(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday an excerpt from the soon to be published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant appears in this space.) First hand experience enables me to comment that nothing beats pre-parade preparation. The benefit of what you take away is a life changing experience. So it was with The July4th Cottagewood set up.
Eventually hot dogs, balloons, miniature flags, packages of unwrapped rolls and buns set the stage for kids displaying the beginnings of decorative design talent on bikes, trikes and Big Wheels decked out in red, white and blue, maneuvering around folding tables covered with festive cloths. Bottles of relish, mustard, and ketchup would lead the condiment parade. They would soon top hot dogs, burgers, lips, chins and shirt fronts. The one man Cottagewood kitchen show-Jesse Dugan- would be composing salads to the static-interrupted-sounds of Souza.
The community would show up in force. We were assured of that by the nice neighbor. But at 6:00 a.m. as we unloaded the Chevy Station Wagon of its packed provisions there wasn´t movement on the peninsula. Not a decoration in sight.
After only three days of ownership, coming to the store at periodic intervals, we were now on the steps of prosperity as dawn broke. We were exhausted from the traffic impeded travel that we fought daily in our trek from St.Paul to Deephaven. Adding to other rapidly mounting turmoil, we were quickly learning the need for some level of management at every location- no matter how small the operation- in order to obtain success and accomplish pre set goals. This was taking its toll on our desire for perfection. That was something we could deal with later.
Now we had to prepare for a party of guests we didn´t know who had raised the bar of expectation in order to keep Jackie, the owner before the previous owner, in star status.
We were about to see opportunity unfold. What would lie ahead for our new venture was only hours away. We would soon feel the pulse of the community as the tradition of the store hosting the parade was an age-old Cottagewood ritual that would cement our bond to the customers.
We had never experienced something as grand as the image the nice neighbor had painted. And we certainly were never completely involved in any festivities such as these.
We were still homesick, in a strange sort of way, for New York. Crocus Hill wasn´t achieving the success we had charted when planning that venture. Originally, we may have over projected the project looking at it as The Hamptons, only to find ourselves in a city too small for city status and too big to be considered a town.
Although a fine community, it hardly offered the urban style city we expected. Its westerly Twin with more bustle and pace may have served us better. So we did question what we were doing on the steps of a grocery store in the middle of nowhere at such an early hour preparing to vendorize a neighborhood parade.
Without knowing it we had become caterers. This was our first gig and we had to sign our lives away- at least what was left of them- in order to cook burgers and dogs for people with wagons and strollers. Seems a bit strange in that context but that´s really where we were. And the sublimineal stardom we has sought had somehow escaped us. Were we becoming State Fair vendors? Would we have a small trailer hitched to the back of the Chevy-to-the-levy station wagon with a mini doughnut machine inside? This wasn´t the course we had charted. We needed to get control of our runaway destiny. Quickly.
The stress was eroding our personal relationship. It was the small items that seemed most important. Decisions on mustard type and ketchup bottle size became points of contention. With Kranston´s desire to constantly please the customer and my attitude that they are privileged to be invited to the party, there were some disparaging moments that caused kisses to become tacit bites between us. And on that July4th morning, although there was a pleasant air blowing up from the lake a block away, the steps of Cottagewood were strewn with a heavy humidity that only a partnership rift can create.
It was there, that early morning that we decided who would be in charge of which segment of the operation, current and future. Without any spoken words, I found the kitchen and Kranston found the tables. She became the front of the house expert and I became the back of the house dictator.
Together we spewed cordiality. Separately we managed our domains, while always seeking the advice of the other, with a firm game plan and vision in mind. And, it was fortunate the lines were drawn that day, the parade was about to begin and the importance of a pre-parade line up is essential.