,s being one of the first restaurants Now, because of the lowering costs, in Dewey to offer healthy food choices. Cannon said, people are realizing 15 He said the idea behind his establish- percent to 20 percent returns on their ment when he first opened was to be a investment. healthy beer drinker's paradise. He said there's been a 70 percent "Chicken Ed's was probably the health- reduction in costs associated with solar lest place to eat when I first opened up," panel installation - from $8 per watt he said. to $3 per watt - in the past few years. "I wanted to bring something to town Cannon has solar panels at Gary's, and with a more healthy concept." they're providing two services. First, He estimates he's sold thousands of the panels are doing what they were turkey burgers and turkey cheesesteaks, installed for - turning unused energy Ten years ago, Gary's introduced sushi, into useable energy. Second, the panels because, Cannon said, he liked it. provide the shade for the outdoor patio. "We didn't go crazy fancy, but people "People don't even know they're here," are still eating it," he said. he said. Catching rays, not waves Doing something good began recycling long before the state Six years ago, Cannon turned hisCannon and his wife, Ava, have three required it. Cannon said up until not too passion for the environment and sound teenage daughters, Coryn, 18, Mary long ago, he would take the restaurant's sustainability practices into another Grace, 15, and ]ackie, 14, but, he said, he daily recyclables to the state's closest job, when he joined as a partner to form considers the hundreds of high school- recycling containers. He said he always CNC Solar, a solar panel installation and college-aged employees who have thought it was cool when other people company, in Rehoboth Beach. made their way through the restaurant to were there recycling too. Cannon said he entered this field be like his kids too. "It was like our own little sub-society because he believes in it. He said he Cannon said he's tried to instill a good of tree huggers," he said, again laughing, realizes it's going to be nearly impossible work ethic in his daughters and employ- Cannon said he's not a yeller about to get completely off oil and natural gas ees by working hard himself. recycling, but at the same time, he said, as energy sources, but, he continues, as He said he still loves getting behind there won't be any plastic cups in the solar technology improves and prices the grill at the restaurant on weekend trash bins. "They know if I see one, I'll continue to decline there will be a slow nights. reach in and pull it out," he said, and you balance in energy needs. It's about being here and teaching the guessed it, while laughing. "Solar's not going to be 100 percent, kids how to run a business, said Cannon. Cannon said people have questioned but it should be at least 20 percent," he He said life is going to involve work, but his interest in recycling, but he sees it said, adding the sun produces more than it's how a person approaches the work differently. He said he doesn't under- enough energy to satisfy human need. that makes a difference. stand why someone wouldn't recycle. "We just need to find a better way to Having a good attitude and working "That type of stuff drives me crazy," he catch that energy and harness its pow- the right way is all part of Cannon's per- said. ers." sona. He said providing healthy food at Cannon said he was happy when Cannon said using state-level grants his restaurant, recycling as much as pos- Dewey decided to go smoke-free on the and federal tax credits makes solar sible, and the solar panel adventure are beach. Some people were worried it panels a better investment for businesses about being part of a larger community. could hurt business, and families. He said he likes to ask himself, "Did "We've never allowed smoking. I think In the beginning, he said, solar panels you do something good today?" And on it's fantastic that people can't smoke on were not a good investment, but people those early morning beach days, when the beach," he said. were OK with breaking even because Cannon has a chance to reflect, he can In addition to environmentally respon- they were doing something good for the confidently respond, "Yes." sible practices, Cannon takes pride in environment.