(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday an excerpt from the soon to be published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant appears in this space.)
After a brief introduction into the community from Master of Ceremonies, David Pratt, the July 4th parade went off in the grand red, white and blue tradition of flags and crepe paper just as it had it for the past 30 years.
Cottagewood was as tightly knit as Merino Wool sweater. Everyone knew everyone and the neighbor´s business was common ground for conversation. It wasn´t a community in Stepford style; it had its own rhythm. And the neighbors who knew what other neighbors didn´t know were not necessarily neighborly towards each other. This lesson would take a while to learn. As the only business venture on the small peninsula, we would soon become the hub of the conversational circle.
Just like any other family, all conflicts and aggravations were left at the kitchen table on special gathering days like the July 4th parade.
The organizers had their cues ingrained in them from generations of parading around the outer road of the land that jutted into Lake Minnetonka. Immediately following the line-up of families the loud speaker blasted sounds of Feidler playing Souza as the siren from the Chief of Police´s car filled the mist free morning air. The march began and the trips and falls and bicycle spills along the way soon became memories to be savored in future parades.
It only took moments for the parade to disappear into the distance around the corner of Cottagewood Ave. to Lake St. in front of the large mansionesque homes with lawns that rambled to the street and shore. Past the Allen´s, of Olympic sailing team fame, past Lloyd Segal’s, the culinary impresario who invented Lloyd´s ribs, through the gates to the Carisch´s, down the tip of the peninsular past the Corson´s and then back to Cottagewood Ave. to the grilled hot dogs and burgers on the patio at The Store.
All the while, the Pratt´s led the way.
The cakewalk, an annual celebratory tradition held in the park across from the store was prize filled as neighbors in the regional style of Betty Crocker prepared cakes and cupcakes to award winners of the obstacle course of adventure.
And again, in the tradition of the day, the winning cakes turned up on the patio with complimentary ice cream toppers. The event was more mid-American than most Americans in the mid would ever experience. By day´s end I knew we would be outsiders for a time, but if we did what we had planned, soon we would become part of one of the country´s most wonderful communities. With the acquisition of Cottagewood, the corporation doubled the size of its stores. And it´s revenue. The day´s receipts from our first parade were $634.23. Increased expenses, increased payroll, increased fixed overhead and increased staff was also part of the picture. And, along with all those increases came increased hours, challenges, and aggravation. We had however found a jewel in the midst of culinary, grocery store confusion. It just needed to be buffed, shined and marketed.
All we needed to do was to keep the parade going for 364 other days each year. That would define the success of Cottagewood.