Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jerry, the homeless homeless helper

When I first moved into my new building, I found quite quickly that I had inherited a local soul named Jerry. I believe he was sleeping under the eve behind my place and since he seemed harmless, I said nothing.

As I got the building ready, Jerry would stop by from time to time and just talk. He said that his family was close by and that was what kept him there.

Every once in a while, he would ask if I would loan him a five. Since he always paid off (took a little bit at times), I continued that with him. Besides, I felt the security of having him around didn't hurt much either.

I remember the first night that we opened. As we hurriedly got the back room ready for the next days serving, Jerry came busting through the back door (prompting screams from waitresses who did not know of him) with his arms raised saying "You need to do something about your security. Anyone could come in here!".

A few weeks later on a busy Saturday morning, Jerry came in the front room with a pair of bolt cutters. "I am telling you.", he loudly proclaimed, "You need to do something about your security. I found these out back!".

He left shortly after that to go to Portland for some medical work at the VA and sure enough, a month or so later, we were robbed. (Ex employees, but that is a different story of which I will write of later).

We didn't see Jerry for a while and then one day, he showed up again....to borrow a five. And later to show us his new cane....and again later to show us his dog and to tell us that he was still around.

From time to time, Jerry would bring in little art effects that he had put together from things that he had found along the road. On all of them, he would place some plants that he had pulled probably from someones garden (maybe our own). I would place them out back by my office and we called them affectionately "Jerry Art". He would always leave a note with them telling Judy and I how he was following what the diner was doing and thanking us for our help to the homeless.

One day, Jerry came by with a large bag. "I have a great idea for your parking lot." He explained. "Just leave it to me. I will set it all up and maintain it for all that you have done for us." I asked what he had in mind and he pulled out some stakes with the cones on top like you see in some graveyards filled with plastic flowers. "I can put these over in that blank space on your east side.", he said, "And I will place this in the middle." With that, he pulled out a small plastic cross with flowers draped on it. "Wouldn't that make us kind of look like a graveyard?", I asked. "Funny you should say that", he explained. "I have been sleeping out behind the dumpster at the graveyard and when I saw these, I immediately thought you could use them."

I was touched but thanked him and told him that Judy did not want to have any more plastic plants around. He was disappointed but said he understood. "I am going to keep looking?", he promised.

Jerry showed up last Sunday. He told me that he had something for me to see. We walked out into the parking lot and he pointed at a fairly nice class c motorhome sitting on the other side of the lot. "That is mine." he proudly stated. "I came into some money and I just bought it. Please let me show it to you." We walked across the lot. "A couple of the guys are inside so it is a little messy." We stepped up into the smoke filled cabin. Backpacks and bags of trash were littered around with two glassy eyed transients sitting on the couch. "Nice ride", I explained. One of the two looked up and slurred, "Ain't ours! Belongs to Jerry. He sure is a great guy!" "Yes, he is", I returned.

Jerry showed me through the home. He couldn't work half of the appliances but was proud as punch to have them. "Here is the shower, not that I can get water into it.", he stated. "And over there is the TV but I am gonna replace it cause it is too small. We can't see what is on the screen".

As we walked back across the lot, I told Jerry how proud I was of him for helping out the other guys. "Well, after I paid for the motorhome. I had a hundred left over. I had to buy pots and pans and some sheets." "I have more money in the bank but am out right now. Could you spot me a 5 till Monday?" I handed him a five.

"Schedule me in for Monday at 7PM please", he asked. "I want to bring in some of my homeless friends in for some real food.

True to his word, at 7 on Monday, Jerry pulled up with a dozen people. Many of them did not look homeless but this was Jerry's party. He bought them all whatever they wanted.

You know I don't know how much money Jerry came across, but the way he is handing it out, it wont last long. I am sure that the motorhome will find it's way out in the woods somewhere, out of gas but giving some needed shelter for a few of the guys.

So, if you are driving out China Hat road and see a fairly nice cream and brown motorhome sitting out in the trees, go ahead and give old Jerry a wave. Jerry, the homeless homeless helper.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Jake's Truck Stop.....The movie

I have just gotten word from the producer that the much waited for documenatary that was filmed at the time of the end of the truck stop is soon to come out.

She has given me a date of August 23rd at McMennimans. I am assuming two shows at this time. Around 6 and 8:30 with a question and answer time after each.

For information on the movie go to:

As I get more info, I will pass it on and I am hoping that some of you more computer oriented types can help me get the word out on this one as it gets closer.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chef Jimmy

I want to tell you a little story. It is just one of the many stories of the time of the change over of Jake's. The time when I stopped being just manager and became owner.

