Saturday, April 23

Why is it so hard?

Its always so difficult for me to keep any kind of journal or log, especially with this endeavor. Its been a few months now, spring is in full bloom, and business at the shop is bustling. I feel that this past week was the first opportunity I had to take a breath. Maybe I am just getting used to the stress and the long hours, or maybe the dust from opening has settled a little more... Either way, I said to myself that I'd log this endeavor as much as i could, so here I am...
Things have been interesting here. Business gets better by the week, we have a group of steady customers who are all pretty great, and seem genuinely happy that we are here. If you know me, I've probably voiced my concern about acceptance in a neighborhood that seems to be on the cusp of gentrification. There has been alot of hubub lately about Red Hook and where its going... Most recently, the new port of call for Carnival ("Welcome to sunny Red hook!") and that Barbara Corcoran buying up a house near Pioneer street (check out the pix in the times-- shes doing jazz hands in front of the building. and I have to say, she looks a tad like Sandy Duncan) But thats neither here nor there. Ive also met Mr. & Mrs. Fairway, very nice couple, and they said that it looks like February '06 is the magic month for them, and April '06 for Carnival. The fact that Red Hook is "hot" right now excites me as a business owner, and I'm not worried that it will become another Williamsburg, I think those worries are unfounded. Williamsburg blew up because it is: one stop out of the east village & there was enough housing stock to supply the demand. Poseurs and Hipsters of the lowest denominator wouldnt come out to Red Hook because they wouldnt sacrifice an extended commute to go anywhere. Thats the truth. Thats why I believe the artists and craftsmen here are the real deal, they arent the type of people who are worried about what to wear to get a quart of milk at the bodega, or even to get a coffee here at the bakery. Thats why RH rocks. Thats why it won't gentrify with the atomic speed that billyburg did. If anything happens here, it will be because of the Carnival pier. Inevitably, there will soon be all sorts of stores and restaurants catering to the passengers. Will RH become a true port of call? a seaside town that becomes a destination for all NYers? And as a coffeeshop owner, my biggest concern is this: with potentially 250,000 people trolling the streets in the next year or two, can Starbucks be far behind?

And oh yes, I almost forgot, try our sandwiches.

Wednesday, March 2

31.

This Friday.

Wednesday, February 23

Bam Broon.

I'm by no means wealthy, but during these cold winter months, since it's too cold to take my scooter to work, and taking the bus is something I am not too fond of doing, I indulge by taking a car service to and fro. The car service rocks. Its not too pricey, they are almost dependable and they almost always know where I need to go when I call them in the morning. When I started using the service, I would get in the car, and say, very clearly and loudly (over the blaring spanish morning radio show 'El Vacilon') "Van Brunt Street... In Red Hook". About 90% of the time, they would either look in their rear view mirror, or just turn around with a quizzical look on their face. At first, I would repeat myself until they got it, I'd know this beacuse they would always say "Aaah, Bam Broon!" But now, I just say "Bam Broon" when I step into the car. It shaves off a few seconds of travel time.

Tuesday, February 15

Where all the cute boys at?

Jus' axin'.

Perch.

Yesterday I met a woman who is opening up a coffeeshop pretty much EXACTLY where I wanted to open one up in Park Slope. I'm not jealous or anything, more power to her, actually. It just verifies my thought that that area really needed a coffeeshop. And the current coffeespot across the street from it (which is basically a front for a missionary church) just ain't cuttin' it from what I hear. I think this place (tentatively called 'Perch') will do quite well. What really amazed me was that she reminded me of myself just a mere 6 months ago... Kinda Naive and excited, not really knowing what insanities lie ahead. Hopefully, her opening wont be as painful as ours, but that remains to be seen- and I told her that I'd try to help her out in any way I can. I really can't see someone go thru what we went thru without trying to assuage the situation.

Pipes.

We were closed today because the building owners were doin' somethin' to the pipes in the basement. So, no water for us and a forced day off. WOOOOOOOO! Mamma got her nails did today and she did some food shoppin'. Life is good.

However.

Still alot to think about in terms of the bakery. I know for sure I couldn't have done this alone.

