Last week I had just been attacked by a woman wanting Pickles…
With the Pickles episode constantly ruminating, I took steps to get out of the business´ grasp with the hopes of beating my addiction.
I now manage to comfortably drive by vacant, dilapidated buildings with brightly colored "FOR LEASE" signs in the front window without slowing down. Abandoned spaces that once played host to successful, packed eateries, no longer attract me as though they were young, leggy, blondes, from Iowa.
But it wasn´t always like that.
In the beginning, the thought of a better, busier concept filling a doomed space in a bad location constantly resinated my thoughts. As an restaurateur with an uncontrollable addiction to ownership, I would automatically slow down whenever driving past run down diners in the middle of no where.
Nightly, I was on the prowl looking to add another 80 seats to the empire. A restaurant "John" peering through windows for that possibly perfect location. A cold, dark and empty spot with a "Great Opportunity" sign in the window, was an instant high. Could this be my next rocket ship eatery location? I was a broke restaurant´s savior, always ready to relieve the previous owner of his pain.
It wasn´t uncommon to walk blocks looking for a recently closed restaurant, with the typed, two day old letter from the ever-so relieved owner, in the window. The verbiage would always be the same. A form letter of sorts, the typed two lines would ever so typically be thanking customers for coming on all their "special occasions". The word "support" would always be somewhere above the signature. All the while wishing the customers well while the owner was on his way to bankruptcy court. He had simply run out of cash, time, and endurance.
Stopping to read the letter I would dream of a new concept, while thinking of how I would break the news to Kranston about our latest acquisition. A neighbor would always be strolling by, acting as the landlord´s shill in the night.
"The place could have been a gold mine you know, but the owner just didn´t run it right." the man would say stepping out of his London Fog shadow into the glow of the street light.
"Naturally" I´d respond.
"The wife and I would have come here more. We really liked the owner, but, the food wasn´t consistent. His specials were too pricey, his portions too small, and his wine by the glass was just a buck too high."
" No kidding."
"Plus, he had all kids in there that really didn´t know much about service. Now they were nice, don´t get me wrong. The Johnson boy worked as a busser. You could always get him to give a you a complimentary iced tea and extra bread. He was a good kid. If you slipped him a tip he might even bring a free dessert. But, he really needed to get some professionals in the place to make the locals feel welcome. Recognized. You know, you´ve done this before, I bet."
" Oh, I know." I would say.
"You should rent it. You´d do really well here".
Obviously his nightly exercise included enticing another sucker into the place – a jinxed location – and he did it well. Could he possibly have been the landlord? No. Not possible. Way too nice.
As he strolled off, cane in hand, I would begin to visualize the newly renovated space. I was sure I could negotiate it for a song.
Squinting past the letter on the window, through cupped hands, blocking out the streetlights glare, I visualized customers waiting three deep at the bar for a table. They were all waving money at the bartender attempting to get a drink. With every table full the crowd grew. I could almost smell the stuffed pork loin through the window. I could see myself in the open kitchen while Kranston worked the door, directing people to seats and waiters to tables. Yes, the adrenaline began to flow a bit faster. It was time to head home- to design yet another restaurant and break the news to my wife.