Saturday, June 28, 2008

Crystal, Duke, and other things

Imagine growing up in the Pacific Northwest and never seeing the ocean. Imagine how you would react to such majesty and splendor. Myself, I can not remember the first time that I saw it. I only know that each and every time I see it now, I am at awe of its Beauty and Power. It is not just the visual but the sound and smell. You must experience it to know what I mean.

Crystal, one of our cooks, had grown up here and never experienced that. So, Judy and I decided it was time to see if we could help. Judy, Trinity, Andrea (one of our wait staff), and Crystal took a day trip on Thursday and showed Crystal one of Judy and my favorite places. I wish I could have seen her face when she first layed eyes on it but could only listen to Judy's stories of Crystals reactions. They say that a picture says a thousand words and I think this one says that Crystal had a good time.

I think she is already planning her trip back.

I don't know if any of you saw the story on the man who was hit by a truck crossing the street by Costco. That man, Duke, was riding over to the Forum after leaving Jake's. He rides all over picking up cans where ever he can. I have really come to enjoy his presence and his smile. "Hiya Jake!", he would yell out as he rode by. I even set up a special place behind the building that only he and I knew of to put my cans so that no one else would take them. I always wanted to get to know him better but I just didn't. I didn't even know that he was married. I am hoping that he makes it through every thing OK and that I get the chance to get to know him better. I am praying for you, Duke.

I put out a PSA on the fourth of July BBQ last Monday. Only the Bulletin called me back but it never made it to the Friday GO magazine where some people get their info on places to go and see. I guess I am wondering out loud if one can do to much and then since it is already been news in the past, some media don't see the point in getting the word out. If the media does not pick it up, I wonder just how well it will go. This is the fourth year that we have had the event. The first year was a bust while the second a great success thanks to the various media that picked it up. Last year, it coincided with our Wednesday night cruise in and that alone helped with its success. This year, it is on a Friday and i guess it will all depend on two things. Whether I can get the word out and just how many other events will be going on that evening.

This was the first give back to the community event that I set up after the move to the east side. My reasons were numerous. I wanted to give back to the community that kept me alive, I am a vet and wanted to help out other vets, but the most important reason was that I wanted to honor one particular vet. A man who does things quietly and does not seek recognition. Ron Mercinheimer (I hope I spelt that right) or Dry Ron as he is known at Jake's. Without Ron, there would be no Jake's. And without him, both COVO and VVA would be much different. I hope to write a whole story on him one day but I just wanted it known that this first event, this special veteran event on the Fourth of July is my personal public "Thank You" to Ron.

I will be sending out another PSA on Monday and I hope that the media picks it up but rest assured, I will be doing it regardless of whether they do or not.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Vietnam Veterans Fourth of July BBQ

I have sent off the following PSA on our Fourth of July event:

Fourth of July BBQ

Jake’s Diner and the Vietnam Veterans of America are partnering on a BBQ at Jake’s on the evening of the Fourth of July. All proceeds will be going to the Vietnam Veterans of America.

The BBQ will start at 6PM with entertainment from the “Taelour Project” in Jake’s parking lot from 6PM until 8PM.

Everyone is welcome to stay at Jake’s for a great position to watch the fireworks from their parking lot. Please, no alcohol or fireworks.

Who: Jake’s and VVA.
What: Fourth of July BBQ
When: July 4th, 2008 at 6PM
Where: Jake’s Diner
2210 NE Hwy 20
Bend, OR 97701

For any more information, please call Lyle at 419-6021

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What to do with the evening shift

I realize that I have not posted much lately and apologize for that. On a positive side, one of the reasons is that I am getting some sleep. It seems that most of my posts are in the early morning hours.....wait a minute, just like this one!