Tomorrow: Start doing the books.

Friday, February 11

96.

Passed my DOH class. 96%. Second one in the class to finish it too!

Thursday, February 10

What's That Sound?

What's going on in the world? I really have no clue anymore. For the past week, the only time I leave the bakery is to go to my Food Handling Class at the DOH on 100th street, which is basically going from bad to worse in terms of neighborhood activity. I sometimes feel so detached. I've never wanted more to go to a Virgin Megastore or Broadway & Lafayette during lunch hour or something. I want to see people!

I'm really wanting to buy the new Antony and the Johnsons CD. I'm thinking of music to play at the bakery, and how much I want to configure my ipod, but there is just never the time to do fun little things like that. Will I ever be able to do stuff like that again?

Ladies?

Also, on a little aside, I've decided that I am going to dress up as Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) next halloween. I just have to get her voice down pat, and i'll be all set.

Swindled & Bamboozled.

Is it possible that I gave 20 dollars to a tiny old Italian man who came into the cafe saying he was my business partners grandfathers friend, and said he raced horses? Is it possible that he said he was going to play my 20 dollars on a horse named 'Lucky's Revenge' or something of that sort? Is it possible that he also said, after I handed him my 20, that he was going to give me an 'Italian Bank Roll' and double my winnings if I had any? Is it also possible that this happened on Monday and he said that he was going to come back on Wednesday for a cup of coffee and its now Friday and he still hasn't shown up?

Am I really this naive?

coffee control

After a bad couple of days with the Bunn machine, I think we have it all sorted out. Will know for sure tomorrow. And is it possible our coffee is better tasting than it was before? Am I right? Hello?

Wednesday, February 9

Time Won't Give Me Time...

Due to the tsunami of fan mail I received over the last few weeks, I thought it was about time for an update. Alot is going on these days, I don't even have enough time to get a much needed pedicure. But I digress. Here are some things that have happened (or are still happening) to me to me over the last few days:

1. My cold ended.
2. My nose is dry.
3. I have a small crush on one of my customers.
4. I am taking a course in food safty at the Department of Health on 100th street in Manhattan. Its alot like drivers ed. Sessions are held in a basement, and I have a very stern Croatian instructor. The course is five days long for 3 hours a day. I'm pretty close to killing myself.
5. Valentines Day is coming up, and we are trying to get things in order for the weekend. Its also our Open House this Saturday, and trying to get everything running smoothly for that is proving to be challenging.
6. We are postponing the launch of our lunch menu.
7. My brother lost my digital camera, so, until I get a new one, no new pix on this blog y'all.
8. We have new 'freshly baked' shirts in pink for the ladies!
9. My sister came to visit last weekend.
10. I am very tired.
11. Sven is going to Las Vegas for work over Vday weekend... Sad.
12. I miss listening to new music.
13. I miss having a day off.
14. I miss my friends.

Okay, thats all for now. Hopefully I will have a moment to breathe after this weekend and do a proper update...

Monday, January 24

Cough cough.

I'm still miserably ill. I think I'm losing my voice. Sure, I sound awful sexy, but when you're hacking up yellow chunks between sentences, well... there ain't anything sexy about that.

Matt F started today. He seems very nice, has a little to learn behind the counter, but I think he will do well.

Web store should launch in the next day or so...

UUUUUGH. I feel like shit.

Sunday, January 23

Here's a tip...

Chain your tip jar to your counter. Those Meth addicts are pretty good with the slight of hand. We caught it on camera. Pretty amazing...

According to scientists,

January 24 is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. Mine was on the 22nd, when I balanced my checkbook.

Sigh.

Cough.

Blizzard + Flu = Me at home for two days straight.

By this time, I should have been coming home from a weekend away with my friends, a weekend I have been looking forward to for a few weeks now. Instead, I'm wiping my nose every 3 minutes and trying not to breathe too deeply as it would cause a coughing fit that just isn't pretty at all. My body finally decided to give up on me on Friday morning, forcing me to be bed ridden for the weekend, and mother nature made sure I didn't even try to leave the house by dumping about two feet of snow on the ground. Fortunately, Matt covered by taking care of business for the last two days, which apparently has been good, even with all the snow.

