Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I went to the blogger meet and greet

I had a pretty good time. Met up with Monkey outside before we went in. We both agreed that it was the best thing to do.....go in together and then we wouldn't get cold feet and not go in. I have really enjoyed getting to know Chris. He is a very smart and creative man. Just look at his site and you can see his creativity.

We walked in together and met up with some of the others while we headed up to the area that the restaurant had set aside for us. Someone said that I looked kind of like Duncan and I laughed and said well we are both native Bendites, the same age, and sport the same grey beards.

I came away with a few observations on the night.

1. I was the oldest one there. I asked if Duncan would show up and someone said, "no way". I wonder if that is because he is so much older also. Come on, Duncan, next time you can walk in with me and we can hold up the old farts corner of the table. I guess that I shouldn't be too surprised at the average age. Many people my age and older don't seem to get along real well with the computer. I have always been around one since graduating COCC back in the eighties with a computer science degree so I guess that might be a reason. I know quite a few older people who like to write so I hope that some will jump on the band wagon .

Another reason might be that the bar scene is more for the younger crowd. That makes sense also in that if I want to have a drink, I usually just have one at home. Just about the only time that you find me out like this is if there is a good game on that I cannot pick up on my TV at home.

2. I guess after reading the various blogs, I expected to see a greater difference in people but we all seemed to be very much alike. Everyone seemed to joke and laugh and enjoy each others company. I realized just what the blogs do. They take ordinary people and peel off their same exteriors exposing their true selves or personalities in special ways. I found myself fascinated by looking at the various bloggers and thinking of things that I had read from their writings and how that made them change and become extraordinary.

3. Did anyone really like those nachos. When we first looked upon them, we all oohed and awed over how large and tasty the plate looked. But when it was passed over to my table their had been very few bites off of it and when Monkey and I took a covered chip off, I took note that neither of us had any more. I don't want to be critical but it did need just a little more flavor.

4. BOR walked in with a toothpick in his mouth. We all asked him what restaurant he had just left but he wouldn't tell us. I guess we will just have to read his blog later.

5. I met Keeneye for the first time. I had always envisioned her with dark hair. I was surprised to see that she was a blond Haole or at least Hapa-Haole. She seemed to be the one, however, whose personality best matched her writing.

All in all, I enjoyed myself and was grateful to the Monkey for giving me the courage to go in. Maybe next time, I can do the same for Duncan. BTW, Duncan's dad called me over to his table yesterday. He wanted to show me the article on Duncan that was in Sundays paper. "I have this taped up on my door.", He said. "He is a good man.", I told George. "He is, isn't he.", George returned, "I am very proud of him.". "And so you should be.", I told him. When I left the table, George had a big grin on his face as he showed the rest of the Docs his precious article.

I left the greet and headed back to the shop to see what kind of progress the makeover guys had in finishing up the loose ends that are still out there from the remodel. The new TV was mounted up on the wall and can be seen from just about every table.

A few hot rodders had braved the cold to show off their cars. I look forward to the warm Wednesday nights this summer and the fun that we are going to have . Our first big BBQ is coming up fast on the Wednesday before Memorial Day. We call that night "Race Night" with raceway and drag cars setting on the lot next to our local cruisers. We will have our first big BBQ that night along with Richard Taelour and his band.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What a crazy week

I have not had a chance to write anything down all week. Between one thing to another, I seemed to be busy just about every minute during my waking hours. But I will try and capsulize it the best that i can for you who are interested.

The diner took up most of my time but I was also working to help my parents get their house on the market. We are hoping to get them closer to the hospital, shopping, and us if they need something. I think they like the Mountain View Park area and I know quite a few people there so I really think it will be a good place for them.

I checked in with Andy from LMAS nearly every evening at closing to get an update on how they were doing. On Wednesday evening, we both were working late and were the only ones here. We talked for a while to give ourselves a break. It seemed so far from done but he was confident. That part was probably the most freeing for me during this conversion. If i would have been involved in it, I would have had 10 times the stress. But in trusting Andy, most of that stress was gone. We laughed and joked then went back to work. When I locked up at 11PM, he had gone.

