I am often asked if - knowing what I know now - I would do this again. The question always causes me to pause. While the two years of managing the hugeness of what has become Jake’s has taken a toll on me mentally and physically, and certainly led to some adjustments for my family, it has also come with so many rewards. I call them champagne moments.
I have been an entrepreneur, or taught entrepreneurship for what has now become the majority of my life, and have heard over and over that the restaurant business is the hardest.
I have always wanted to own a restaurant. I recall courting Chris and pretending to do homework in college when I was actually drawing up plans for my first restaurant as a 20-year-old dreamer pretending to be a student. From the perspective of the guest, owning a restaurant is awesome, and it is. You get to socialize and eat great food; you work in a beautiful place with lots of happy people. For sure, but in addition, the day to day grind is taxing: hours are long, margins are thin, payroll is massive, buying right is an art; you need elephant thick skin and stain resistant clothing. Really owning means really working, for more hours than each day provides. Working harder than I ever imagined.
When the compressor for the cooler burns out, a dishwasher calls in with car trouble and you realize that your sales rep forgot to push submit on your order for house wine, right then comes the need for those champagne moments.
Last night, I met a young woman who took a seat at the bar. Nothing unusual about her except for the giant, perfect smile; a smile so inviting that a conversation had to happen. She was leaving today to start the next phase of her young life, a new career in Rochester with a fiancé and a wedding date now only 11 months away. She was soaking up every last moment in our little slice of heaven, a community that meant so much to her. We enjoyed conversation and while she enjoyed her dinner, I offered her a personal size bottle of champagne to celebrate the moment and that big smile got just a bit bigger. She left with a to-go box that she planned to have for lunch today, reminding herself that the microwave should be the last item she packs.
I headed out to the dining room to clear a table and my eye met a familiar face, a regular customer with his chest puffed up a bit. His daughter had just gotten engaged earlier that evening and they came to Jake’s to celebrate. Two more bottles of champagne came out of the wine cooler and a proud father got even prouder that he chose Jake’s as the place to celebrate a moment he had thought about since she was in diapers.
Champagne moments don’t only happen in the dining room. Little Abbie, the young lady we hired as an 18-year-old dishwasher, recently “called tickets”, the leadership
position in our kitchen, on a wild and crazy Friday night and she did it perfectly. Another champagne moment for all of us behind the scenes, one that meant just as much to Chris and me as the engagements, graduations, birthdays, promotions and first dates that mean so much to our guests.
So the answer is yes, I would do it again. The hours are long and each day there are new challenges but champagne moments always arrive at just the right time.
Good Things Happen at Jake’s.