We have been getting alot of positive feedback from people, but I always remember the one or two negative comments we get. One anonymous person said our bakery looked like an Austrian enema clinic (whu?) and another commented on how we (the baristas) were talking about the size of cake slices behind the counter... Too small a slice vs. too large... The person does have a point, I admit, but it is truly amazing the lengths people will go to to criticize you and your work.
In my defense, all I can say is that I put myself out there, put my life savings into something I believed in, and hopefully had a little part in making a neighborhood a better place to live in by offering it something it was lacking.

But you'll still get a customer who says the chocolate cake is "too dry."

So you fret.

Then you take a deep breath.

I have to remember that we can't be everything to everyone. I can do the best I can, offer the most I can, and hope that the overall response will be positive. You're never going to please everyone.

I think I'll need a thicker skin for this job.

On another note, our baker was in the Times today. She said something about CB, which got the owner a little up at arms. Matt flipped a bit. But in all honesty, we really had nothing to do with this article being written, it was put togehter without our knowledge, and if CB does indeed have an issue, it should be with the baker, not with us. We will see how this plays out as well.

Wednesday, January 19

NY MAGAZINE...

...wrote a nice little paragraph on us! The magazine has a nice big picture of our malted cake too!

NY Magazine



I knew this would be hard...

I have tried half a dozen times to write an entry on this here blog, but am always thwarted by one thing or another. This bakery/coffeeshop stuff is time consuming! who knew? I do have a few moments right now and I just wanted to y'all know that Sven is back after a two week stint in Germany (bearing gifts, no less!) and so I think my home life will return to some degree of normalcy (dinners being made, dog being fed, bills being paid, plants being watered, laundry being done, support being given... all of which I was sorely lacking over the last few days... which were some of the most stressful I've had in a while.)

Friday, January 14

Day 3...

I'm exhausted. I have been meaning to write for the past three days, but I can honestly say that I haven't had the time. Even if I did have a few moments to blog, I ate and slept instead...

Quick thoughts: It has been amazing. It doesn't even seem real. Sure all those annoying little problems that we couldn't solve pre-opening are still in there in the ether, flitting around my head, but being open and offering something to customers makes it all worthwhile...

I'll post some pix tomorrow, as I will force myself to publish another entry... Stay tuned for my run in with Florence Fabricant and many more exciting adventures!

We've also been blogged!
curbed
redhooky
amy langfield

Tuesday, January 11

Dark Roast.

I'm not in love with our drip coffee. I have to make a decision by tomorrow...

Nate.

Hired my first barista today. Nate. He's a nice guy and he lives around the corner form the bakery. He programmed the cash register. I have to admit, it's nice to delegate!

D.O.H, D.O.A...

What is the point in making an appointment with the Dept. of Health TWENTY ONE DAYS IN ADVANCE when they do not show up? What does one do when they are WAITING ALL DAY for someone to come by and give them an inspection that they would need to open for business? Does one call the D.O.H to see where the inspector is? SURE! Does the Dept. of Health apologize for the delay and say they will send someone there right away? NO! Does the D.O.H reply to one in a surly voice "It's aftuh five, you cawl back tomorrah aftuh ten." OH YES, YES! A THOUSAND TIMES, YES!

Caulk.

As I was trying to get everything in order today for the D.O.H inspection, I was on a ladder in the kitchen caulking a little area between the wall and the cieling. I needed to grab a sponge, so I left the caulk gun on top of the ladder, descended the ladder to go get the said sponge, shifted the ladder slightly to adjust my caulking angle, and the caulk gun came a-tumblin' down onto my head. I have a nasty bruise/bump thing happening that I am sure will not go away by opening day.

Sunday, January 9

T minus 3...

More finishing touches on the space today. The front was finally cemented up by Neil. We fired up one of the ovens and tested it by making scones. The bakers, Matt and I came up with a baking schedule for the opening day, We hired an assistant baker and an assistant finisher, I hired my first barista, hopefully hiring my second tomorrow, Ken came by to finalize a thing or two, and Melanie rocked the place by cleaning up a storm.

