Friday, December 11, 2009

It's been another action-packed week at the Cafe. Lots to report, less left to do.

We're fully staffed for the moment. We got (and continue to get) lots of great applicants, and I think we've got a really great team coming together. In addition to Katie, Sarah (who's now going by Curly), and Donna, we've got Sara, Daniel and Julian. We've all been working in the Cafe all week, and we've made a ton of progress.

Our kitchen is now pretty much completely outfitted, and we've even got some food that we've been cooking, testing recipes. The place is now almost completely painted (next time, I'm hiring a painter), and mostly clean. Yesterday, we got our stools and outdoor tables. We've got dishes, glassware, silverware, and even some decor.

Some fun things:

Sparkle Motion has arrived at the Cafe! Our bicycle-powered video jukebox is ready to blow your mind! Pics coming.

We're starting a book and magazine exchange. I seeded it with a bunch of stuff from my personal collection, but we can use more books - if you've got some you want to contribute to the cause, bring 'em by (only decent condition things that people might actually read, please!). We'll give you some coffee and snacks as thanks. Also, if you've got a magazine or newspaper subscription that you'd like to donate to the Cafe, let's chat.

Our community bulletin board is a big 'ol piece of sheet metal, and we need some awesome fridge magnets to make it feel lived in. Again, if you have some and want to chip in, bring 'em on down.

Under our bike parking, there's another big piece of sheet metal that needs some cool stickers. Got any? know what to do.

We've been testing our menu since yesterday, and it's really coming together in a pretty awesome way, I think. We've got a delicious breakfast sandwich with spinach, egg and cheese, and a little french toast plate that we'll do on weekends. We made some pickled veggies for salads and sides, and although they still need some tweaking, I think they'll be really good. Today, we'll be testing lunch sandwiches, and making lots of hot and cold drinks. If you're in the neighborhood between 11:00ish and 2:00ish, stop by. We'll probably have something for you to taste.

My flu symptoms are now almost entirely gone, and I feel like I might actually be able to ride a bike again, if I didn't have to spend all day picking up car loads of dishes, furniture, food and equipment. I brought my town bike to the Cafe to test our bike parking several weeks ago, and it's got a flat tire, which I haven't found the time or energy to fix, since I've been too sick to ride anyway. Maybe I'll fix it today. Definitely no later than tomorrow. Also, the Radish is coming out of the garage for normal Cafe operations.

I am so excited. You have no idea. I have been working on this project for about a year now, and the transition from making to doing is just days away now. I don't sleep much.

Really, really soon now. I mean it. You'll see.


Thursday, December 3, 2009's almost time!

Firstly: I'm lame for not posting since about forever ago. So much has happened in the Actual world in the past few weeks, and I'm sure I missed lots of golden opportunities to amuse, titillate, engage and otherwise entertain you all. For this, I apologize. I do have some excuses, though...

The last couple weeks of construction were incredibly busy. Because of the way all the final inspections are linked together, we effectively had to finish everything, including things like signage and exterior paint, before we could even really start having the inspectors in. We had a full crew of my contractor's guys, plus various subcontractors, plus deliveries - all day, every day. Plus, I was still having to pick up most of the job materials we needed every day and keep the finish work moving fast enough that, for instance, the countertops were put together and rough finished so they could be set in place so that the bar area could get tiled, so that the wall coverings could go on, so the plumbing could go in, so the equipment could get installed, etc. etc.

Construction ended up taking about seven weeks altogether. I estimated between 6 and 8. I guess that means we kept the schedule. For most of that time, my day consisted of waking up at 4:30 or 5:00, answering emails and stuff for a bit, then getting to the Cafe at 6:00 or 6:30, working on whatever I needed to get done before the crew showed up (sanding, painting, whatever), then running errands for most of the day - picking up materials, meeting suppliers, buying equipment, dealing with various permit agencies. When the construction crew knocked off for the day, I'd be back at whatever else needed doing in the Cafe until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. Home, sleep, repeat. For the last couple weeks, even my weekends looked like this. Which is a hard routine to sustain, even for a nutcase like me.

Also, thanks again to all the friends and neighbors who showed up and gave generously of their weekend hours to help clean, paint, straighten up, and seal our floor. I'm so glad for the support, and I'm really happy to have had lots of folks add their personal touches to the Cafe along the way.

The good news is that my diligence paid off. Inspections went really smoothly, and within just a couple days, we had all the sign-offs we needed. The contractors packed up all their tools (and a few of mine), and quietly disappeared.

That very night, I came down with the Swine Flu.

The Flu (not just the flu, but The Flu) knocked me back on my skinny butt for a good week and a half. I don't think I've ever been quite so sick in my life. I'll spare you the disgusting details, but trust me - they're disgusting. I'm still trying to rid myself of the lingering symptoms. My voice is mostly gone, my sinuses feel like they're packed with steel wool, and I've still got a lot of crap in my lungs. But, as of Monday or so, I'm back on the Cafe horse, and getting more productive every day.

I hired my first employee yesterday. Her name is Kathryn, and she'll be working weekday afternoons. I like her, and I hope you all will as well. She's an artist, a cyclist, and a real fireball. She's helping out already - painting, cleaning, etc.

I hired my second and third employees today. Donna is a food service pro, and will be helping me lock down the Cafe menu, set up the kitchen, and also be working morning shifts once we're open. Sarah lives in the Triple Point Co-Housing development just a couple blocks away, and has been involved in the neighborhood and neighborhood institutions for years. She's also a photographer, and will hopefully show at the Cafe at some point soon. She'll be working the mornings that Donna doesn't. They're both super friendly, and I'm really thrilled to have them on the team.

I've always talked about the Cafe in the plural - 'we' rather than 'I', even though it's been mostly just me for almost the entire time. Now, however, when I say 'we,' it means something a bit different. Which, I have to say, is nice. I've been working on this project for almost a year now, and I've taken it as far as I can on my own. I've had lots of help on the way, some of it paid, and some just friendly, but now I'm building a team, and that team will make the Cafe much more than I could on my own.

I'm trying to wrap up all the hiring by the end of the week. Next week, staff will be coming in to clean, organize, set up and stock the place, and then (OMG!), we'll be open shortly after. No date yet. I want to be careful about doing too much promotion too early, and let us sort of ease into the flow of the Cafe before we overwhelm ourselves with eager customers who have been champing at the bit for the better part of the year to get their hungry selves in the door.

Stay tuned for lots of pics, and more details about the awesome Cafe staff.

And yeah, we're real close. You can start holding your breath now.


ps - We still don't have any artists lined up to show at the Cafe. If you're making art and haven't already sent me a note, please do. I want to see your stuff, for real.