I try and keep up with the news of importance to my business, so the recent articles of running a restaurant in Bend have been quite interesting to me. I glean two positives for Jake's from them. First off, a recent article talked of the fact that you need deep pockets to open a restaurant here in Bend. That speaks out of the uniqueness of Jake's in that we started up and then moved on the slimmest of budgets along with one of the smallest profit percentages around. This happened because a community and a crew stood behind Judy and I and still do to this day. I often times marvel especially on a busy weekend and am humbled by the amount of business and support. It seems sometimes that the more that I give back to the community, the more that the community supports me and I am truly and eternally grateful.

Secondly, the overall health of the industry here seems to be hurting. I here of other restaurants that are down as much as 25 percent. I am down only 2 percent so far this year but I do see a weakness that concerns me and that is the evenings. While the morning shift seems to hum along, the evening seems to falter, often times not meeting the receipt amount needed to break even. This has always been a problem but seems to be even more recently. I have done various things on various nights to continue to fight, only to find other nights falter.

Monday night is poker night. It is funny that it seems that the more people we get in to play holdem for habitat , the more diners we seem to get on the main floor. It is almost as if they come in the hear the hoops and hollers from the back room.

Tuesday night is Spaghetti night. All you can eat for a very reasonable price of $7.99 with the kids eating for $1 each. I meant this to be a night for families (especially ones that normally cannot afford to go out much). This seems to work but not as consistently as I had hoped for. I have considered maybe other items but the spaghetti is pretty popular, especially with some of the youths so I will continue with it.

Wednesday nights is hot rod night. Last week was by far the busiest of the season with so many cars in the lot that others had to park outside the lot. I am blest with additional parking outside of mine that clears up in the evenings when other business employees leave for the day. I am equally quite thankful for a core group of these local cruzers who support us even in the middle of winter. We call them the Jake's "cool kids" and have actually looked to try and get some tshirts made for them. I need to get back to my tshirt guy on that one to see if we have made any further progress there.

Thursday nights, we have started a steak night that we have coined "Thank goodness it's Thursday" (thanks to Lana, our day cashier, who came up with the name and by the way is a reader of this blog so when you read this Lana, Thanks!). We sell our hand cut ten ounce Black Angus Top Steak for under Ten Dollars (I don't know of another restaurant around who does that). It allows for that person who loves a good steak to have one without killing their pocket book. This has just recently started so I cannot gauge its popularity just yet.

That leaves Friday and Saturday which are usually fairly good nights. They have been a little quite these past few weeks and I kind of look to two things for the reason. First, with the rising fuel prices, people are just not going out as much as they used to and second, there always seems to be something going on around Bend in the warmer summer months.

Now that brings me to Sunday. Sunday is a funny day for me. The morning shift is the busiest shift of the week for us while the evening is the weakest. I have considered shutting down early that night and indeed have used it for the night to bring in the outside cleaners for the floor and hoods or any other maintenance that is needed. I have used it for special events such as the business Christmas party and the recent People to People Mothers Day Brunch.

So, I am left with soliciting ideas on how to make Sundays more viable and equally important, how to make them fun. I have asked the crew for ideas and want to open the idea thoughts to all of you also. If you are interested, please contact me at and if I use your idea (and you are the first to come up with it), I will make it worth your while. It is consistently, the quietest night in most operations and I understand that. I just want to make it strong enough to justify it.

BTW, I put out public service announcements yesterday on our next big event. On the Fourth of July, we will be holding our fourth annual Veterans BBQ. It will be an all you can eat BBQ with ribs and chicken and all of the proceeds will be going to the Vietnam Veterans of America who will be working the floor in the BBQ area that night. We will also be entertaining with the "Taelour Project" once more in our parking lot from 6 to 8. Some people have asked why we stop the music at eight instead of going all the way to the fireworks (which can be seen quite well from our lot). I am sitting on the edge of a senior park and I don't want to bother them with the sound of the music after 8 as many of them go to bed at that time. Everyone is welcome to hang out in the parking lot and watch the fireworks that evening. Please, no alcohol or major fireworks in the lot.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stupid is as stupid does

They say things come in threes or at least I heard that said once or twice. That seemed to be the case with me recently. Maybe it is my age catching up with me, maybe it is just coincidence, or maybe early signs of something else but the following happened to me within a 24 hour time period.