Tomorrow holds much more cleaning, emergency runs to Daroma and a preliminary inspection from the D.O.H.

There is still so much to do, I don't think it will all be done in time. I have more punch lists than I would like to admit.

I'm exhausted. but we are almost there...

Saturday, January 8

Pending...

We were approved by the Dept. of Buildings. We need to get our paperwork finalized, but I think we are in the clear as far as the gas situation goes. Until tomorrow at least, but more on that later. Maybe in a couple of weeks.

I was visibly shaken when the inspector arrived. I just couldn't handle any more bad news. When I found out we were approved, I really didn't believe it. I felt like it was a mistake. How could we have been approved, when nothing has gone our way yet? Was it because Melanie was playing raggae music on the stereo system, and the inspector was Jamacian, and he and Melanie were talking about classic danceahall bands? Was it because we were the inspectors last appointment of the day and he was too tired to fill out the paperwork to not pass us? Whatever the case, we passed, and I couldn't have been more greatful.

The rest of the day brought a few more pleasant surprises... Mike the plumber turned the gas on so we could finally have hot water, we were listed fourth in the Rosengarten Report for Best Chocolate Desert in the US (the spicy brownie) and we found the perfect sized club chair for the space at the Door Store. Who knew? Finally, New York Magazine came by to shoot our cakes! Looks like we will be in the Jan. 22 issue!



Mini Heart Attacks.

I think my plumber, my architect and Keyspan are in cahoots and trying to kill me.

I feel like I'm in a movie. The way things are unfolding are so clockwork, it seems that there is a higher power overseeing it all... making sure the drama is at fever pitch and there is never a dull moment. Maybe its Jerry Bruckheimer.

The architect is dealing with the city, allegedly trying to file the revised plans, and for some reason, it is taking an infinity.
We obvioulsy need the approved plans and revised Schedule B to get the final permit for plumbing and gas, and our inspection is today at one. This obviously isn't going to happen.
The plumber calls me yesterday in a panic telling me that Keysoan got in touch with him telling him that they were upgrading the gas on Monday morning at 7:30am. If we don't have our 'Blue Card' (which we do not, since we would need approved, finalized plans for that) they will put a lock on the gas and not turn it on until we have the blue card. This process can take about two weeks from this point. So, even if we turned on the gas today, it would promptly be shut off on Monday morning.

Stay tuned to see what develops...

Oh yeah, NY magazine is coming today. This would be a very exciting thing if I weren't so very stressed.

Thursday, January 6

Rice-A-Rono

It seems our plumber changed his mind about the ease of attaching three gigantic rice cookers to our gas lines. Of course, this is after we bought two of them (non-refundable, you know...) So, we then broke through the wall to remove the gas lines. It really broke my heart to see him chip away at the tile and make a mess out of our kitchen. With every tap of his chisle, the thought of opening day drifted farther and farther away from my reality.

However, after all was said and done, it seemed the damage wasn't so bad. The plumbers are coming tomorrow to cap off the pipeline, and then, after the inspection on Saturday, we can tile it right back up.

Tomorrow should be another busy day. More setting up, more placing of products, more cleaning...

our chairs...


Wednesday, January 5

Oh deer...

Here's a shot I took earlier this evening. Just a little teaser of whats to come...

Gee, Officer Krupke...

Went to Schnack for dinner tonight. I had the Mac & Cheese with smoked chicken and Sven had the burger, which I had a bite of and thought it was pretty good.

Afterwards, Sven and I took the subway home and I jumped into the turnstile with him at the Caroll St. station, thusly using only his metrocard. A police officer appeared out of nowhere and we both got tickets. He was kind enough and basically told us how to talk ourselves out of being fined. I couldn't help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation. People were walking by and staring, Sven was pretty embarassed, but I really found it funny. I just thought "This is just the perfect end to my day."

Rice Pudding.