I received quite a bit of help throughout the week from many of my suppliers which will allow more money to be given to the Bend Community Center. Franz Bakery, Eberhard Dairy, Food Services of America, and Sysco Foods all agreed to give us product for the big weekend. McDonald Septic called me and asked if they could give a cash donation. I then received a call from Dana Signs out of Redmond. They said that they wanted to contribute and gave us a banner that read, "Grand Reopening Today". I was overwhelmed by the support that was given.

I then received a phone call from my old pal, Bob Shotwell. I will write a posting on him more in detail one day but the bottom line is he is up in his 80's now and still wants to work. He told me that he just got a job working with the Source Magazine. He then went on to tell me that his first job was covering us on Saturday. I don't know what I was more excited about. The fact that he was working again or that he was covering our reopening. Bob wrote the first article on us back in 1987 for the Oregonion. We have been close friends ever since.

Friday was a day of last minute details for the reopening, as always small problems to handle, and picking up paint for my parents house that was to be painted this weekend. One of my waitresses sons was very gracious in giving me a very good price and agreeing to paint the house this weekend. When i finally finished off all my running around, it was nearly 8PM. I came back in at closing and checked with Andy who had been there all day. He had hoped to be done around 5AM the next morning. I could see how tired he was but he was still able to laugh and I bid him goodnight and went home.

Surprisingly, I slept pretty good that night. I felt that i would probably drive by the diner a few times but never felt the need to. I called down around 6 and asked how things were. I was told, "You don't want to know and it will be all ready for you at 8.

Judy and I drove up around 8 only to be told to stay out a little longer and they would need us at 9. So Casey and I drove down to my parents house to take out the paint and bide some time. Upon arriving back, Judy and I were staged outside the front door of the diner. With Trinity leading me in and Casey and Andy leading Judy in, we were placed in the best spot of the diner. Andy started his countdown and said "3". Connie, one of our old employees got impatient and yelled out, "2". After a few giggles from around the room, Andy started all over again. On 1, Judy and I opened our eyes and looked up a whole new room. The first thing that I saw was the huge "Jake's" that had been put on the large wall on our northern side. Without the partition in the middle of the room, the room looked huge. The booths had been reupholstered in a brown fabric along with the chairs at the counter. The chairs on the tables had been painted black with red and black cushions. Plants had been staged throughout the room. Sorry, Johnny Anderson, but they are still plastic. Our articles and pictures were redone and graced the walls in many places. New tile had replaced the linoleum around the counter and new carpet on the floors. The place looked fantastic.

After the shoot, which included our whole family around the Jake's sign, we were able to open the doors to the customers and went right to work. Kristi Miller from Good Morning Central Oregon showed up to assist with the serving of the customers. I was so impressed with her as she poured coffee and bussed tables. Taffy Gleason was around to answer any questions regarding the Bend Community Center and we even had some of our close friends help out with serving and busing.

Around 1 or so, it slowed down and we all sat down to have a bite. The girls were about to take off to the airport so Trinity could get back to Portland and they left a movie for me to return. Frank said that he had not seen it but had heard about it and said that he would like to watch it. I said that sounded great and we met over at my house to watch, get this, "Enchanted". It was actually a very good movie. At least what I saw of it. I fell asleep and awoke when I received a call on my cell. I turned to Frank and asked what had happened in the movie and he said, "I am not sure, I think I fell asleep too.". He remembered more than I did however.

I returned to help out during supper and am posting this quick review of the week so that you will know where I am at. All in all, it has turned out very good with only a few problems. The table lights had to be turned off as they are too hot, some plugs had to be changed around, we don't have a TV yet, and we had to crack open one of the doors as the thermostat is missing but we are up and running, it is beautiful, and most important, it is comfortable.

The video should be out sometime in May. Thank you so much to Andy and the Let's Make a Space crew who worked so hard, to Kristi Miller who took her own time out to help, my buddy, Bob for writing on us, my daughter, Carrie for the pictures that she took for his article and for us and to the many friends who worked and supported us this morning.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Day One Makeover

Looking at my watch and seeing the time, I knew that I best get going as the main part of the crew for the day would be in place by 9AM. I had a thought, however, that some people might be interested in the video of the funnel cloud that I witnessed yesterday while watching one of Jay's soccer games so I set the computer uploading the video while I got myself ready for the day.

