(Blogger’s Note: Each Friday an excerpt from the soon to be published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant appears in this space.)
When Bill McWhirter called and said he was a reporter from Time Magazine I was speechless for the first time in years. McWhirter had covered the Vietnam War, had worked at various Time bureaus across the globe, and was now calling us. We exchanged small talk for a few minutes as reporters normally do to break the ice of a phone call. McWhirter was developing a story about executives leaving Corporate America and returning to the simple life. He thought Kranston would be a great interview. I agreed and asked him to hold on while I got her out of her meeting.
Kranston immediately presumed this was one of the many pranks I had been known to play on people. I assured her that it wasn´t, that McWhirter was actually on the phone and was really a reporter from Time. Eventually she picked up the phone, introduced herself and spoke to McWhirter for what seemed like hours.
While Kranston and McWhirter discussed all things Crocus Hill, I attempted to remain calm. It was the middle of January. The register was silent for hours at a time. Keith, our contractor-painter-do-everything hammer and nail guy-in-residence was beginning to burn out. The ceiling was completed, but his carpentry skills were not surfacing as quickly as his painting talent had.
But, McWhirter´s call boosted the slagging enthusiasm that comes with Minnesota´s cabin fever season. I knew the affect of a miniscule mention in a national magazine could have on a subject. And, even though our remodel had taken the store to another level visually, we still needed a shot in the arm. A stamp of approval from a national magazine would introduce our concept to new customers who were unfamiliar with the history of the store and the changes it was going through.
Kranston appeared pale as she came out of the office.
"How´d it go?" I asked.
"Not bad. He asked a lot of questions and we had a really nice conversation. He enjoyed the leg of lamb. And he did come by and look in the windows."
"That´s great. Do you think he´ll do a story?
"He is working on a piece about corporate executives leaving corporate America, just like he told you and…"
"Stop it. Is it going to get in Time" I asked, interrupting.
"Well, he didn´t know but they are sending a photographer out this Saturday to do a photo shoot." she said.
"Oh,God. I can´t believe this. This is going to be incredible." I yelled, crushingly hugging my partner.
Although not yet knowledgeable chef, I knew the magazine business. Time Magazine would only send a photographer out if they had plans on using the story as a major piece. This was going to be more than a mention if the shots came out to the editor´s liking.
The staff assumed we were nuts. They never believed that they would be in Time Magazine. We immediately parlayed the interview locally and notified the daily papers. And, we made sure Lori, Lindy´s counter partner at the order taking station, has all the details. Although Lindy was disgruntled with the Time episode; More customers to impede on his day, Lori on the other hand couldn´t have been happier. Once he knew, we knew, everyone in town would know. By Saturday we would be busy whether the article ever appeared or not. With Lori´s broadcast capabilities, people would be hovering just to watch the photo shoot.
We focused on fine tuning before the photographer came. Everyone needed new flannel shirts, Khaki pants and fresh aprons. The photo shoot was the perfect excuse to make uniforms mandatory. It was the look of the future for Crocus Hill.
We conceptualized and designed the new produce department. We dressed the food presentation cases with antique retro linens developing our bountiful, whimsical style. The floor to ceiling shelves were completely inventoried with gourmet products and one small corner of the store was picture perfect and presentable.
Renowned Twin Cities designer G.R. Cheesebrough, had completed our new labels and signage for the front of the store and they were painted on the windows on Friday night. A small black carriage, the style used in St. Paul in the late 1800´s was perched on the top of a hill signifying Summit Ave. The words "Crocus Hill Market Purveyors of Fine Foods," formed a circle around he artwork. Our logo and mission statement was complete.
Lindy had stopped reading the obituaries a week earlier, so when we arrived on Saturday morning spirits were running high. Lori hadn´t eaten an snuck any muffins in the cooler in three days. Things were improving. We sprung the new uniforms on the staff and got the reaction we assumed we would get.
"Do we have to wear these all the time" Lindy asked.
"No, only while you´re at work. But if you want to wear them after work or out to dinner you can. They´re pretty good looking." I said.
"Well, I don´t know if ya know what these flannel shirts are going to do for business. But I´m not too big on flannel" Lindy said.
"Oh, I think there great. Oh yeah. I like "em. Plus they´ll keep us warm when we have to go in the cooler." Lori said.
After a few more seconds of debate and the realization that the company was paying for each of their two uniforms they finally understood that wearing flannel was the fashionable thing to do. Plus, after work they could always wear the outfits ice fishing.
As a bonus we sprung two new red cardigan sweaters on them: one for Lori, one for Lindy, along with a red turtlenecks for the each of the recently hired stock boys. Of course, the last thing we needed were more employees of the stock boy caliber. But, we wanted the picture to appeal to both couples with kids and the elderly.
The photo shoot was a major production. This wasn´t a few snapshots with a point and shoot. This was lights, reflectors, assistance. This could be cover material, we thought. The two daily papers showed up and also captured some of the shots.
Shots of staff on the rolling ladders, behind the recently refurbished general store counters, huddled together by the produce department were taken over and over again. While the store was closed the onlookers enjoyed coffee, muffins, doughnuts and samples from our overstuffed photogenic prepared food case. It became a neighborhood Time Magazine party and turned out to be a tremendous marketing event.
Finally, after shooting for almost four hours, the shoot wrapped. We opened the store for business. The adrenaline was running high. Customers asked a lot of questions. And most got the same answer, "We don´t know when it will be in the magazine." All we could do was wait