After talking to my crew to find out who was willing to take the jump with me, I discovered that I was going to lose my kitchen manager and my baker. They both decided to take the opportunity to change their jobs and lives. It was a very hard blow in that I was flat out just trying to keep the place alive. I knew that I could not do it all. With over 40 employees, I needed competent managers in place.

I recalled a man that I had hired just recently who was doing prep in my kitchen. I had noticed his abilities and had remembered that his resume was very good and I was surprised to see him take a prep job on. I pulled up his resume and read where he had owned his own restaurant for 10 years in the Napa Valley down in California.

I pulled him to the side and talked about his helping me out in the kitchen getting the organization under control. He was interested so I informed him that we would be bringing him along slow since he was at the bottom and that it might take time for the other cooks to start taking his directions.

During one of my many meetings, I brought the cooks together and talked to them about various changes that were going to happen. As I brought up Jim, I was careful to look them all in the eye and look for hints of unhappiness or detention. I saw none. In one of those many spur of the moment decisions, I boldly pronounced that Jim would be heading up my kitchen. Again I looked and again I saw full support. Now, Jim just about fell off of his chair but he went right along with it. Afterwards, he cornered me. "I thought we were going to do things slow?", he questioned. "Are you ready?", I asked and he replied "Yes". I replied, "I am far to busy just trying to keep this boat afloat. You are now my general in the kitchen.". We shook hands and so, Jim changed from prep cook to Chef in a matter of just a few minutes.

I have never regretted that decision. Jim brought with him a new zeal and I found him to work just as hard as myself and do whatever it takes to keep the kitchen running. He also brought skills to Jake's that were not there before. One of his first changes was to begin cutting our own steaks and chops. This not only saved us money but upped our quality. He also took on all of the baking chores until he had someone trained to assist him.

He then increased efficiency in the prep and baking part of the kitchen hiring and training two great girls that are still with us. He trained them to multi task and assist other parts of the kitchen.

But perhaps the greatest new skill that he brought with him was his ability to cater large groups. He seems to thrive on the challenge of them. And I just have to ride along on his shirt tails and just follow his direction. We have catered as small a group as 20 and as large as over 250. In all cases, the entree has been handled exclusively by him. Last November, we entered in the Veterans Chili cook off where he placed first place in the green chili and second in the red.

But perhaps his biggest accomplishments is one that he brought with him from his own restaurant and that we have just continued his tradition. And that is our Thanksgiving feast for Seniors. We shut down the restaurant for Thanksgiving and then open it up that afternoon with an all volunteer staff. We target seniors who don't have family around and attempt to be their families. We sell the meal at our cost and don't charge if the person cannot pay. We also deliver to any senior who is home ridden or just doesn't want to go out. Last Thanksgiving we served over 240 seniors.

All this from a man who suffers from sleep deprivation and diabetes. Now, don't get me wrong, Jim is no saint. He is sometimes bull headed and stubborn. And tends to be forgetful at times but......there is one part of him that overrides all of that and that is his heart. I don't think that I have ever seen a person with as big of one.

Last week, we did a large cater job of which we received a sizable tip on top. I gave Jim the tip for his hard work and for him to decide what to give to the people who assisted him. I told him that I expected him to keep the larger part for himself.

Now, Jim is not that well off. He drives an old $500 Subaru and lives in a small apartment with his wife who works at Isky. But Jim came back to me later on in the day and asked for my permission to give his part of the tip to some of the crew members in the form of gifts to show his appreciation for them.

So, if you are in Jake's and you see him walking around with his white cooks apron on or sitting at the counter eating or working on schedules, please take the time to say "Hi" to Chef Jimmy.

Thank you , God, for bringing him into my life....at the right time.....in the right place.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Shari's South

I have always attempted to remain positive but there is an issue that I need to resolve that pulls at me in the middle of this night so I thought I might throw it out for thoughts and ideas of any one reading this.

I have been aware for awhile of the manager of Shari's south coming in my restaurant and attempting to persuade any good new hire to come work for him. I have basically ignored his efforts and have actually felt a little honored that someone who think highly enough of my recruiting to do so.

But, now it seems that he may have actually persuaded one or at least has her thinking. His offer was to give her weekend day shift which is the most sought after position for a waitress who wants to make money.

Now, to me I see that he must have big problems or he wouldn't have that position open or some unsuspecting waitress is about to lose her job to fill her position with a better salesperson. I see that but it is not what a young unsuspecting waitress might see. After all, she is trying to do the best she can for her family.