Arriving at work just before 9, I found the diner packed. We quickly got the back room going and before we knew, we had a line started. With the kitchen seemingly running on all cylinders and the rest of the crew buzzing around, we had one of our largest Sundays of the year. The line seemed to never stop and the day flew by until around 2 when I noticed that we had a clear entry and some of the crew asked if they could start getting ready for the preparation party for the makeover that was to start at 3. I knew that we shouldn't do to much before Andy and the cameras arrived but the crew was beat up from the busy day and didn't want to be working to late into the evening. I figured that we wouldn't get to much done before Andy arrived. After all, it was less than an hour away. I was greatly mistaken.

By 3, we had all of the tables cleared off, most of the supplies out of the room, and were taking the tops off of the tables. A few of our customers had arrived to help out with the pull out and clean up and we were all happy for the extra help. Andy's crew boss showed up and asked us to stop until Andy arrived so that we could video. We all reluctantly sat down and waited. Andy arrived and we did a little staging for the show with one of the customers acting as our last customer of the day. We then all got together and with a bang began the pull out and clean up of Jake's main floor. It kind of reminded me of the day that we moved out of the old place with people buzzing back and forth grabbing things and pulling them out.

Before we knew it, the floor was bare and Andy began taking down lighting while others pulled molding. We then began the task of pulling up the old carpet. I was busy answering questions on where to put things, packing things out to the storage sheds, hooking up phone lines, and putting up the banner out front that declared us open during the remodel. The LMAS crew and the customers who volunteered worked right alongside our crew as we worked to get as much done as possible before the first real day of the makeover.

Around 5, some of Andy's friends showed up and we all quickly gathered in the back room for a birthday celebration. It was Andy's 40th and he was spending it working at our makeover. Andy was called into the back room and was quite surprised as we all sang him Happy Birthday. Jimmy had made a cake and with the help of Jenn (Andy's wife) had made his favorite desert (Triffle). The kitchen cooked up his favorite food (Chicken strips, Fries, and Ranch Dressing) and we all chowed down on that and the cake.

After the final shot, both crews began to dissipate and Judy and I along with the remainder or our crew put on the final touches to prepare for the next day. Before I knew it, the crew was gone and all that I had left to do was make up some signs for the door and finish locking up.

Before I left, I walked over to the same window that I had stared out three years ago wondering how in the world we were going to be able to get the customers off of the roads that seemed so far away. Turning around and looking over the now bare floor, I was flooded with memories both good and bad as the vacant room seemed to talk to me of what it had gone through in the past three years. Overwhelmed with emotion, I just stood there and absorbed the thoughts and memories and was so thankful for the support of the community and the hard work of the crew that have got us to the spot that we are right now. For the people that guided me in the takeover of the diner, the others who assisted me in finding the building and getting it ready, the ones who volunteered to move us from one building to another, and the friends and customers who gave up their time today to help us in this transition, Vivian, Scott (Lana, our cashiers husband), Al from Exquisite hardwood floors, Dan from Absoulut Interiors, and Dwayne from Wood Awakening.

Dusty and sweaty, I set the alarm and drug myself out to the van and drove home. Judy and I sat in front of the fire and winded down, reminiscing the day. A hot bath and bed (even a blow up mattress on the floor as our bed is still in the old house) were a very inviting end to a very busy day.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Funnel Cloud over East Bend

We dont see these much around here. This was taken from Big Sky Park looking south.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Another Day Closer

Tuesday was a very busy day for me. It all started with my repair guy calling me and asking to meet me at the diner in five minutes to talk about the new make up fridge that we are having problems with. It seems that while the floor and fridge are level, the evaporator tray in the bottom is not so it is not draining properly. After calls to the manufacturer, it was decided that we should shim the pan. Now that is something that we could have come up with in the first place but because it is under warranty, we had to decide it the hard way.

From there I started sending out the Public Service Announcements to various media regarding the up and coming event for the Bend Community Center. The responses came in pretty fast and after more emails and telephone calls, I could see that the responses were pretty positive. The morning flew by and before I knew it, Judy was informing me that Let's Make a Space would be arriving in 30 minutes to video the pre-remake portion of their show. Judy was very nervous and apprehensive about being on camera and between her nervousness and my busyness, I don't think that either of us was able to eat a good lunch. I grabbed a half a cheese sandwich and kept on rolling.

