December 2008

Most restaurants and delis use a  service to provide, launder and deliver their daily linens.  In our case, we need fresh aprons and bar towels each day.  No big deal, I thought, we will rent our linens just like everyone else does.  Beginning in October, I was approached by three competing linen companies, each claiming to offer the best weekly rate and each was willing to beat any competitor’s price.  I thought that all three companies offered pretty much the same product for pretty much the same rate and that it wouldn’t really matter who I chose.  I assumed that the decision was in my favor, I thought that I would benefit from choosing any one of those companies and every week our aprons and towels would arrive neatly folded and fresh.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

First of all, it turns out that the great quotes that I received were calculated over a long term period of three or four years.  This ‘detail’ was not mentioned at any of my initial meetings.  We’re talking about APRONS and TOWELS here.  Our STORE is only leased for three years!  I asked each company about a week to week service and they all told me NO.  They said that the industry standard is a long term contract because essentially we are leasing the materials from them which doesn’t pay off for them until 2 years down the road.  I asked about a lower priced laundry service if I provided my own linens.  They said they would not launder linens that they did not provide, the same policy extended towards the doormats.

At my old store, the Bedford Cheese Shop, we used a weekly linen service that did not require a contract.  Ah, Cascade was the best!  One of my employees told me that her old restaurant has weekly terms with one of the linen companies that refused to offer me anything less than a two year contract!  What’s the deal?!

My last meeting with a linen sales person was the day before we opened.  By that point, I was done shopping around for a linen service, I had made up my mind that all linen services were offering  long term contracts and they were all bad, but I was meeting a salesman one more time because he insisted.  I told him that I had bought my own towels and aprons that day and I was going to wash them myself for a week.  He was clearly aggrivated and nervous.  He threatened me with bullshit, ‘in a week you’ll call me, you’ll be so sick of washing those’, and ‘the towels are all lint, they are a fire hazard for home dryers’.  He had brought in a bundle of aprons that he pushed me to keep as a ‘friendly gesture’ I refused them because I knew that there were strings attached (*ahem, literally).  Also, the aprons smelled like rancid grease.



No, today wasn’t the big day, I was too busy yesterday to write a blog post!  We opened our doors on Tuesday and today we began selling deli items.  The delay on the weighed stuff was due to the fact that programming the scales and coordinating them with the POS computer was even harder than it sounds.  Last night I finally got one scale to work but the “back-up” scale is not formatting correctly.  I think.  Even though I transferred the same information to both scales, one understood and one did not.  That’s why it’s good to have a back-up.  


It took all weekend to stock the shelves and enter each item into the POS system.   DJ, the assistant manager, my mom and dad, Hiram, and I were here Saturday, all day Sunday, and Monday afternoon until very late.  By Tuesday morning everything was put away and people began wandering in.  The store next to us was having a sale so it gave us a lot of exposure and foot traffic.  Everyone seemed excited by the store and many had already known we were here.  Others asked when we had opened, thinking that they haven’t been in the Talbot Town shopping center lately, and we were proud to answer that we had only been open for a few hours!





I am still waiting on the light for our bread case, the wiring is there but the light hasn’t been installed.  It hasn’t stopped us from using it!  We have bread!  I love this bread cabinet, the shelves allow the crumbs to fall down to the bottom of the cabinet for easy cleaning and the dowels are unvarnished so hot pans or bread can be directly placed on the shelves!  When we were designing the store I asked for a dry case to be made, I wanted to model it after the one at Marlow & Sons.

Here is theirs, it’s a little different:


Now please come visit us, we are open for business and we are taking suggestions.



Sometimes things don’t go as planned.  No, let’s say that when you need things to go smoothly, crazy things happen.  Yesterday I arrived at the store to find Mike Gardner, his crew, and the shopping center maintenance crew all running around under this waterfall that had formed in our storage room.  Everyone was wet along with everything in that room, the floor in the next room and the ceiling in the room below.  It was bad.  Today this first picture makes it seem better than I remember.  My memory includes a trash can full of dirty water and soggy drywall, waiting in the dark for 40 minutes while Ryan from DC Electric dried each breaker on the electric panel, and carrying lots of wet cardboard.  It was not what I wanted to do that morning.  I immediately set to work trying to rescue products from their soggy boxes and, luckily, almost everything was still dry inside.


The drain pipe from the roof broke at a joint right behind our storage room walls.  What’s terrible is that we knew about the leak on Monday and didn’t fix it.  It formed a bubble of water underneath the paint on the wall near the ceiling . I moved the boxes away from that immediate area but they remained in the same room.  When it started raining on Wednesday night I didn’t think for a second about that bubble on the wall.  That night of heavy rain just blew open the connection between two pieces of pipe and the water began to soak our ceiling.  The water pooled on top of the ceiling long enough to trickle down the outside of the walls before dissolving a hole in the center.  This picture is from outside the storage room.


 Actually, most of the water drained straight down our back wall into the basement tenant’s space.  I didn’t go down there but I know it must have been a disaster zone.  

