Owning a restaurant was an experience I’ll never forget – nor ever want to live again.
We’ve all had a relationship like that at least once, right?
Lark + Lily was open for about 20 months and I learned a lot during that time. Ultimately my biggest lesson was that I refused to remain committed to something that didn’t bring me joy. Months after selling the restaurant, I still feel the effects of that time, but the damages are starting to fade. I’ve moved beyond the stress and disappointment to a place where I can smile again.
It wasn’t all bad. There are parts of that experience of which I’m really proud and the more time that passes, the more often I can focus my attention on those positive things.
Three things which truly stand out:
- I don’t owe anyone anything.
Any and all expenses were paid in full. If anyone ever says anything to the contrary, they’re lying.
- I worked really hard and there’s virtue in that which is like no other.
I truly don’t know how I managed a full time job, 3 half time kids, running 1000 miles a year and a restaurant, but, I did.
- I was honest about what was important to me and didn’t compromise.
Someone once made a comment that basically said they didn’t like my politics and chose to not support my business because of my liberal leanings. Well, I’ll never not believe in reproductive freedom, universal health care and equal rights for all and there are plenty of places I won’t patronize because their corporate policies conflict with my beliefs. Hello, Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil A.
We all make choices. Today, and every day, try to make decisions that demonstrate your independence, provide evidence of your integrity, and display your commitment to honest and principled leadership. VOTE.
Saturday night dinner service can sometimes demand a period of winding down prior to heading home. An adult beverage, along with some conversation, can provide the ideal transition between work and rest, with a bonus if you can walk to a place that allows for both. Lucky Center Square residents have the fairly new incarnation of Pint-Sized, which has evolved from a coffee/beer-to-go spot into a full-fledged beer and cider joint, that does a fairly good job of meeting both of those needs.
My friend and I rolled in sometime after 11:00 to find a hopping bar and selection of quality beverages. While I love a good beer (and plan to drink a few next month while in Europe), cider has been my jam in recent years. I just find it a bit lighter in my belly. As soon as I spied the beautiful can of Nine-Pin Cider Rosé, my decision was made. We grabbed two and headed to the less crowded area, down one step and 10 decibels.
We sipped our drinks directly from the can and caught up, enjoying the great view of Lark Street and the excellent playlist. We were eventually joined by a pretty damn noisy group of folks, but they didn’t detract from the experience too much. I do wish, though, that people could moderate their volume a little better but, it was Saturday night and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. As did we.
I think I found my new summer sipping spot. Check it out.
(Before you read this I suggest queuing up Ella Fitzgerald’s version of the title song. It’s one of the finest vocals ever.)
New Year’s Eve is kind of a weird holiday to me. Long after the childthood challenge of staying up until the ball dropped lost its novelty, it remains a night of varying significance in my history. Part of the ambivalence I feel probably comes from the fact that I’ve probably worked 80% of the NYEs in my adult life. It’s just an occasion to make money at the expense of folks who feel the desire to celebrate the year’s end publicly, honestly.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not critical of revelers, it’s just that I’m not personally interested in dropping a wad of cash on dinner out and the thought of crowding into Times Square, or some other hyper crowded space, is less appealing to me than a polar plunge on New Year’s Day. I’d much rather start the new year with money in my pocket and a clear head. Crazy, right?
On this sunny and frigid day, I’ll make sure the laundry is done and the sheets are fresh. The bathroom will be scrubbed in anticipation of an afternoon pre-shift bath and the floors will be vacuumed. Jeter will get bundled up in his smart red coat and we’ll meet friends at Muni for a festive year end ski. There will be just enough time post-ski to warm up with a big bowl of lentil soup before I head to work for what will easily be my 25th year of New Year’s Eve service.
How about you? What do you have planned?
Saturday was a great day to be an active Albanian. The day began with yoga and while the evening’s activity was a no-brainer, the choice of which class to take was a real dilemma. For the sake of trying something new, I went with the pop up yoga class being offered at the art museum at the University at Albany.
