mozzarella from hellI want to begin by apologizing to all our customers for any trouble they may have had related to mozzarella from our store this week.  If you recently purchased a mozzarella that was not to your satisfaction, please come in and let us know.  We will happily refund your money or replace your mozzarella with a fresh one, just let us know when you come in.  We’ve been having some trouble with our suppliers.

This week of July 13th will go down on the record as “mozzarella hell” and I will refer to this week as such for years to come.  Let me tell you why.  The story revolves around two suppliers, CW and NJ.  On Monday I ordered a case of buffalo mozzarella from CW and I decided not to order our fresh mozzarella from them.  For the last few weeks an increasing portion of our mozzarella order was arriving with brown spots.  I would set those pieces aside, call my sales representative and receive a credit for those; problem solved, except for the fact that I had less stock to sell for the weekend.  My sales rep was aware of the mozzarella problem, I had complained to him and asked him what the problem was-  were they sitting in the warehouse too long, were they on the delivery truck too long and what changed?  No response.  It was disappointing but was a problem that we were able to absorb.

On Tuesday I came to work and found that two customers  had called the night before and complained that the mozzarella they had bought during the weekend was sour by Sunday.  I was angry with CW because I had no way of knowing that those mozzarella were bad, they looked normal.   I was embarrassed.  I wrote a very angry letter to the regional manager of CW (whom I met two weeks ago) along with copies of the notes from my customers.  I didn’t hear from CW so I decided to order my fresh mozzarella from another supplier, NJ, and I expected it to arrive on Wednesday.

Wednesday morning and it seems that the delivery from NJ is late.  I call the company and they told me that they are having computer trouble and that all deliveries are running 5-7 hours late.  We start to tell our customers that we are switching mozz suppliers and that the delivery is coming that evening and offer the buffalo mozzarella from CW.  Soon after, a customer comes in and says that the buffalo mozz he bought yesterday was sour.  We check another bag and sure enough, all the pieces are bad although none are bubbled or have any indication of their expiration.  Now I’m really mad at CW and I call my rep and demand he find out what is going on.  He tells me that he can give me a credit on the buffalo mozz but he doesn’t really know what’s going on.  He told me that he asked one of his other accounts about the fresh mozz because, apparently, I’m the only one who has been complaining about this problem.  The local restaurant that orders the same mozz from CW has noticed that the mozz have been arriving with spots but that they just cut those out before they cook with them and didn’t think to report the problem.  How gross.  I left the store before the NJ order arrived because they said that the driver from NJ won’t be there until 7 pm.

Thursday morning I looked around for the mozz from NJ but there is none and it’s not even on the invoice.  I call NJ and ask for my sales rep, J.  My rep is not there today but E says that he can help me.  I explain that I ordered two cases of mozz on Tuesday with a woman but there is no evidence of those pieces on my invoice.  E says he’s going to do some digging around and call me back.  While I’m waiting to hear from E I’m trying to figure out what to do because another day is passing and we don’t have any mozzarella.  Should I drive up to the CW warehouse and pick mozz in person, making sure its fresh?  Drive to NJ and pick up my two cases in person?  Drive out to another supplier in VA and pick something there?  See if NJ can ship me the mozz overnight?  E calls back at 11:30 and says that he found my order, he sees their mistake and he offers to overnight ship the mozz before I even have the chance to insist on it.  I am relieved that I won’t have to spend Thursday driving around and that I will be able to enjoy my day off on Friday knowing that mozzarella is on its way.

On Friday morning my assistant manager DJ calls NJ because it’s 11:30 and the mozzarella hasn’t arrived.  The woman at NJ says that the mozzarella was shipped out yesterday but that it won’t be at Piazza until 3 pm because it costs (them) twice as much to get it to us before noon.  DJ is angry because Friday morning is second only to Saturday morning in sales but she bites her tongue because she figures that the lady at NJ doesn’t know that.  At 2:50 pm the mozzarella still hasn’t arrived so DJ calls NJ again and asks the same woman for the tracking number of our package.  The woman tells her to hold on while she looks for it.  She comes back and informs DJ that the mozz never got sent because while they were packing it up on Thursday they noticed that it was out of date and decided not to send it to us.  So why had the woman at NJ told her that it was on its way??  She answered that she had heard the delivery guys talking about the mozz yesterday so she had assumed it had been sent out.  She doesn’t know why no one called us but E isn’t there and neither is our rep, J.  So DJ calls me and asks me what I want to do.

The sad thing is, at this point, I’m not surprised that there is more drama.  I mean, since Monday, I have burned my arm pretty badly, cut my finger, found out that farro won’t be available until the end of August, forgotten to go to a radio interview, forgotten to order Sesamo bread, and realized too late that Altimura bread and provolone were out of stock (and today this post was completely erased and had to be re-written)!  Why couldn’t something else go wrong?  I called NJ myself.  I asked for the woman who was there earlier, the man on the phone said that she was gone but that he could help me.  I told him the whole story and I said “whatever can be done at this point NEEDS TO BE DONE, send me ANY mozzarella.”  He said they don’t send things out on Fridays.  I said drop it off at a shipping center.  He said that was unnecessary because they don’t have any mozzarella.  Nothing.  No ovaline, bocconcini, ciliegine, loaves, NOTHING.  He said nothing can be done until Monday.  I told him that it was too bad that I hadn’t known about this yesterday because now I’ve missed a big shopping day at the store, I’ve been telling my customers all week to please be patient because mozzarella is coming and now its 3:00 on Friday and I don’t have any options???  Thanks for nothing.