1. I was driving out of the US Cell lot across the street from IHOP. I was driving down the parking lot to turn onto the lane that comes up to the light. Everything looked normal with the lot being rather full as I turned into the lane. At first, something did not seem right and the lane seemed rather small. I wondered why I had not noticed that before but pulled right up to the light. I was confused as I felt that I was over to the left more than I should have been. I felt that because I was. I noticed to my right the line of cars waiting to pull out that had looked like parked cars to me just seconds ago. I was in the lane that you drive into the parking lot! To make matters worse, cars began to turn right into my lane. I quickly backed up with a red face to the laughter of the people in the proper lane. I waved and apologised as the stream of cars that I had held up went by me. Some understood while others just shook their heads. By the time that I reached my proper place the light had turned red.

2. Later, back at the diner, the busy cooks looked like they needed a cool down. I offered to make them all smoothies of which they quickly accepted. I got out the smoothie glasses, loaded them up with ice and just the right amount of water. I then scooped up the smoothie mix into the blenders. Putting the top on, I turned on the blenders. I stared at the blenders wondering why the weren't doing what they normally did. The level was less and they didn't seem to be blending properly. Then I looked down at the glasses in front of me still full of ice and water just waiting to be poured into the blenders also. I was just blending the smoothie mix alone!

3. Saturday morning, I awoke and looked out the window to see the balloons going up. I could see that they were going to go over the top of the diner so I quickly dressed and drove over with my camera in hand. I got tons of great pictures such as balloons over the diner from various directions and a few going in front of Pilot Butte also. But there was one shot that beat them all. As the bright yellow balloon floated by the large flag at Thomas Sales, I shot a few pics of it. One of them, I felt really good about. As the flag flapped, it seemed to wrap around the balloon like a frame on a picture. I looked at the pic and said, that is definitely one to submit. I also took some short movies of the balloons as they floated right above me and you could hear the sound of the blasts that heated up the air keeping them afloat.

I drove back to the house, eager to share my pictures with Judy. I pulled up into the driveway and opened up the screen on the camera with the intent to find that picture of the balloon framed by the flag. The format on the screen was wrong with the picture turned 90 degrees instead of filling up the screen. I figured I could fix that and quickly went into the menu. I saw format and what looked to be a sideways page so in my mind, that seemed to be the right thing to correct the problem. I hit the button and another screen came up telling me something about the size. That didn't seem to matter to me so I hit the button again. A line went across the screen and I shuddered at what I had just done. How stupid of me. I knew what formatting meant. I had just formatted the card on the camera! Sure enough, as I went back to the pictures, the screen told me that their was no data on the card. I had just wiped out all of my pictures!

I am in hopes of this type of thing not happening to often or at least not as frequent as these events were to each other. Maybe I am just too busy. Maybe I have too many things swimming around in my head. Maybe I am just getting older. Maybe its that cell phone thing. Or maybe just coincidence. Who knows.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Trin, lawnmowers, and other such things

Sometimes even I can not get over just how busy my life has become. The diner keeps me hoping but there always seems to be something else that is always happening. My last few says is very much an example.

To preface, I need to go back 6 months. Trinity had just decided to move up to Portland. I had asked her to get a place on the main floor as I was tiring from packing her stuff up and down steps. Judy had gone up to help her find an apartment and she gave me a call. A very excited Trinity said, "Dad, I have my apartment. I have good news and bad. The good news is that it isn't on the second floor. The bad news is that it is on the third.". So, with the help of Casey and one of my cooks, Kevin, I helped her rent a uhaul and moved her stuff up to Portland. Now, 6 months later, she has had her fill of Portland and wants to move home again.

