Homeless……..part 3
January 16, 2017

arched-window-overlooking-stairway

Since I couldn’t afford rent and utilities, I gathered up the few possessions I had and moved them into the basement office of Beans and Barley. I was homeless. I didn’t want to admit failure to my family or friends, so I said nothing about my move.

Thankfully, the restaurant had some resources I could use. The staff room was equipped with a washer and dryer (we did our own linens) and a shower. As for storing my clothes and belongings, I came up with an inventive plan to keep them out of sight. Underneath the front stairway which led to the public restrooms, there was an access panel for the underbelly of the stairs.

The front part of the restaurant was heated by hot water radiators which were part of the main building boiler system. During construction it was determined that there wasn’t enough flow to the radiators to provide heat in our area, so a booster pump was installed to push the hot water through our system. The pump and its manual switch were located underneath the front stairway. The pump had to be turned on every winter. This area would be my new closet. I placed clothes hooks on each of the stairs and hung my clothes there. My sleeping bag and pillow fit nicely also. Each night, after the staff had left, ( I would leave with them and walk around the block and then come back), I unscrewed the panel, took my sleeping bag and pillow, set it on the floor of the office and went to sleep. In the morning, I would put everything back and re-screw the panel back in place. The staff always wondered how I beat them to work every day.

I lived like this for a couple of years. The good part was that I learned lots. Eighteen hour days became the norm and I put my heart and soul into the place. There were still bad periods before things began to turn around. Creditors called at all hours and it was difficult to do cooking when the phone never stopped ringing. One day it was so bad, I called the phone company and had the phone removed, (phones weren’t un-pluggable at this time) and a pay phone put in, which had an unlisted number. Finally, some peace! I could still call out when necessary, but I stopped being harassed.

Strangely enough, this action helped the business. It alluded to customers that we didn’t need a phone for business. It made us more popular. This, plus the fact that the food and service was immensely improved put the restaurant on the road to recovery.

By the way, I paid off the loan before it’s due date and never missed a payment.

 

Homeless….part 2
January 14, 2017

buena-vista-building

 

So, I got the loan and I was happy for the moment. Moments pass. Reality set in. By the time I had paid for the contractors to make the place into a restaurant, there was the other incidentals: equipment, food to start up, money for wages, taxes and overhead.

By the end of construction, I had managed to pay for everything except the food which I needed to open. I ordered the food and wrote the checks with absolutely no money in the bank. The bank manager calls me and asks me to come down to discuss the situation. I appear and he tells me he is going to bounce the checks which I had written for the food and supplies. So I said (with my back against the wall) “Go ahead, but all the money that’s invested will be lost”. I had no choice. Pay them or I won’t open, and there will be nothing to recover.” He paid the checks. I was left with an overdraft.

First business was brisk and it covered the checks that I had written. It was new and everyone had heard about the place through word of mouth. Everyone came to try it out.

Well, aren’t they sorry now. Inconsistency, badly cooked food from people who should have known better and canned beans. Business dropped off faster than the recession killed jobs.

After I fired all the cooks and took over, there was not much choice. The few people that visited the premises were new and hadn’t heard of the happenings. I was down to one server and myself. And she turned out to be an alcoholic that stole booze from the storage cabinets in the basement. Not pleasant as she tried to keep on her feet, serving customers. Duh!

Frustrated, I terminated her, hired a new person who cared and we had two to go forward with enthusiasm. At this time I was living above the restaurant in a single apartment for $110./month. No furniture, just a sleeping bag, a lamp, a few pans to cook food with, and a pillow. My meals were consistent. Pan fried potatoes and two fried eggs. It’s still one of my favorite meals when I’m feeling out of sorts. The income from the restaurant was not enough to sustain this. So I gave it up and came to the conclusion, I only had one resort.

Homeless…part 1
January 13, 2017

 

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When I opened Beans and Barley in 1972, I guess I expected instant success. I thought there would be some pitfalls, but I had no idea of how many or for what length of time they would exist.

I started with $3000. cash of my own money and eventually, through a loan I acquired, leveraged it into $50,000. I had some other assets, like my car, that I sold later to bring my total down payment to $5000.

The loan was not easy to get. I had created a formal proposal in a binder during the previous year, and took it to every bank in Edmonton. And, every bank rejected it. I ended up going to a lender of last resorts. A government agency. You had to be rejected by at least three banks before you could apply for a loan with them. The silver lining here was, I was over qualified. I was assigned two loan officers. At first they reviewed the four inch thick proposal and then they called me in for my first interview. When I think back now, I can realize why they were worried. I had no accounting skills…couldn’t do a profit and loss if my life depended on it, never cooked professionally, and I’d never supervised staff before….but I did have an insatiable desire to accomplish this. At twenty-one, I had more guts than brains.

I had already leased the premises I wanted, hired the Dutch carpenters to start the rebuilding of the barn inside and drew up my own blueprints. I had told the loan officers that I had already started the project. I could see them look aghast at the thought of what I’d done. They wanted to see the place, so we arranged to view what I had done to date. They showed up two days later on a Friday and I showed them around. The attached photo is all I have that resembles that first viewing, and it was somewhat more bleak than that. There was a basement, but only a ladder down. No stairway. They volunteered to climb down the ladder where the framing had already been constructed. they could at least get an idea of the floor plan. They didn’t say much. They scheduled a follow-up interview two weeks from that date, when they left.

I went in for the scheduled interview with intrepidation.  They drilled me on all sorts of questions for over an hour. Near the end of the interview they asked me two questions: First one was, “What are you going to do if we don’t approve your loan?’, to which I answered, “Well, I have a friend that will loan me the money (I didn’t), but I prefer not to use him because he will get 90% and I will only get 10%”. The second question was: “What if people don’t come to your restaurant and don’t like your idea. It isn’t the normal type of thing for a restaurant?” I honestly didn’t know what to say and there was this infinite pause, as I tried to think of an answer. Then, I looked at them and said “Well you can’t look at if no one is going to come to the restaurant. I know two friends who said they would come.” They laughed, and laughed and I got the loan.

Growing Old
September 24, 2010

I guess photographs do the most damage. You see a recent picture, and you ask yourself, “Is that me”? “Do I look like that”? “Is that how other people see me”? “I look my age, but I don’t feel that old inside”. “I’m still thirty of forty something on the inside, how come I look sixty or seventy on the outside”?

Our society has created a constant craving for youth. Not to be mistaken as only a current phenomena, it was around centuries ago too. Pasco de Gama was searching for the Fountain of Youth back in the 1600’s. There are always plenty of emails going around that relate to the aging process. They tell you what to look forward to as your years increase. I use to never read them until I noticed the things they talk about were actually happening to me. Health is always an issue. You take it for granted earlier on, until one day you wake up and you say “What was that I felt”? “It wasn’t there yesterday”. And then it begins. The beginning of aches and ailments. Sometimes you get a reprieve for days, weeks or even months, but then they start-up again. Because we live day-to-day, these factors of aging become bearable and acceptable. You deal with them on a one by one basis.

There are positive aspects to aging. Sales people in stores call you “Sir” or “Mame” and if there’s a disaster you’ve heard them say in movies “women, children and old people first”. But the best part about aging is that it happens to everyone. And, sooner or later we really do become equal.

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