Now, I must decide how to address the situation. Do I continue to ignore him or confront him and even tell him to leave and not come back. Another option would be to do the same thing he is doing but to me the tactics are underhanded and stooping to that would only show hypocrisy on my part.

I am leaning towards the confrontation as I cannot imagine a manager of any team allowing another manager to come on his own field and attempt to recruit his players.

I understand that his normal fishing expeditions are on Monday nights so if he comes in tonight, I need to have decided what course of action to take.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Jake's Truck Stop......the movie

Few people are aware that a movie was filmed at the end of truck stop era here in Bend.

A year or so before the truck stop closed, a lady named Shelly Roby stopped by to see me with an idea to film a documentary on the day of the life of a truck stop. Shelly had quite a resume including producing for HGTV and MTV along with working with Opra and Don Johnson. When the truck stop began to sell, she changed gears and began to film on it's effect on the employees and customers.

"Jake's Truck Stop" is about 50% how it affected people and 50%, my struggle to keep the diner alive. It is about an hour in length.

Because of other commitments, Shelly had to back burner the project while she helped put together a TV station in England for Al Gore. But she recently emailed me and told me that she was about to finish the project and hoped to show it at McMennimans sometime in August and then later take it on the road to various truck stops across the nation.

Shelly has a web site put together by a local guy called www.fuegoranch.com. If I get any further information on when the movie is to be shown, I will post it here on my blog.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Thanks to Flygirl (Elyse) and Keeneye for their comments but after putting on a counter, I have found that the blog is really not well seen (16 hits and at least 6 are my own).

Any suggestions on how to increase this viewage? If you have come on from the title, just look at my previous post for details.

Also, I am working on our next big Texas Holdem event. The dates will be October 1st and 2nd. The event name will be "Jake's World Series of Holdem for Habitat". The reason for a two day event will be because the main event (2nd) will be for the winners of one of our previous tourneys. The 1st event will give more people the chance as every table will be considered a final table and thus 4 to 5 more winners will be able to come to the next night. The prize for the ultimate winner of the event will be two nights on the beach at the Oregon Coast.

More details will follow. BTW, Joe from FoxTV won for the second time last night. Joe has shown to be quite a good player and to my knowledge has only been out of the final table once since he started playing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Elvis Cinnamon Rolls

I have a new cinnamon roll that I am promoting. I call it the "Elvis". We chose that name because Elvis's favorite sandwich was peanut butter and banana. I need to leave credit where credit is due. I did not come up with the idea. Last Monday, Greg from Cork was telling me how his mom used to make cinnamon rolls and put peanut butter and bananas on them. I came back and put my kitchen crew to work on the idea.

At first they sliced up the bananas but then we found that blending them with the peanut butter worked better so while it is still a work in progress, it is now officially on our list of sweet rolls. I sampled it out this morning and the pictures are of the recipients of the samples.

Here is my blog special. If you print off a copy of one of these pictures, bring it in to Jake's, and sign up for email specials; I will give the first 10 to sign up a free coupon for an "Elvis".

This will also show me if my blog is being read and whether or not the blog is an effective marketing tool along with it's information.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The professional Co-Rider

I see that Kent has made International news with his balloon ride. He not only put his business but Bend back in the news. Good job, Kent!

I have been putting a few memories up on the blog from time to time. I have alot of them from over the years, especially from the truck stop. I am putting them up hoping that someone will get something out of them...if they are just rambles and have no value, please let me know.

The Professional Co-Rider

One busy morning, I was summoned by one of the waitresses. “I’ve got a live one, could you please help me with her?”, the waitress asked. She then began to explain that the lady had been here for more than two hours, had complained about everything, and had even grabbed her hashbrowns, threw them over her shoulder hitting the customer behind her, and yelled, “You call these hashbrowns?”. The waitress had done everything that she could to please the woman to no avail.

Assessing the situation, I found that I had a middle aged female who that by the looks of her dress and the paper sack sitting in the chair next to her was probably a transient. So I quietly slid into the chair across from hers and struck up a conversation. She didn’t seem to be very happy to have me there and let me know with a scowl that showed off her missing teeth. I got the feeling that this wasn’t going to be a very enjoyable conversation.

After the formalities of introduction, I asked her if I could help her. “Your food is horrible and your service stinks.”, she reported. I apologized and asked her if she could be more specific. “You have foreign objects all through your food and the waitress won’t believe me.” she said., “And one of the things that I swallowed was a big piece of the plastic that was all through your hamburger.” I then asked if she had saved any of the pieces so that I could talk to the people that grind it. “You Idiot!”, came the reply, “I ate them and I can feel one big piece right now down in the corner of my stomach. I’m pregnant and it is pressing up against my child and when it comes out deformed, I’m suing you for it!”