Saturday, we flew up to Portland in the morning (it sure is great that she works for the airlines. I kind of hope that she stays there for a while). We rented a uhaul and started the packing up and carting down the two sets of steps (one was a double back so it felt like three sets). Around 10:30, I had to break away and drive down to the radio station, KBNP, where I was set to be featured in a hour long radio show called "Dining Out in the Northwest". We had been picked earlier on this year and I was looking forward to the event not knowing how much impact that it might have this far away from home. The show was fun and interesting and when they asked for call ins, a friend of the family, Anisha Slokum called in which added to the fun. On the way back to Trins, Anisha's husband, Randy, called to let two of their boys talk to me about how excited they were to hear both their mom and papa (they have decided since Jayden calls me that, that they will also). It was a kick to talk to the boys and one of them signed off by telling me that he loved me (I was deeply touched).

Back at Trinity's, we began the daunting task of packing down and loading up her stuff. We stopped for lunch at a local Chinese fast food place called Panda or something like that. That was a major mistake as the lunch worked on us while we finished up the move. Over and over, I would have to take breaks, out of breath with the sweat pouring down my brow. Finally, around 5 or so, we finished up and drove by her new place that she will live at while she is waiting for her transfer back to Redmond. It is a flop house closed to mall 205. A flop house is where pilots and flight attendant generally have a kind of home away from their base home. Trin's room is in kind of down in a hole in the basement. Other rooms in her section of the house are homes for a couple of pilots and a flight attendant. I hope that she does not have to stay there too long as I felt boxed in just being there a couple of hours. With the long drive home, I arrived shortly before 9 and had no problem sleeping after soaking in the tub for a short time. I knew that I would be feeling it on Sunday.

Sunday came and I was off for a busy day at work. Everything went well until we experienced a hick-up in the kitchen around 10am. I didn't notice it at first but then began to notice that the room wasn't rolling over as fast as normal. Going into the wait station in front of the kitchen, I found a group of waitresses puppy dogging. Now for those who don't know that term, it means they were standing staring at the cooks hoping to get one of their orders out of the kitchen. The term comes from the look in their eyes, like a puppy who wants some attention. I shued them all out back on to the floor to pour coffee or see to anything else that their customers needed and looked into the kitchen. Around 30 tickets or so were on the bar with the cooks stuck on the first three or so. Once something happens like this, it is hard to pull yourself out of the hole and it tends to kind of bloom throughout the entire operation and we end up with problems every where. I quickly began looking for the cook who was to arrive at 11 and as quickly as we got him in the door, we put him on the eggs which I could see would be the balancing factor that would help us calm back down. By 11:30, we were back in business and rolling smoothly again. Maybe one of the hardest parts of a problem like that is that most of the crew begins to panic a little and the customers become impatient. It is my responsibility to be the calm in the storm and try and smooth out all of the problems in a cool and calm manner while inside of me, I am being ripped apart. Between 1 and 2, the rush had subsided and I left to begin unpacking the van that I had drove back the night before. Judy brought over a couple of the crew to help and we finished unloading around 2:30. I plopped down on the couch, exhausted, and went to watch some TV.

Now, last week, we had finally decided that we finally decided to go out and get a TV for our family room. After much searching and looking over, we decided on a Vizeo from Walmart. Two days after getting it home, it began to mess up, popping and having funny lines all through it. I took a picture of it once when it happened and took the set back to Walmart with the pic showing what the problem was. I then went out to Costco and decided on a same size but a Westinghouse. I liked its picture next to the Vizeo and the plug ins on the back looked easier. Now two days after bringing it home, it too was having problems. This set was loosing where it was in the input and just shutting off.

As I rested on the couch with a coke and watched some TV, the Westinghouse acted up again. "That's it!", I shouted and preceded to pack up the new TV and took it back to Costco where I decided on a Panasonic Plasma instead. I just got it unpacked and had Trin and Judy help me put it back into place when it was time to take Trinity back to the Redmond airport so that she could return to Portland and her other job. Arriving back home, I collapsed back into bed and readied my body for another day.