We had a pretty bad situation ourselves, the hole from the first picture is just the part that collapsed on its own, the whole ceiling in the storage room was wet.  The panels were removed yesterday and this morning new dry wall panels were installed and patched.  

As of yesterday morning our final building inspection was scheduled for that afternoon making this bump in the road seem like a road block!  In order to receive our certificate of occupancy we were supposed to prove that construction has finished and here we are with a newly installed ceiling, joints barely patched, floorboards that need replacing and a couple other recently patched holes.  



We had to reschedule the final inspection for this afternoon and WE PASSED!  The Town office was very understanding and they treated the leak and its repairs as an incident separate from our renovation of the space.  Even though the light fixture in the storage room had to be removed leaving just the cables dangling…  it will be repaired on Monday!  We are fit for business!  Actually, I have a lot of work to do before we are really ready to open the doors.  It is all up to me now, no more excuses about the construction!


Let’s review some other hiccups from the last couple weeks:


both True freezers arrived broken (repaired Monday and today under warranty)

the poinsettias that we bought for decoration stained the marble counters

the other marble counter got scratched

the grease trap was misbehaving and flooded the whole prep room

the slicer didn’t fit on the countertops

the Southern case doesn’t have a real work surface

we didn’t pull enough cables for internet and phone in the right places to make a good network


Some good things from the last couple weeks:


the hanging lights arrived today (they took ~4 weeks)

the building inspector was understanding about our leak situation

I found a source for parmesan knives

the food arrived ok

the internet will work

the POS system seems easy to understand (I hope I don’t jinx it) 

we will open before Christmas (unless the whole roof comes crashing down on us)

What a comforting sight!  This morning I received our first delivery of refrigerated foods!  Everything looks and smells so good, it was comforting to work with food again.  Truth be told, I have been working indirectly with food for a couple months, and I have been (literally) surrounded by cases of odorless, shelf stable foods but I haven’t bothered to unpack them.


We received several types of salame, some speck, mortadella, pancetta, pepperoni, proscuitti, and mascarpone…just for starters!


What a difference a day makes!  So much happened yesterday, Eastern Millwork was here all day with a full crew.  SolidTops marble finishers were also here installing the backsplashes inside the cabinets and the top for the register area.  


The shelf that surrounds the landing is in place and connects exactly with the cabinets:


The shelves for underneath the stairs were installed, fitting perfectly into that cubby:


On this set of cabinets the doors were being fixed to make room for one more run of shelves:


A tough spot in that cabinet was being worked out:


This was added:


We needed to add railings in the stairwell that were at the correct height, the fire marshall insists on this:



Upstairs, the eat at counter framework was set in place.  I think that SolidTops is due back today (well, I hope) to install the marble that rests on the supports:


You can see there is a channel for the marble to fit into but it shouldn’t go all the way to the left wall, that needs to be filled in by drywall.  Also, I left a gap between the left wall and the end of the counter top to prevent spills form hitting the wall directly but that decision was based on the assumption that there was a wooden backsplash all the way around the countertop…I need to work this out.

There is work left to do!


Things are coming together, cabinets are fitting with marble tops and the tile floors, the trim is snug with the walls, the construction is wrapping up.  I brought in all the equipment over a week ago but I left it in boxes because there was still a lot of dust around and work wasn’t really done.  I didn’t want to damage anything.  After we cleaned up at the end of last week I unwrapped the scales, the panini presses and the slicers.  I was worried about there being enough electrical outlets in all the cubbies, but they’re all there, I worried that the refrigerators wouldn’t fit into their inlets but they do, everything worked out except for the slicers.  Somehow they were overlooked!  Really, it is my fault, but they just don’t fit on the counters!  They are medium-duty scales, 1/2 HP, 12″ blade but their bases are slightly big for their class.  Originally I picked Berkel slicers with the same power profile and those were the specs I submitted to Hugh Boyd, our architect.  Hugh checked the size of those and knew that they would fit on 24″ counters.  For whatever reason, I decided to switch to the Univex brand.  I did not realize how tight that counter space is or how big the slicer was so I didn’t bother to check either measurement.  Stupid!!  Another lesson learned.  

behindcounter2You can see that we’re off by about an inch and a half.  The best solution so far is to silicone glue additional pieces of marble to the top of that undercounter refrigerator (which sticks out from the cabinets) so that it equals the height of the existing counter and have the new marble butt up against the counter top as seamlessly as possible.  I’m already convincing myself that this is going to be better than the thing that was supposed to happen there, the marble was supposed to extend more right there so that it could cover that refrigerator.  This new idea gives the slicer more support!  I’m feeling much better about my mistake right now but not totally convinced.  I’ll feel better when I can see that the solution is really seamless and looks planned…to others.

When I was writing a business plan in the spring I struggled with estimating the cost of the project.  I had no idea how much it would cost to hire an architect or how much the building permit would cost.  I couldn’t even guess, I was so clueless.  Now that we’re deep into paying people without any incoming cash, I can tell you that it adds up to a lot of money.

Let’s outline our expenses:

Lawyer- helped chose a business model, negotiated our lease



Graphic Designers


General Contractor (who pays sub contractors)

Lots of Equipment




POS system

Next Page »