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We closed our little restaurant...

Chiffonade_'s picture

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...And although I have been told by many, I consider it a failure. This is something I do - find some fault of my own for why something didn't work. Read on...

MadMom_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #1 of 71)

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Chiff - repeat after me...you did not fail, Mancos did! Now, you can get on with your story.

Luka_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #2 of 71)

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No. You did not fail. You tried the right thing in the wrong location. Now find somewhere with a bit more potential customer base, and try again.

b : )

SandraM's picture

(post #57233, reply #3 of 71)

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Oh, Chiff, I AM sorry. But please don't beat yourself up over this. Personally, I doubt very much that it was a failure on your part to provide great, memorable food, or to manage wisely or to treat customers royally. And I am very sure that you and DH gained a priceless education out of the experience.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #4 of 71)

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We knew we were taking a chance opening a restaurant in such a small town so I guess it should have come as no surprise. Mad Mom can tell you. Her daughter lives
i 30 miles
from here and it's like night and day. (Keep in mind, 30 miles is nothing in a rural area. It translates to inter-borough in a mid-sized city - 20 blocks in a large city.) There is
i life
in her daughter's city and there is absolutely nothing in this little town.

We hung in and stayed open all winter. We had more local business in the winter than we ever had tourist business after the weather broke! We were the kind of place you could buy meals for your whole family when mom went on strike for the night. People came in for their cheesecake fix as well. We depended heavily on the working locals but were assured that "summer will be better." Summer never happened here except today it was 102 degrees. There is absolutely
i no
tourism in this town at all.

And I fully understand why. There is no reason for anyone to make a turn off that highway! See the following and render an opinion...excuse or valid explanation:

* Main Street and Grand Avenue (which make up "downtown") are a ghost town. Most or all of the stores are vacant. If per chance, someone
i did
venture off the highway and mosey through our little town, there'd be nothing to see/buy/do.

* Two real estate offices located
i on
the highway have closed. There is absolutely no growth "in town" with some houses being built in the woods but nothing really expanding the "in town" population. There is nary a piece of raw wood anywhere. No one is building anything anyone can see from any road "in town."

* The Chamber of Commerce is absolutely useless. They planned
i one
event for May (a total flop);
i none
for June;
i two
for July, including an Independence Day celebration that brought absolutely no one into town;
i none
for August and
i one
for September. Maybe these people think one event per month is enough to bring visitors into the town but it won't do that
i if the events aren't properly publicized.
The Chamber of Commerce reminds me of Uncle Joe's Volunteer Fire Department on Petticoat Junction. The blind leading the blind.

* Our landlord blew smoke up our @$$es for two months. She owns basically an "L" shaped portion of the block - and only 3 of these units (stores) have occupants. The dentist is about to leave to go to the "medical complex" (don't ask); and the flower lady is moving to a place on the highway. We've closed, and that leaves her with no one. What constitutes blowing smoke up our @$$es? We asked her to help us choose another of her locations for a sit down place. We knew that would be wise, if not for the summer but for the winter because people preferred to sit down and eat instead of doing takeout. Why did she not help us? Because she formulated the opinion that we didn't have enough money to do it!! Her daughter-in-law (my wedding photographer) came clean with that revelation one day. I'm waiting for her to say this to my face one day and I'll respond, "I have $30,000 equity in my house, Joan. Would that not have been enough??"

* The in-fighting in this town is not to be believed. The only time in the nearly three years I've lived here that I saw people band together was when someone died.

* The Town Board consists of people who seem handcuffed in making any change. Apparently, there is an even mix of those who would like to see the town move ahead and those who would like to see it remain in its little time warp.

* The slogan on the letterhead of the Town and Chamber of Commerce is: "Where the west still lives." Would you believe the town voted to keep horses out of the parade happening in late July because
i they didn't want to clean up the horse poop!!
Where the west still lives...unless a particular representation of the west has a digestive system.

* Part of the reason this town is so stuck in this limbo of not being able to define itself and move forward is because three people basically own everything. They like being "big fish in a small pond" and vote down anything that could bring prosperity to anyone but themselves.

* This is more a personal thing but it was a reality check. I noticed a transformation in my DH between 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., which was the time we opened. He seemed to tense up and border on being almost angry. He was anticipating the lousy business we'd do because there was not
i a car on the street!
This repeated itself quite often. One day he uttered these pivotal words and I knew something had to give:
i I'm starting to dislike cooking.
I heard tires screech in my head and came to a turning point. His beginning to dislike cooking was totally unacceptable. I knew then life was going to take a drastic turn.

c (*) (*) (*)

I know that sounds like one long whine and I'm sorry. DH keeps telling me that if we did hundreds of dollars of business every day for 3 months it still wouldn't save our year. I keep playing that sentence over and over in my head and it keeps me grounded in the belief that we did the right thing.