I could see that we weren’t going to get far with this line of conversation, so I asked her if she was a driver. “I’m a professional Co-rider.” she explained. Thinking that she said co-driver, I asked what line she drove for. “I’m in between rides right now.” she replied, “I’m waiting for my next ride.” She seemed to be getting even more irritable of this line of questioning. “May I see your license?” I asked. “I don’t need one! I’m a professional Co-rider! It’s something that your probably not aware of. You managers of truck stops think you know everything but you don’t know nothing. Check with the D.O.T., they will tell you all about it.”

“Co-rider?” I asked trying hard to look at her eyes and not her teeth. “Would you mind if I asked what you do in that job?”. “Well, I ride along with the drivers and if they have a heart attack or something, I’m fully certified and I can revive them and I can even drive the truck if I need to.” She stated. “You’ve never heard of it because it’s a brand new profession, it just started, I’ve been doing it for 5 years now. Just check with the D.O.T., they know all about me.”.

Deciding that I was getting nowhere fast, I stated, “Let’s cut to the quick, if you don’t have any money, I will be glad to help you with some food, but I rather you be honest with me. That’s really all you need to do.” “I got plenty of money.” She stated. “Do you have an I.D?” I asked. She then began a story of how her purse and all identification had been stolen. She was furious that I didn’t believe her and she refused to pay for her food.

“Obviously, if you have a problem that you are ready to sue about, it would be beneficial for you if we make an official police report about it.”, I stated. “So if you don’t mind, I’ll just give them a call.”. “That won’t be necessary”, She quickly replied. “I don’t need the police, I just need a lawyer.”

“You know,” I replied. “I think this has gone far enough.”. “I need you to leave the premises, and don’t come back. I will take care of the check.”. “You doggone right you will!” She yelled as she rose to her feet. “And you have my husbands shirt on. I’m going to sue you for that too!”. As she headed towards the door, I shadowed her closely behind, fully aware of the stares of the surrounding customers.

As she passed the phones, she turned to a couple of drivers and asked them for smokes and whatever else she could get. With a tap on the shoulder and a point of a finger, I showed her to the door. “You still have on my husbands shirt!” She reported. I turned to the drivers and shrugged my shoulders as we all watched her briskly walk away, talking to herself as she went.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Krazy Kent

I witnessed the launch of "Bend's Baloon Man" from the parking lot of his business (Shell Stop and Go) this morning.

Very calm and with no fan fare, Kent merely said, "See you in Idaho.", as his chair attached to all of the balloons rose into the sky. At first, it changed directions and the wind currents at various levels pushed him back and forth but then he started off in an easterly direction fading from sight.

I understand that he landed somewhere between Baker City and Lagrande....all in all sounds like a grand flight.

Well done, Krazy Kent!!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Jake's Fourth of July BBQ

Wow, another big event has come and gone. I thought I would sleep better tonight now that it is over but the heat and my thoughts swim so I will try and put down what yesterday was like.

Jimmy was up before the sun, preparing his sauce, baked beans and baking off Chicken and Ribs to be later sauced and BBQed. I arrived with my wife about 8 and began what I knew would be a long day. I had had little sleep the past two nights with my head swimming of last minute details.

Jimmy would handle the back, Judy, my wife, would handle the front, and I would be the one bouncing around, solving problems, and making sure the event was as error free as possible. I think my biggest worry was the heat and how it would tax the air conditioning as extra amounts of people moved in and out of the building. I turned the air down in both rooms to insure optimise our chances of keeping everyone cool.

We had a very busy steady morning which kept everyone on their toes and occupied my racing mind. We had two fairly new cooks on the line and I watched to see how well they would keep up with the busy day. I was pleasantly surprised to see them keeping up fairly well. We were short a waitress so Judy handled the back room and deck while I spent my time between organizing plates to go out and insuring that people were seated quickly and that their experience was what they hoped for. One of our new cooks made a mistake and made a pancake a little bigger than normal and it ended up going out with two plates under it causing ohs and aws as it was walked across the room to his table. All got a good laugh out of his expression and Judy made sure that pictures were taken.

Around noon, I began to break out decorations and with Ricki, one of our waitresses help began to display them around the deck area. We drug the salad bar out of the way and began placing tables to later hold the line of dishes that the customers would be moving down and loading their plates up with BBQ Ribs, Chicken, Baked Beans, Cole Slaw, Watermelon, and French Bread.