These People can bite my ass. After alot of hopeful and wishful thinking, reality came screaming into the bakery today in the form of the Dept. of Buildings. As much as I thought we wouldnt pass inspection, I had a slight feeling that we would. We did not get our permit because we had three gas pipes (that were capped off and LOCKED, mind you) that were not connected to actual appliances.

Thats it.

However, the inspector suggested that we can attach anything to them and we would be approved. Any appliance that requires a gas line, of course. OR we can bust into the wall and totally eliminate the pipes. This would all have to be done by Monday, which is our Dept. of Health inspection. We opted for finding a cheap appliance that uses gas and wouldn't involve adding another hood or a grease trap, etc...

Rice cookers.

Huge, industrial, gas powered rice cookers. Three of them. They arrive tomorrow.

Mike the plumber comes back tomorrow to hook them up, and then we have a plumbing re-inspection on Saturday.

What happened to the days where you could just grease a few palms and everything would be approved and signed off on?

Anyhow,

We decided to return our club chairs to ABC. They were just too big for the space. We will see if we find anything else by Monday...

We got the glass replaced for the front window.

We also got our new table legs sent off to be powder coated.

Melanie came in today and was a huge help, she set up most of the kitchen and got rid of alot of the garbage that was floating around.

Aside from the mania, the space is looking pretty fantastic. We are still on schedule for a Wednesday opening. Its going to be a whopper. A big, juicy, whopper.

Tuesday, January 4

almost there...

Busy one today. Got alot done. Still nowhere near where I think I should be, tho. Scrubbed the floor and cut up my hands in the process. I'll live. Tomorrow: INSPECTION. Please, God...

Monday, January 3

ESPRESSO!

It is here. It is beautiful. It also covers part of the mirror behind the bar. SHIIIIIIIIIIIT.

I'll Paint That.

Monday AM. It seems the handyman didn't finish what he was supposed to finish last night. I tried to call him and of course, his phone service said he "wasn't accepting calls at the moment." ??

This really burns me up. I am ready to go 100mph, but I need people to keep up, otherwise, I'm just running in circles...

Anyway, the painters are here, and trying to finish up. I said I would do anything I could to help out and lower the final cost of the job. Looks like ill be covered in brown and orange paint in a few hours...

Sunday, January 2

Sunday Sunday...

Some more finishing touches are happening today. I'm doing a little office work while the guys are cementing up the front and doing some additional caulking/sealing/what have you. Last night, I was looking around and was just so amazed with how far we have come. To see the changes from when I first saw this place to today... it's an altogether different thing. Just so you know, this place used to be a church... One of those "Iglesia de la Maria Pentacostal..." kind of churches. Then we gutted it out. Then it looked like an Iraqi cave. Now it looks sorta like a Louis XVI ski lodge. Go figure. Apparently, before the church, it was a video store, and prior to that, a dance hall of some kind, it was also a grocery store.

We are on our 7th month since this all started. It has been a long road. We are almost at the finish line. Or is it the starting line?

Tomorrow should be a busy day. Painters, electricians, espresso machine install...



This is what the place looked like in August once it was gutted out. I'll see if i can get any of the shots of when we first saw it.

Saturday, January 1

2005

The first day of the year. Here I am, Red Hook Brooklyn. Sitting up in my office on an unusually warm day for January, waiting for construction people to come and finish up some of the details that were left undone by our contractor and designer who hightailed it out of the country for the holiday. I would like to post a blow by blow of this experience so far, but I'm still in it, and it hurts my head too much to think of how it has all gone down thus far. Needless to say, this has been one of the most emotionally challenging experiences of my life. I think I will divulge in small bits, to keep you, my massive reading audience, coming back for more.

Matt (one of my business partners) and I are revving up for a marathon week next week. Ideally, this is the week before we open. and I have a good feeling about it. But to begin to think of all the things that need to be in place before we open our doors is slightly intimidating. Let's see how this hashes out. Photos, journal entires, design, tears and music to come...

Resolution.

Okay. This is my resolution. I'm opening a bakery in a few days (barring any stupidity from the Dept. of Buildings or the Dept. of Health) and this will be my journal detailing the hilarity that will ensue...