We definitely will sell this house (after putting some work into it) and move to another part of the country. We had been looking in the west because I thought he was very attached to it - but it turns out he really liked Florida because he liked the ocean. He was raised in Idaho and has had enough of winters. We've explored the Gulf coast of Florida on the net and jobs don't seem to be a problem - and the real estate market looks like a buyer's market.

We are not selling
i one lick
of our restaurant equipment - because wherever we land, we're going to have the most
b boss
kitchen within a 500 mile radius!!

So that's it. Again, I tend to personalize things like this and see it as
i my
failure instead of the failure of the town to generate interest in itself.

Michael_P.'s picture

(post #57233, reply #5 of 71)

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I don't see you as having failed at all. You've only just started.

MadMom_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #6 of 71)

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Okay, chiff, let's put this in perspective. I can definitely testify that you served
b great
food...and we won't even discuss the cheesecake-to-die-for. You mentioned my daughter's place being only 30 miles away and it's so much bigger...well, she's screaming that you can't make a living there unless you're independently wealthy or retired, so it's not that much better...but still, I had to wonder the day I visited you how you were ever going to make it. You described it as a "ghost town" and that was my impression. There just was no sense of activity anywhere. I think it's a miracle that you lasted as long as you did. Look at it from that viewpoint. How many people could have managed to keep afloat in that anti-horse "Western" town for as long as you did? I hate to see you go, because at least while you're there, we could maybe someday visit, but that's selfish...you deserve better. Whatever you do, don't lose the valuable lessons you learned...namely, that you and DH work well together, have a great product to offer, and any failures were a failure of location and surroundings, not a personal failure of yours. You're damn smart to keep all your good stuff...go somewhere lovely where people will appreciate what you have to offer, and someday you'll look back on Hooterville and laugh, right? Besides, I need a good excuse to visit Florida, so why don't you pick someplace sunny and nice, and I'll come see you. Anybody who thinks I don't look as old as I am has a friend for life!

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #7 of 71)

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You guys are too fast!!!! :)

i ...provide great, memorable food, or to manage wisely or to treat customers royally...

I really want to believe we did our best. I felt our food was excellent and we did have repeat business...just not enough to sustain us and I believe that's more a lack-of-population problem. DH is great at the money stuff, negotiating prices and getting things as reasonably as possible. As for treating our customers royally - you better believe it. I was the VP in charge of Schmoozing - and it was a job I enjoyed. When little kids would come in, I'd fawn all over them. I'd give them our little business card magnets and tell them to see how many surfaces they'd stick to (it kept them busy). If we had any cookies on sale, I'd give them one. (Yes, I know, I didn't make any money on
i that
particular cookie but it sure made an impression on the parents). I remember what people liked and what they didn't like. When I was describing someone to DH, I'd say, "You know, the
i alfredo,
double bread, no salad." When anyone would ask me sheepishly if they could have something prepared vegetarian, I'd say, "Certainly you can. This is a restaurant, not Nazi Germany." Didn't balk at things like that at all - at any time. That particular customer chose to spend his/her restaurant dollar at our place and I didn't want them to regret that decision.

Possibly down the road we may try that again - but we couldn't tell you for sure right now. He knows how I am - I like to feed people, I like to watch them smile and enjoy their food. "We'll throw parties!" he said, "it would cost less!"

I appreciate all these "shoulders" to lean on! I'll do my best not to beat myself up over it.

Luka_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #8 of 71)

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Waaa Hoooo !!!

(Can I say that ?)

I was afraid that you were going to lose so much, including the equipment, as you went out of business.

It sounds like you have basicaly made a durn good decision, and made it before it was too late.

What you write does not sound like a whine. It sounds like good common sense. I say that if you actualy can, then you should go for it somewhere else.

Ok, my personal opinion here, so keep that in mind. Basicaly I think that youse were screwed. You were used by certain persons there who were hoping that having you there would bring other businesses. The fact that business was/is so friggen bad, is the REASON you were courted so much to be there. YOU stood to lose everything, and THEY were willing to sacrifice you to try to make a dead horse git up and walk.

If you have it in you, and in your pockets, to do so, then go somewhere else and try again. This time, try to go and spend a few odd days in whatever location you are considering, and watch the other businesses there.

Hey, winters are always pretty mild out here...

b : )

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #9 of 71)

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i ...Okay, chiff, let's put this in perspective.