They were going to show up around 1 so that we would have some lunch crowd still there when the taping started but Andy got held up and was not able to get there until 1:30. At 1, we were full. By the time Andy arrived, we were almost empty. It actually worked out better, however giving us more room to move around for the shots.

Judy did great. I was so proud of her. I knew that it was important that she be the one for this part of the program because as far as the decorations go, I know my part. I am not any good at any decor projects. Judy does the pretty, I do the practical. It is good that way and I believe makes us a better team.

At one point as Judy and Andy were filming at the counter, Andy stopped and talked to one of our customers who was eating a taco salad at the counter. "What are you eating there?", Andy asked him. "A taco salad.", came the reply. "And how is it?", Andy asked. "It's awesome." Andy then turned and looked straight into the camera and said, "There you go, Johnny Anderson.". The moment was unscripted and priceless.

As soon as the taping was completed, it was time to pick up our grandson from school. As soon as we arrived back at the diner, I had to dive in to our next big project of the day, the big send off party for Donate Life.

My old friend, Mitch, who had a heart transplant a few years ago is the area spokesman for Donate Life and came up with a idea to have a kiosk for people to sign up at. He asked me a few months back if I had a space that he could use and I showed him a unused corner and told him to go for it. Now that corner has a kiosk that Mitch and his son, Ryan created. Truly a first of it's kind, I hope it works out well for their organization.

With the send off dinner in full swing, I began to feel the day so I quickly said goodbye and headed home pretty well beat. After a great supper, movie, and a soak in the tub, I slept pretty good for three hours. Then all of the thoughts of the up and coming week crept into my head and I lay in bed going over them one at a time. Where to put the register for the week. What to do with the salad bar. How to get people to realize that we are not closed when they see all of the construction going on. Where to put the pies. Where to store the back up supplies.

So, unable to clear my head, here I am at 3AM, writing in my living room with the fireplace keeping me warm. So many things to do in the coming days. So many decisions that need to be made. My advice to myself would be just to sleep on it. The problems will be corrected as the arrive. That advice is much easier said, then done.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

$11,000 and still going strong

A couple of years ago, Frank Patka, Richard Smith, and I came up with an idea to have some fun and help out a good local cause, Habitat for Humanity. At the time, Richard was working for them and still does alot of volunteer work for them to this day.

Last night, we had 28 players. Frank and I made announcements and we were off and running. Richard who has taken the title of chip boss was very busy in the first fifteen minutes with rebuys (I even went all twice losing both hands). In all, over $100 was raised in rebuys alone. I was at the table with my blogger friend, Monkeyinabox, and was eliminated much quicker than I expected or wanted to be. I had the right pocket hands but not what was needed to go with them. So, I spent the rest of the night cashing out chips and talking with Richard. I asked him if he was enjoying himself even though he wasnt playing. He said, "Just seeing the smile on your face as you play is enough enjoyment for me.". I took a mental note, "You need to smile more.". I know that often times, there is so much on my mind that I can come off as a little stoic.

Frank was the target after winning the week before and Ryan Steeley took him out and earned the free meal. As the blinds raised more and more people dropped out and before we knew it, we had a final table. Four on the final table had not won yet this year but they were quickly eliminated and it became apparant to me that the winner would probably want a food coupon and I had ran out so I went back to my office to retrieve one. By the time that I returned, Karina had polished off the table and was, once again, the winner. I think that is about her third or fourth win this year and I yet to have one.....grrr.

I cleaned up and reset the backroom for the next day. We were coming up on closing time so I said my goodnights to the crew and some of our regulars that were still around. As I began to drive out of the lot, I noticed a long hauler driving in the driveway so I pulled over and waited. He parked his rig across the street from the front of the lot and began to walk in. I drove over to the door as he arrived to find it locked. Rolling down my window, I yelled out, "Hungry?". He turned and said, " I have been busting my butt to get here in time and thinking of a Jake's meal the whole way. Now, I guess I will have to wait for the morning.". "No, you won't.", I countered and jumped out and unlocked the door. "Hey, I recognize you, your Jake", he said. "Actually, the name is Lyle. Come on it and lets get you fed.". I appologized to the cook who was cleaning off his grill and sent Casey out to take his order. After saying goodnight to my new trucker friend, I relocked the door and headed home.

