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.

Ah, another loose end wrapped up.  Our hanging lights have been installed.  Believe it or not, these little guys cause a lot of heartaches; mom didn’t like them, they were expensive, everyone thought that someone else had ordered them, and then they took 6 weeks to fabricate so we had to open without them.  But here they are and they work beautifully.  They illuminate the the front of our deli case, the top of the case and the scale because each light can be pointed in any direction.  Hugh picked them out from the 3G company.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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 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.  

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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)

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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.  

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

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

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

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A tough spot in that cabinet was being worked out:

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This was added:

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

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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:

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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!