Wow. Thanks for the first-hand reality check.
i You've
been here so
i you
know! I can't believe your daughter feels that way!! I didn't think it was a problem there, but it sounds like what's going on in this area. In 20 years it's going to be the most beautiful, scenic retirement community in the world! You have to be either a trust fund baby, have sold a business and are living on the proceeds, or have retired and are living on a wise 401K/pension arrangement. People live here because the cost of living is dirt cheap. The cost of living is dirt cheap because
i no one pays a living wage!
So people come and spend their savings gradually and slowly - and those of us trying to build ourselves financially are dying gradually and slowly.

When we
i do
move, don't worry - you have an open invitation! The nice thing about living in FL is that it's pretty cheap to get to NYC if we want to. Nothing like Christmas in NY and I told DH I'd like to experience at least part of the holidays in the cold. Palm trees + Christmas Carols = it does not compute, Will Robinson.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #10 of 71)

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i ...Waaa Hoooo !!! (Can I say that ?) ...

You most certainly can. I appreciate your look-on-the-bright-side aspect - while everyone else is glueing my shattered ego back together ;).

i ...It sounds like you have basicaly made a durn good decision, and made it before it was too late.

Yes, that's all DH's doing. We own all our equipment. Everything from the walls in is ours. We bought some of the equipment from the last business owner and some we picked up here and there.

i ...Basicaly I think that youse were screwed.

I have to agree. I try not to sound like "the victim" here but there were too many conditions stacked against us and no one who had the power to change anything lifted a finger to do so.

MadMom_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #11 of 71)

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Besides, chiff, no experience could be called a failure when you come out of it with someone like your DH by your side! I've spent two Christmastimes in New York, and it was something to remember. Don't worry, wherever you go, you'll make it! (Hell, I think anybody who could just survive as long as you did where you were should be able to make it anywhere!)

SallyBR_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #12 of 71)

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Chiff...

I don t know what to say - apart from the fact that it is definitely NOT your failure!

I heard that the success rate of restaurants is very low and linked to so many factors, most of them OUT of the control of owners and chefs running the show.

What can I say? Nothing is worth loosing the pleasure of things we loved to do - your husband started to dislike cooking? Time to stop, make a U-turn and find his love of cooking again!

Good luck for you, my fingers are crossed (and it's quite hard to type like this... :-)

kai_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #13 of 71)

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Awww, Chiff, I know how hard you and DH worked to make this a success. Given the location, I'd say you were wildly successful--until they screwed you. I expect you will be successful again, w/the right location. Heck, it doesn't even sound like there's enough people in the town to make it profitable if they all ate every meal there! Still, it should always be a precious memory because of your wedding :-) It's a blessing you both agree on this decision!

Selfishly, I'd love you to relocate here, but I think FL is less crowded :-) Also, the delis and whatnot around work are noticing a slowdown what w/all the layoffs , while raising prices due to power costs. I don't like their Governor, but I think the populace is more not like him than like him.

Chin up GF, you are awesome! More for those memoirs!

Wolverine's picture

(post #57233, reply #14 of 71)

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Chiffy, my bud! I'm sorry you had to take this step, but I agree with the consensus - this is NOT a personal failure! Just wait until you get to a more populated area, like Fla, and watch out! That boss kitchen will get cookin' again! :-)

Amy_W.'s picture

(post #57233, reply #15 of 71)

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Chiff, so sad to hear this...

but don't blame yourself, you definitely did your best in an impossible situation.
I know you will succeed in a better location.

Jean_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #16 of 71)

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Sorry to hear you are closing, but I guess it's smart of you two to know when to cut your losses. Even in our little town, eating establishments come and go at regular intervals. The ones that have staying power have a liquor license or a faithful grey-haired contingent that keeps them afloat.
This town has about 5 pizza shops, plus a McDucks and a BK and I'm not even counting them.

Pi's picture

(post #57233, reply #17 of 71)

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I'm sorry, and I know what a small town(4,000) is like!! I grew up in one, and if the locals do not support a business, you're done...Sisters and brother-in-laws had a local appliance and hardware store and made a darned good living....Of course, they were the only hardware store in town!

Marie-Louise_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #18 of 71)

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"The only time you fail is the last time you try." Someone famous said that-I have no idea who-and I try to live by it. Meanwhile, if you can honestly and objectively look at what you might have done differently, since "hindsight is always 20/20," next time you'll know better so you can do better. This is not the same as saying YOU are a failure. You're a success because you followed your dream, did something you love, and gave it your best effort. Your business venture failed, not you. And it only failed in Manco; that doesn't mean you had the wrong idea; it sounds like a lot of it was that you were in the wrong location. If you two want to cook together for a living, a new opportunity will come along.