Fielding Phone call after Phone call, I began to wonder if we would have enough. Seven cases of ribs and four cases of chicken were being prepared in anticipation of 200 customers. To insure that amount, we prepared for 250. I began to wonder if "all you can eat" was the smartest of labels but since we had been promoting it that way, it was too late to go back on it. One caller told us that a party of 30 would be in around 8PM. We let them know that we would probably be out of BBQ by that time but they said they would be here anyway. My biggest worry now changed to where every one was going to sit.

I brought out the cover for the band and quickly realized that I could set out a table close to them with another shade so Judy and I drove to GI Joe's to get another shade but also to get me away and keep my sanity in those late hours before the big event. I was tickled how many people offered their assistance as I buzzed around the compound that afternoon. Either they too were excited about the coming event or were worried about the toll it was taking on me (one time, I stopped by the bathroom and when I saw my beet red face in the mirror began wondering that myself). Splashing cold water to cool me down both mentally and physically, I pushed on.

Barb, our super efficient cashier, peppered me with last minute questions as I brought her the stack of tickets and last minute posters to be displayed around with prices. We decided to have an alternative for kids with hot dogs so Judy and I ran over to the store to get those preparations.

Five O'clock came faster than expected as Vets and their families who were there to help began showing up. I had already gone over the various jobs with my wife so I turned them over to her for assignments. As I cruised around with last minute preparations, I recognized an old friend in the crowd. "How ya doing?", I yelled across the room. "I am a soda guy!", He grinned back. A legless vet wheeled his chair in the front door and I knew just where Judy would place him and later stopped and thanked him as he greeted guests, took their tickets, and marked the back of their hands to insure that they could come back into the line for seconds.

People began asking to buy tickets as early as 4:30. Once the tickets came out at 5 or so, they began lining up at the door waiting for the dinner bell to ring. By 5:45, the line was out the door and down the side of the building. We pulled one of the cooks off of the line to assist Jimmy leaving the other cook worried that he would not be able to keep up. "Don't worry", I assured him, "You will do just fine." while registering in the back of my mind that I had best keep an eye on the amount of tickets he was cooking just in case.

The band began to arrive around 5 to set up. Richard would do vocals and lead while his son, Ted (also a Jake's employee) would handle the bass. Chuck (who some consider one of the best fiddlers in Oregon) would play guitar and fiddle. George, the drummer for Mason Williams (Classical Gas) would complete the foursome. As I chatted with them, George let me know that Mason will be playing at the Tower this next February. Confident that all was well on the stage area, I set my sights on other places and began my last minute worry session.

All things came together and at 5 minutes before the hour, my wife opened the gates to the salivating crowd of hungry eaters. I was overwhelmed at how quickly the volunteers took to their positions. Vets along with their wives and children were helping people find places, wiping down tables, pouring drinks, getting extra napkins (I went through quite a few of those), and letting us know when we needed to replenish the food on the line.

The line went out the front door and around the building. But the old cars, sound of the band, and anticipation of a good BBQ seemed to overcome the waiting in the heat and everyones mood stayed pretty happy.

My next two hours were a buzz, checking on customers, replenishing the buffet, and solving problems (one of which was a fuze that kept tripping, shutting down the cashier which was interesting).

In all, we served over 200 people in less than 2 hours. Some of my highlights were as follows:

A couple from Florida who had called me on the phone for directions called me over to their table. Because of lack of seating, they were sitting with two local couples sharing a table and getting to know one another. That sharing of tables with strangers seemed to happen quite a few times and reminded me of an attitude of older days of sharing and caring.

One lady from California who considered herself a BBQ expert, stated that it was the best BBQ that she had ever tasted.

As I walked through the lot checking on people, I heard over and over; "Great Job!" and "You did it again!" which definately felt good.

At the break, I chatted with the band and asked to hear the fiddle. In the beguinning of the next set, he broke it out and began an Irish jig. Irish music is Judy's favorite so I called inside and sent Judy out on the deck where she stood and listened for a few songs.

All in all, it was a very successful night with over 200 happy eaters served and somewhere between $700 and $800 raised for COVO. I spent the last couple of hours, picking things up, breaking things down, and setting up for the next work day.

Many thanks to all who helped promote, the Vets who helped serve, and especially to Jimmy who cooked over 90% of the meal by himself. If even only one homeless vet is helped off of the street and back into life, we have all done a good thing. God bless you all!