Judy had just left taken herself a nice hot bath and had left the water for me so after a soothing soak in the tub, I retired for the night thankful for many things. Good friends, good times, a successful venture that had now raised over $11,000 for Habitat, a nice hot bath, and the knowledge that there are still truckers out there who drive many miles just for a meal at Jake's.

I just topped it off with reading from my daughters blog. Life is good.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Here's Johnny!

It seems that Johnny Anderson over at the Bulletin doesn't seem to care much for my diner. He recently visited and commented on a variety of our food one of which was the taco salad. He first complained that it was all iceberg lettuce. I do use a Romaine Iceberg blend and have red cabbage and carrot mixed in with the blend. He commented that I had mushrooms and pinto beans. No mushrooms are used unless requested and I was kind of surprised at the fact that a food expert such as Johnny did not note the difference between pinto and black beans but oh well. Then he went on to mention that the taco seasoned ground beef affected his stomach after he went home.

He commented that their was still no atmosphere in our room but did not look at his table to see the table tent regarding the up and coming room makeover that we are about to have happen.

What bothers me about his articles is not personal (although I will admit that it does hurt to have this kind of thing put out in print) but how it affects the 40+ people in my crew and on our ability to give back to the community.

Our regular customers will not be affected. They eat here all of the time and know of the care that is put into the plates that are placed in front of them. But it is the potential customers who might read his article and from his words decide to not give Jake's a chance. Every business needs a steady stream of potential customers merely because of the change in the community. A great example of that would be the fact that many Bend residents have no idea what Jake's Truck Stop was since they have moved here within the last 3 to 4 years.

I constantly preach to my crew that we have to work harder since we are not on the main road. Our location was considered the worst in town and many felt that we would not last over 6 months in this location. We have now been here three years and have no intentions of going anywhere else.

I hope that in the future that John will look beyond his own bias and see the business for what it is as a whole. How it operates, how it treats it's employees, and most important how it treats it's community.

My crew works hard and they are very stable. I have a couple of them who have been with me since the 80's. They are like family to me. And as far as restaurants go, I firmly believe that we give back more to the community per our income than any other. I don't normally toot my own horn but in the last year, we have given thousands of dollars, food, and services to numerous organizations and needs in this community. Just ask Habitat for Humanity, Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Legion, Volunteers of Medicine, The Hospice Center, The Red Cross, Sheppard's House, Salvation Army, and so many more that I have not mentioned. Or the bowling teams, baseball teams, soccer teams, and basketball teams that we have sponsored.

If Johnny's words adversely affect my business, then they will also affect every one of these organizations in one way or another.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Why I give back

Someone asked me the other day, why I give so much back to the community. I realize that some don't know and probably some don't care but for you who do want to know, i will attempt to capsulize my reasons.

1. The community kept me alive. When I moved the diner to the east side, I was at the brink of extinction. I had numerous loans out and was borrowing just to pay payroll. I was moving into what was considered the worst location in town and many gave me six months or less before I would be gone. The huge support especially from people who knew our story allowed us to survive.

2. I believe it is the responsibility of business in the community to support the community. If all of us would do our part then we would be able to solve allot of the needs of the community. As with any money issue, there are always the few who believe that they don't need to get involved for whatever reason. What I have found, however, from that purely business aspect is that the more you give, the more you receive.

3. And probably the most important. I am a man of faith. I believe that I was placed where I am for a reason. This may be hard for some to fathom but I generally know when something is put in front of me what I need to do and attempt to do it. To ignore this and take total credit for what has happened to me is not a part of my character. To put it bluntly, when i assist someone, I assist them not just because I desire to but because I believe that it is why God placed me here. I know that there are some who will have problems with that but for me to not state it is to deny it and i will never do that.

Lets Make a Space update

I haven't been able to post lately and not because I have been to busy but because I came down with the flu. It is kind of funny (ha ha, not really) however since I was one of those guys who got his flu shot. Now I find out that they messed up on their flu strains. Anyway, I have spent most of the last five days horizontal.

On Tuesday, Judy and I met with Andy from Let's Make a Space to go over our plans for the remodel that is coming up fast. For those of you who don't know, we will be handing over our main floor to their crew April 20-25 and they will be doing one of their famous makeovers on it with a Revealing that will happen on the morning of the 26th. Judy and I will be led blindfolded into the room after which we will open it up to the public for a Grand Reopening of sorts.

To celebrate that day, