Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The sweet and the unsavory

The past 7 months have certainly been a roller coaster ride. We've had plenty of sweet moments mixed in with some crushingly painful times. We want to express gratitude to the people who have really helped us on our journey. (This is by no means a comprehensive list)
A few weeks ago a biker guy pulled up, looked at Felony Flyers Bikeshop briefly, then came around the front of the restaurant. He ended up having a BLT and sitting on the front bench for close to 2 hours reading stories to Cypress. Several times I tried to encourage Cypress to let the man eat in peace, but I was deterred with a firm look and the reply, "We're reading books". Beautiful.
On several occasions the Strachan family from Divine Spine has come to take Cypress away from the shop for some kid time. (The beach, the zoo, a park) Tremendous, lifesaving kindness.
The whole family at Plaka is just heartwarmingly nice. We've borrowed sugar, shared Basil, encouragement...Yannis the patriarch has shared nice business advice...real community people.
Our neighbor Rick at Canal station who did our website for us. Cooklocal for huge support. Sustainable Ballard such an inspiring group of people. Devra for showing up often when I'm sitting in the window, head in hands desperately in need of a perspective shift. Shane the rad mechanic 2 doors down who is helping get our mini-van in shape for our long road trip. Jay and Rosa who met in this very building years ago, they come regularly for fish Friday and share the most warm, understanding energy.
Then we have the unsavory moments where we just say, "I can't wait to get the fuck out of here" like when I come around the corner of the building loading the van and Cypress has a used needle/syringe in one hand, and a broken lighter in the other. When people are speeding and honking and being obnoxious in their city driving rage in front of the restaurant. When some woman is shouting at me from the back of line at farmer's market demanding the ingredient list for the seasonal relish because she is far more important than the customer I am currently waiting on. When I go to Cash-n-Carry for gloves and packaging and see another burger joint owner who looked me in the face and told me her burgers are "Local and organic" and there she is buying massive quantities of meat........and I am still paying sales tax at Cash n Carry because they are so disorganized that after 6 months they still haven't gotten my business info into the system.(Except when I go to the North end location where the nice manager Paul rings me up special) When we're at Farmer's Market and we've paid $333 for a fire permit, we are operating in full compliance, and a fire office guy on a power trip gives us ridiculous hassle over petty paperwork infractions. The King Co. health Department for outrageous gouging and services never delivered.........This could go on and on. We thank the bad stuff for helping us to realize that we are not happy doing what we're doing, where we're doing it. We build strength and determination to get out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

September will be the end

GreenGo Food is for sale.
We started over a year ago in the farmer's markets. In February, we took over this little kitchen from our friend and mentor Devra of Patty Pan Grill. We have invested every ounce of our being, every cent we could scrounge up into this business. We have always refused to buy cheap food or just have the industrial feed truck drop off our supplies. We've slept well knowing we are doing the right thing. Unfortunately, neither of us have trust funds or family $$, or any savings from scraping by in the restaurant biz for many years. So while we have finally achieved sales goals, are getting a little recognition, and seem to be growing, it's so bittersweet......we have nothing left to give. We incurred too much debt during the first few lean months to recover from. Our family unit has been taxed to damn near broken. Our personal bank account has been empty for a while. (Because all money we pay ourselves goes to our debt. Dev always reminds us that if we're paying our debt, we ARE making it, even if it doesn't feel like it)
I had this conversation with Cypress
"Mama when are we going to camp in Jerry's orchard again?"
"I don't know"
"This summer?"
"Probably not"
"How about camping in the desert?"
"Probably not soon"
"Don't you love to camp"
"I do"
"Why can't we just go camping? Summer's gonna be over soon"
"Because our restaurant owns us, and we can't take the time or $$ away to go camping"
I don't want to be this parent. I do not want to live a life where making money is the primary objective or activity. It's so strange that wanting to support small local farms and artisianal food producers with our business has put us in this situation.
But we have learned many important lessons. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Helping hands

Time again to give some special thanks to a few people who have really been lifesavers. Jami, my stepfather chef from Michigan came and gave us help for 10 days. Joe is driving on Wednesdays so we can put some personal things in order. A few great community people who really put the word out for us. Our farmers who give us good deals. Dustin for being a good low-paid intern. Cooklocal for too much. Bean Fairbanks for making me blog. Dev always. Laura for being a reliable babysitter. Janet Tu for a fair review.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Economic Meltdown reaching Seattle

Here we are approaching the peak of "summer season" and these are strange times. Lately, we have witnessed with shock and sadness the demise of many small businesses. A few months ago, Culinary Communion went under. (But I've heard they have a new plan) The corner of our street in Ballard has soon to be 3 empty storefronts. A corner near our home used to be home to 2 large auto dealers which have now closed. A very dear market vendor is reportedly done. A couple more market people are reportedly barely hanging on.
Yes, our sales are growing, we have a great group of regular customers, public awareness seems to be growing about food sourcing, but we are still not quite making what we need. If we would just order the cheap stuff from the truck, we would probably be doing just fine, but we refuse...refuse to be a part of the wasteful inhumane unsustainable industrial food system. So, by not conforming, we've made our own business unsustainable. Not sustainable in that we can't pay ourselves, we are completely burnt out from working so hard for such a long stretch of time. Our home and gardens are terribly neglected. Our bodies and souls are aching.
There must be a more effective way.