Monday morning came too soon and Judy and I went out to get some supplies for the cater job that we had gotten for Monday evening and on our way back stopped by Sears to see if our lawn mower was ready. Sears was not open yet so I decided to call later when it was. I had received a call the week before stating that the mower would be ready on Monday sometime. Back at the diner, I attempted to call Sears up. The only number is an 800 number that takes you to Pakistan and they could not give me any information nor could they give me a local number. Calling a Sears store listed in Prineville, I secured the local number and finally reached a local person only to find out that they knew nothing of my mower as it wasn't even at their shop. It seems they shop out all of their repairs. "Do you mean that when I brought in my mower that you shopped it out and then just up charged me for the service?", I asked. "Yes.", was the frank reply, "We will let you know when it arrives back here.".

Carrie had told me that I could use hers so I drove over to her house and loaded up her mower. I brought it back to my house and preceded to fire it up only to find that it would not start. I went out and replaced the plug and drained off all the old gas putting fresh in. It still would not start so I called up Carrie and asked her when the last time she used it. "I have never used that mower.", she said, "You used it the last time a couple of years ago. I just use the push mower on my small yard.". So, I looked up for a local repair shop and found one on Greenwood. At the shop, I found that the carburetor was all gummed up and needed rebuilding. It would take a week or so.

By this time, it was time to begin taking out the food for the cater job. I was also invited to the event at the Porche club behind Carera Motors as it was a event for CORIL and we sponsor one of their people, Eric Benarbo, by giving him a job busing during the week. After helping pack up the food, I joined in on the event for a half hour before having to leave and set up for the weekly Habitat poker tourney at the diner. We had three tables of players and I managed to work my way into the final table only to be taken out 7th. After being knocked out of the tourney, I watched the rest of the game which finished up around 8:30, just giving me enough time to rush home and watch the Lets Make a Space show on the new TV with Judy. It was our show and I knew that Judy was a little nervous of seeing herself of TV. She did great but of course saw all of her flaws that no one else will notice. Another day gone by and I slept pretty good again.

Tuesday came and Sears called me and informed me that my mower was ready so early in the afternoon, I went to Sears only to find out that it wasn't even taken off of the truck yet. I waited as the employee sorted through the truck for my much needed device (my lawn had become very long by now). I loaded up the mower along with the sent back "bent" crankshaft that looked pretty straight to me and after picking up Jay from school, began mowing the lawn. One to two swipes around the yard was all that I could get before my bag was full and I quickly ran out of bags to put the cuttings into. Eight bags later and I finished off the yard just as the sun went down. Yet another day had ended.

Wednesday came and I went to work early to help out Judy with her group of Model A guys in the back room. I sure enjoy that bunch of guys. They are all full of fun and love to give Judy a hard time. I sat amongst them and watched them chide her about such things as bring their food back in the proper order and such. Customers like them make our job so much more fun and make up for the hard times.

The main floor got kind of busy and we both worked it for a couple of hours and then drove down to LMAS and chatted with Andy. I have come to really appreciate that man and his desire and passion for his business and life in general. We left there and drove over to the old house to mow its lawn. It has a much smaller lawn but the lawn is very thick and it took more bags than I had to finish the job. Returning with more bags, I finished off the job and then stopped by the new house and picked up Trinity for work. Jay asked to come with me and after Carrie arrived from her job, I returned to the diner and helped out during our weekly Hot Rod cruise night. Knowing Trin was almost finished, I retreated back to my office and worked on paper work while I waited (there always seems to be plenty of that). Getting off around 8:30, we took supper home with us and watched the final Indiana Jones trilogy movie getting ready to go see the new one in the theater.

So, even though I have slept so well in the previous days, I find myself not sleeping tonight, mulling over thoughts of the previous few days. Trin is moved, my lawn is mowed, my latest new TV works great, the radio show went off well and I will get a copy of it tomorrow, the TV show equally worked out well and it is up for people to see (but not hear) in the diner, the cater job went off real well with many positive comments coming back from it, I am sure the line will be much smoother on Sunday, and I still have not qualified for the big poker tourney later this year.......Wow.