PS How's your daughter doing in all this? Had she settled well in small-town America, or is she happy to be moving on?

PPS Don't come to Northern California, or any place else whose economy is tied to the tech. sector. Restaurants are closing left and right around here, and business is way down.

superpup's picture

(post #57233, reply #19 of 71)

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Don't beat yourself up--you couldn't have done more than you did, and it was noble of you to try; the only business with more of a risk factor than acting has to be the restaurant busines. I'm sure you'll come up with another idea, and best of all, you'll have the guts to try it.

MadMom_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #20 of 71)

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I think (I hope) it was Emerson, who said, "I'd rather be sorry for something I did than for something I did not do." Not a bad philosophy, IMO.

ashleyd_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #21 of 71)

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As the realtor will say only three things matter, location, location, location. In a run down, one horse (or in the case of Mancos no horse) town you are always going to struggle with any sort of quality operation. It is always upsetting when however hard you work, however good your product, you just can't make the business work. Cut your losses and go somewhere with a big enough population to appreciate your efforts.

mulch52_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #22 of 71)

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Chiff, I'm sorry you had to take the step (closing), but proud that you tried it in the first place. You were absolutely right in putting on the brakes when DH started to dislike cooking--I would think that in an operation like yours, loving the work would be an absolute prerequisite. I'm certain y'all will find a spot in tune with/deserving of your collective talents! [we need you here in northern AL, but i'm reasonably sure the rest of the state would drive all of you insane]

Full-fledged's picture

(post #57233, reply #23 of 71)

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I see it as a dry run. Practice. You can only go UP from here. Get outta that no horse town, you are throwing pearls to swine. There is something better for you out there.

My sympathies anyway,
Fledge

RuthAnn's picture

(post #57233, reply #24 of 71)

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hey Chiff -

you could always come out here! Crestline, CA has a great tourist population, and still has a large amount of locals. The ocean isn't that far away, yet there's no palm trees up here in the mountains. There's snow in the winter, but not too much. And the schools are fantastic. Which was one of our main reasons for moving up here. Lake Arrowhead is only 20 minutes away, and it's a HUGE tourist town. And of course you and DH and DD are welcome to stay at our house, should you come to visit and check it out.

sanderson_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #25 of 71)

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Even doing the small business plans, and being conservative and under-optomistic...it's still hard to second guess what will grab enough attention and business to stay afloat. You didn't fail, you just guessed wrong and next time you plan something you'll be this much smarter. Your daughter is learning some incredibly valuable lessons here.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #26 of 71)

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Thanks to you all...We're working feverishly here to clear space to store our restaurant equipment. With my jigsaw puzzle ability to fit things into small spaces, I think we can swing it. It's so damned hot here right now, I don't have much incentive though. Daughter comes home tomorrow but is in the know about the restaurant closing. Actually, she's quite excited about moving and I think she'll love Florida. She loves it every year when she visits mom (which is where she is now).

Yes, we may sometime down the road try this again. I really do believe we cut our losses because DH had the guts to say, "OK, time to pack it in." Thank God, I never began to resent cooking - and I think he'll definitely get his love of cooking back once the pressure is off. As soon as the cool weather rolls around, I'm sure we'll be fighting over who gets to cook again ;).

Also thanks to you lurkers who have sent me personal e-mails - it means a lot to have such support from a great group of people.

Adele_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #27 of 71)

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Chiff, DH & DD-

Florida will be a much better place if you do decide to relocate here. Just stay out of Orlando/Central FLA, restaurant turnover is unusually high and the traffic totally sucks.

I have to say that I so admire you, I would never in a million years be able to move across country to a man I met on the internet, open a restaurant, have it fail and want to do it again. (the rest, not the Dear Husband part)

Warm thoughts from FLA

(Ending which you can't use- I had it first- LOL)

SandraM's picture

(post #57233, reply #28 of 71)

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I nominate this thread for the Memoirs folder. Any seconders?

MadMom_'s picture

(post #57233, reply #29 of 71)

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Great idea...then when chiff and DH are world famous chefs with the classiest restaurant in...?...we can say we knew them when!

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #57233, reply #30 of 71)

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Chiff, I am sorry that things didn't work out. It is tough to make a go of it in a small, dead town.
Don't view this as a failure. I am sure you did a great job but the town was not viable.

As big a restaurant city Seattle is, many very good ones are beginning to close because of the economy. There have been numerous articles in the newspapers recently about the sudden and recent downturn in the restaurant business.

I would love to try a restaurant of my own just to see if it would work. But, my years of experience in the corporate world evaluating businesses and their viability leads me to the conclusion that restaurants are a bad investment - even in the best of times.

I am sure you will get a chance to try again.