I had originally heard about this free class (donations welcome) last month when it was first offered. I couldn’t make that class, but getting to this one at noon was easy enough despite my lack of familiarity with where to park on campus. We set up our mats on the second floor and were led through a 75 minute all levels practice. Modifications were offered and our instructor, Carrie, was proactive about moving around the room to offer assistance and suggestions. There was a really nice spiritual element and we were invited to consider the art on display as we imagined the colors prompted by our positions. It was the perfect way to loosen up my muscles and joints for my next activity – Albany’s Last Run
This race is my absolute favorite 5k of the year. There’s just something about running with your favorite running friends through the garish light display in Washington Park that screams Christmas to me. Factor in our first snowfall of the season and you’ve got the perfect event to herald the holidays. It was a blast!
Since parking can be challenging, I find the best way to reach the starting line is to run from my house to Center Square. This year I was particularly glad that I did that since my warm up run gave me an opportunity to experience how truly treacherous the conditions were from the still falling snow. It was crazy slippery! After meeting up with the Lunar b*tches, we made our way to the Capitol and cheered as the fireworks display lit up the snowy sky. Despite the fireworks going a bit long (it felt a bit self-indulgent as I began to get chilled) it was pretty damn festive. When the horn sounded for us to begin, I happily started up Washington Avenue.
The conditions were definitely intense – lots of people, slick streets and some spots that were not particularly well-lit. You know what? None of it mattered. It was a beautiful night for a run through Washington Park and Albany was shining like a diamond. As the race drew to a close, I managed to resist the urge to sprint down State Street for a big finish, which was a good show of restraint considering the number of people who went down as they crossed the finish line. I really wouldn’t have wanted to fall, or to have missed a second of that run. It was a great day and night to be an Albanian.
Filed under Albany, beauty, Christmas, Exercise, favorites, friends, holidays, Lark Street, Local, running, snow, Uncategorized, yoga
My time as a restaurant owner provided me with some wonderful memories, a banging wine cellar and a collection of Albany-centric art. Not a bad take away really. I’ve finally hung the pieces I collected and couldn’t be happier with how they look on my walls. There are photographs, prints, a fine pencil drawing and a couple of watercolors and they’re a wonderful, tangible reminder of a chapter of my life that I was fortunate enough to experience.
First up, and apologies in advance for the less than stellar photo, is this incredible sketch of the interior of 200 Lark St. When I asked my friend, Ken Ragsdale, to do my required schematic for my liquor license application I had no idea that I would have this wonderfully detailed framed architectural drawing. It hung in a spot of honor at Lark + Lily and always garnered a tremendous amount of attention and I’m proud to have it now in my home.
The photos below were given to me by the remarkable Albert Gnidica, the man who is everywhere judging from the photos he posts on social media. I’m a fan of his work, particularly his skyline photos of downtown Albany, and I had these two mounted and framed locally. They did a really nice job and the photos looked great in the restaurant and equally good now in my living room.
A map of Albany’s neighborhoods is an image that evokes a few different emotions for me. I originally bought it at the Fort Orange General Store and was thrilled to see that the artist had included DelSo as one of the neighborhoods. Amazing, right? After popping the print into a frame and hanging it in one of the restrooms in L+L, where it perfectly covered an unsightly hole in the wall, it suffered some graffiti. Someone decided to take a black pen and, for reasons I’ll never know, attempted to scratch out DelSo. I was able to wipe it off, but it does make me a little sad sometimes when I think about what might motivate a person to do something like that. You can order one for yourself here. I think I want shirt.
This print, though, can cure any melancholia I might be feeling. I won it at Champagne on the Park’s silent auction and it is the last thing I see when I walk out of my house. I don’t knows how about art, but it feels kind of deco and the colors and depictions of Albany’s landmarks are joyful. Lee Dixon, the artist and graphic designer is a super nice guy and I’ve often seen his works for sale at local art events. He’s also done some awesome postcards that I’ve seen at Elissa Halloran’s shop on Lark Street.
Stay tuned for Picturing Albany – Part II
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.
I’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.