Category Archives: Albany

Turn the page

As of 4:55 on a Wednesday in June, I no longer belong to the ranks of business owner – and it feels great. The transaction was as low-key and undramatic as are all of the involved parties. The deal was put together without realtor representation and the terms were easily agreed upon with minimal negotiation. I walked out of the attorney’s office downtown positively elated.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments in the past few months when I had twinges of regret and times when I had to fight against a feeling of having failed. Maybe if I had done X or Y differently, perhaps I needed to stick it out longer or make dramatic changes to achieve the level of success necessary to make remaining in business an appealing prospect. Ultimately though, I know this was the right move. I can return to what I do best and enjoy most – providing hospitality. Later, for you Quickbooks and Paychex. We’re officially over.

The experience of owning a business has been life changing. I tried something I never imagined doing. I stretched myself thinner than ever before and did not allow myself to get broken. It was more than, as I overheard one of my former employees say, “that old cliche, a waitress who thinks she can be an owner.” See, unlike the person who uttered that statement, I could be an owner. It just didn’t bring me joy and joy, not money, not ego, is the currency of my life.

I’m so excited to witness the success of Mio Posto and to play even a small part in that goal. I’ve worked a couple of nights already and Danny’s food is exactly at the level that I knew it would be – creative, high quality and composed with passion and professionalism. It’s wonderful. I wasn’t certain how it would feel to be “just” an employee, but I’m really happy to fill that role and to realize that my pride comes from providing guests with a memorable dining experience, not from signing paychecks.

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Filed under Albany, Lark Street, Observations, Restaurants

3 nights, 3 burgers

It’s been a weird week. I’ve consistently been one day ahead of the calendar, thinking today was tomorrow, and each time I mentally corrected myself, I was disappointed to find myself a day “behind.” See? This is what happens when I have too much free time – I can’t keep track of it.

While concluding that what I thought was Thursday was really only Wednesday was a bit of a bummer, what didn’t disappoint were the meals I ate on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Let’s start at the beginning…

Albany to Troy

Wednesday was the night of the sick storm that dumped rain, and even hail, around the area. It was the last pre-half marathon, long run that Chrissy and I were doing and we organized ourselves so that we left a car in Troy, drove to Albany and then ran back to Troy to get the car. When we met in Troy jagged bolts of lightning were flying to the west and, as we headed south on 787, the rain began. Out timing, though, was perfect and by the time we parked at my house and got ourselves ready to run, the sky was clearing and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees – perfect weather for a run along the Hudson.

That 10+ miles left us hungry with me craving a burger and an adult beverage. We made our way to McGeary’s, where Tess’ warm welcome and the kitchen’s well executed plate set us right. The burger was generously portioned (Seriously, I could have been satisfied with half the burger. Naturally, I ate all of it.) and nicely cooked to the requested medium rare. The fries were crispy like I requested and the draft cider, recommended by our server, was perfect. I slept well that night.

Dirty Bird

The next night, Thursday, I finally made my way down to Nine-Pin for their Cider and Sliders event. I’ve been wanting get to one of these forever to have a cider and some food from one of the food trucks they have organized and I picked a good night – the weather was ideal and I got the chance to try Slidin Dirty. I had a really hard time choosing from the menu options,  but eventually selected the Dirty Bird BLT, a delicious chicken burger with bacon, cheddar, arugula, tomato, red onion, avocado and chipotle cream. I mean, really? There’s nothing on there that I don’t love! I added some Asian noodle on the side (I’m carb loading, people!) and washed it all down with a raspberry cider. It was a terrific al fresco meal for less than $20.

Lamb burger!

Friday night my son filled up on pizza and popcorn at his school’s carnival and my older guys were out and about, leaving me solo for dinner. I impulsively decided to walk to the Cheese Traveler to see what was on their Friday Night Cookout menu and was lucky to find a seat outside within range of the grill and its wafting aromas. The lamb burger was an easy choice and, after some assistance from my server, I chose an interesting cider that featured hops. As the sky darkened and night fell, I lingered, savoring my dinner and the live jazz music. It was a great way to ease into the weekend and I really hope to repeat that experience soon.

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Filed under Albany, Eating, Exercise, favorites, friends, Local, Recommendations, Restaurants, running, Troy

PS L+L v2

61884248-707A-4D7A-9EAB-26775B959505-261-000000982DC18EBFI’ve written before about some of what I’ve learned from owning a business, specifically a restaurant. I recently reread that piece and, while every single thing I said at that time remains true, I was struck more by what I didn’t say. It was pretty friggin vague in a lot of ways.

I went into the project with an ultimate goal of creating a warm, comfortable environment for a diverse group of guests, feeding them and taking care of them with sincere professionalism. God, that sounds pretty damn Pollyanna-esque, yes? Note: making money was never primary. I’ve concluded I’m not a good businesswoman, but I am a good hostess and that’s truly more important to me.

I’m sure it’s challenging to work for someone like me. I was not incredibly consistent,  other than about the ambiance I wanted to create. I gave a lot of leash because it wasn’t possible for me to be on site enough hours to micromanage all the details. Maybe that was perceived as a lack of interest, but that wasn’t really the case.

If I couldn’t be there, I couldn’t be certain that the business was reflecting me and my hospitality sensibilities. If the business wasn’t projecting the way I wanted it to, it frustrated me, a feeling which was multiplied by all the pressure to keep things going. My business life was negatively impacting the quality of my life, something I just won’t tolerate.

Physically, I could do it. I let the accountant go and began managing all the banking and invoicing and daily sales journal activities. I figured it the f*ck out. I canceled the linen service and took on the laundry, front and back of the house. Despite all of this additional responsibility, and the physical exhaustion from running 20+ miles a week, I couldn’t sleep more than 3 hours before being interrupted by thoughts of the restaurant. Mentally doing math, feeling heavier and missing free time and, now, missing rest.

