By Tiffany Merlo Phelps
Mike Daniels prefers to be called “Big Mike,” otherwise, he says jokingly, you might confuse him with his 14-year-old son “Little Mike” — one of his seven children. Most folks around Ponte Vedra Beach know Big Mike because of his mobile business, the “PV Shack” food truck and for his generosity in donating food to those who need it the most. During the summer months, Daniels fed close to 150 athletes after football practice and continues to feed players any chance that he gets. In May, a free meal at his food truck also came with a PV Shack face mask to promote the health and well-being of the community. He estimated that he handed out 200 masks that day. Daniels opened his food truck business right before the pandemic hit, making his livelihood more challenging; however, you won’t hear Daniels complaining. Instead, he concentrates on feeding the community and on future restaurant plans. Last year, Daniels, who grew up in the Jacksonville restaurant business, said he gave away $10,000 worth of food to schools on the Northside of Jacksonville via his catering business. His goal is to open the first black-owned restaurant in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Q: Why did you move to Ponte Vedra Beach?
A: My wife, Santavia, and I have seven children aged nine through 16, and we wanted to get a good education for them. We moved here five years ago. We have four children at Ponte Vedra High School, one at Landrum Middle School and two at Ocean Palms Elementary. We have good kids, straight A students. They do a lot of helping and cleaning with our business, and we all stick together. This is our community, and we embrace it. We really wanted to bring something southern to Ponte Vedra Beach. Our menu includes chicken wings, tenders, shrimp, fish, crab patties, grits, mac and cheese and much more. We specialize in Soul Food. Our chicken tenders and wings are the best. Nobody can touch us.
Q: What do you like about being in the food industry?
A: I like to make people happy. We enjoy it. We love serving people and giving good customer service. We stay consistent too. It won’t ever taste different from one day to the next. When we opened right before Covid, our Ponte Vedra Beach family helped us out and supported us. They showed up. We are especially grateful to the Ponte Vedra Presbyterian Church who allowed us to park our food truck in their lot. We owe them a lot. They have been there for us, and they are like part of our family.
Q: You mentioned your love of sports. What is your sports background?
A: One of our sons plays football for Ponte Vedra, so we feel obligated to give back to the kids there. My oldest son plays basketball. I used to be the football coach at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, and I played football for Raines High School. Our baby girl is in cheer. We have hosted sports events for Duval County for the past 10 years through our catering services. We want to get more into catering events in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Q: What is your life motto?
A: You are only measured by what you do. I learned this by watching my parents. I can make a decision to help someone every day. I am giving them my best, and I try to do my best always. And that makes me feel very blessed.
Q: What is your biggest challenge with owning a food truck?
A: We are having a very hard time finding the right location for our food truck and getting into certain events and locations. We would like to be at Davis Park every Friday night for games. We have our license and insurance, but we still cannot set up there. I don’t know what to do to get in. We would also like to set up under the Palm Valley Bridge to offer breakfast and at Davis Park on school mornings to offer breakfast to the students. We are very excited about the Palm Valley Bridge location as a great breakfast spot for locals. I want to stay local and help my own people. We have to take care of each other.
[Author’s Note: For more information about the PV Shack food truck, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (904) 442-3894.]
Photo courtesy Mike Daniels