At that moment I was on my way back from Salisbury (that’s another story) and I realized that I had to continue onto Annapolis (where I had gone last night and the reason I had to go to Salisbury) and beg a store for enough mozzarella to last us for the next five days and return to Easton during Friday rush hour.  Today is Saturday and we have mozzarella and we’re not making any money but at least we don’t have to make any more excuses.  To all our customers, my apologies and please forgive me, this week was mozzarella hell.

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Let’s go back a few weeks because I’d like to explain to you how we picked a general contractor.  In a nutshell, it wasn’t a simple process, although it seems like it should have been.  You know, when something looks easy it never is, especially when it comes to construction.  

I didn’t know who to call, I was new in town.  I looked online for contractors and eventually found two in the immediate area who did commercial projects.  I got a recommendation for the third and the fourth contractor found me.  I made appointments to meet each of them on site on Friday, August 21st.

I thought, okay, I’ll walk the contractors through the space, describe our project, they can take a set of plans, they will meet the architect, ask questions, they will call their subcontractors, make estimates, and we will pick from those three prices.  I met with each of them and I told them that we were shooting for a very fast build-out.  Each seemed confident that they could meet the deadline I set and they each seemed helpful…then things kind of fizzled out.  This is what happened that day: 

 

Contractor One immediately seized on the project, he wanted to take the plans with him, he arrived with a couple subcontractors, and he asked me a lot of questions.

Contractor Two took a long look at the plans, walked through the building with me and told me that he would come back with his subcontractors to get an estimate.

Contractor Three didn’t want to see the plans, he said he had built the renovations in that space himself a few years ago and knew the site very well.  Three stated that he didn’t give estimates but he could get numbers from his subs.

Contractor Four didn’t want to see the plans because they weren’t final, I described to him the two changes that would be on the next plans but he didn’t want to take a copy of the plans.  Also, he told me I needed to make a list of all the work that needed to be done for the project.

 

Friday August 29th the contractors met with the architect individually.

Tuesday September 2nd contractor One asked me to open the store for him so he could show his subs the job.  When I arrived, contractor Two was on his way out with his subs.  Two had called the shopping center’s caretaker directly to allow him access to the space.  While I was there with One, he asked me questions about the design that were clearly marked in the plans.  One told me that I needed to rethink the ceiling material and I needed to change the plans.  I heard nothing from Three or Four that week.  

Tuesday Sept 9th contractor Two came forward with a reasonable estimate for the project and called us and the architect to find out if it was okay to suggest lower-priced lighting.  He submitted a quote for the project including the alternative fixtures on Wednesday.  

I called number One to find out if he had an estimate for us.  He read me the details his plumber had sent him.  Then he asked me if I had asked the architect to change our plans for the ceiling material.  I said no, I hadn’t.  I didn’t mention that his suggestion for ceiling tiles with perforations to absorb sound would violate Maryland state health code.  I asked him if he had other estimates and he said no, not yet.

I called number Three to ask him how he was doing.  He reminded me that he couldn’t make an estimate himself, could he get into the space next week to show his subs around?  I told him not to bother.

I called number Four and told him that I already had an estimate from someone else.  Four sounded surprised, he asked me how he could come up with an estimate if he didn’t have the final plans and I said he figured it out.

 

Friday the 12th I called number One to ask him if he had a complete estimate yet.  He told me he didn’t.  I apologized and told him that we were going to hire another contractor for the job.  He was shocked.  He asked how the other guy could come up with an estimate that quickly and insinuated that he had lied to us and made up numbers.  I told him that we had been going into the details of his estimate since he faxed it to us on Tuesday.  He hissed that he hoped whom ever we picked does a good job.  An hour later he faxed us a final estimate.  

 

I can’t believe these guys!  One was the guy who made all these assurances that we would meet our deadline but he lagged behind, tried to make all these unnecessary changes to our design and never really looked at the plans!  And then he was nasty to me when I told him that he hadn’t done what he had promised!!!  Four told me that I had to make a list of all the things that needed to be done for construction.  What did he think I was hiring him to do???  I don’t know anything about construction!  He’s the one who wouldn’t even look at the plans!!  I guess Three was just not really clear on how we were trying structure this estimate thing, I don’t know…I think he’s more of a house contractor.  Two was the only guy who came off as responsible, efficient and helpful. 

This turned out to be a race where one guy wins by default because all the other runners get disqualified.  Just to be fair, the guy we picked, number Two, is a really good contractor and a nice guy.  We’re happy we found him.

Just to be sure I hadn’t made any crazy demands from these guys I looked up what a general contractor’s roles and responsibilites are.  Being a general contractor is “a difficult role that requires real skill, expert knowledge and lots of time on on-site.”  You can decide if these guys fufill that role.  

Welcome to the Piazza Italian Market blog!  This blog was created to document the set-up of the store.  In January of 2008, my dad and I decided to open a specialty Italian grocery store in Easton, Maryland.  

Easton is the commercial hub of the Eastern Shore and we wanted to be right in the heart of its downtown.  When we were looking around for sites we wanted to be near the historic district but we wanted convenient parking access.  I thought that TalbotTown Shopping Center would be the ideal location.  The presence of the News Center bookstore and Cafe was very important to me.  I think it’s a fixture in the community and I’m glad that now I can walk over there whenever I want!