Something had to change.

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Filed under aging, Albany, Lark Street, Local, musings, Observations, relationships, Restaurants, stress

The peaceful transference of power

Danny & Heidi Urschel

Thursday night I had the pleasure of working alongside Danny & Heidi Urschel, the couple who are in the process of purchasing my business. Weeks ago I had mentioned to them that Champagne on the Park was a big event for our neighborhood and suggested they participate by providing some food and their presence as a means of introducing themselves to Lark St. It was a perfect evening and I was really pleased by the welcome offered by residents and Lark + Lily regulars. Mio Posto is going to be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.

In the weeks since Danny, Heidi and I first met to talk about their business occupying 200 Lark Street our “negotiations” have consistently been easy. We have the same goal – get me out and get them in and make them successful. Simple. They, and their concept, are absolutely perfect for the beautiful space I’ve called my own and it truly feels like the stars aligned to bring us all together in the right place at the right time.

In some ways, the sale of my business reminds me of my divorce. There’s a lot of stuff to itemize and assign ownership, lawyers are involved and there’s a mess of paperwork. Similar, right?  The other thing consistent with my divorce process and the sale of the business, is a conscious effort to keep an eye on the ultimate goal. In the first instance it was all about what was best for the children, while in the current situation it is about what is best for the very special space that is 200 Lark. The civility of our divorce earned the boys’ dad and me the title of posterchildren of healthy divorce and I fully expect the same positive transition to occur with the business transaction.

As I get closer to the end of my business endeavor, I feel an array of emotions – satisfaction, twinges of sadness, excitement, relief and acceptance. I’ve learned a lot of things in the past two years and it’s going to take some time for me to process it all. The takeaway, though, is that I have few regrets. As Memorial Day weekend and finalizing the sale draws closer, I’m truly looking forward to the summer with a new appreciation of the time I will have available to spend doing things I’ve missed. It’s going to be fun.

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Filed under Albany, Events, Lark Street, Local, Restaurants

Mythical beast baby

This kid has flow like a river. Maybe that’s what you get when you give a child a middle name like Hudson. He’s got such a wonderful warmth to him, always generous with the hugs, and people simply like him. It’s charm at its most essential.

In a hundred ways he reminds me of me, but I just keep thinking he has things so much easier, so much better. There’s a security in his life that I never knew at his age. That probably doesn’t matter, though, when you’re a senior in high school and on the verge of what’s next. Cusp is a four-letter word.

Out of all my children, he’s the one I worry about the most, at least these days. They take me on their emotional journeys individually, just like the Mom & Me trips I take with them. There are turns. Fair enough, I suppose.

As a mom, I want my children to live truthful lives. The sooner they learn that being honest and direct works best most of the time, the happier we’ll all be. It’s a milestone just like learning to walk, which Griffin did at 9.5 months. Some things he gets quicker than others, but he’s always loved.

If you see him today, wish him a happy birthday. Then tell him to go home. He’s grounded.

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Filed under aging, Albany, birthdays, Boys, family, love, moms, musings, Observations, Spring

Paid parking

are_you_a_parking_ticket_because_youveFor the second time in my nearly 30 years of living in Albany, I got a parking ticket. This recent ticket was much less traumatic than the one I received when I was an undergraduate student. That time cost me some serious cash because the car, which wasn’t mine, actually got towed to Joe’s Osborne Street Garage. That, my friends, sucked.

When I first saw that slip of paper under my wiper blade I immediately thought “Who can I contact to make this go away?” It’s what people do, right? I know some folks who might be able to “take care of it” for me so I could keep that $50 in my pocket.

But, then I started thinking – who the hell am I to consider myself to be exempt from paying a fine for parking in an area that clearly says “No Parking Ever?” Even though the regulation is borderline ridiculous, there was no ambiguity about what the sign said so, suck it up, buttercup. I guess I’ve got a check to write.

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Filed under Albany, Lark Street, Local, Observations

Paradise might be a parking lot

Whenever the conversation turns to city life you know that the topic of parking is going to come up. While many of us have no issue with doing a couple of laps, or even walking a few blocks from our car to our destination, there are quite a few people who absolutely will not venture somewhere without “convenient” parking. Truth.

As someone who is accustomed to considering a parking spot within a half mile of my location when in NYC to be a real find, I don’t completely understand that mindset, but as a business owner, I need to be cognizant of it. Since purchasing my Lark Street business, I’ve spent a fair amount of time eyeing the county owned parking lot a half a block from Lark Street. You know, the one between Lark and Henry Johnson on Washington Avenue that essentially is nearly empty beyond the county business day? Yeah. That one.

I’ve had conversations with the Lark Street BID, a person from the county, people from the city and someone from the parking authority. The end result: nothing. Zero progress.

Here’s the thing – some businesses in the neighborhood have promoted the evening use of that parking facility to their guests via social media. I’ve got pictures to prove it. There’s a nearby church that has a sandwich board which they place in the lot of Sundays inviting their worshippers to park in that very lot during services. Have they been given the green light by officials or are they merely rolling the dice and taking a chance?

I’m not going to lie – I’m really irked by the lack of consistency regarding both permission to park and the enforcement of the county’s policy that the lot is exclusively for county employees. It seems unfair, incredibly inefficient and it bothers me. Why is a prime asset to neighborhood businesses not being used to its potential? At a time when localities are struggling for revenue, wouldn’t it be logical to make this lot available in the evenings and on the weekends to potential customers and charge them a fair fee for the convenience?

Come on, Albany. You can and must do better.

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Filed under Albany, Lark Street, Local, Observations, Rant, Restaurants, Uncategorized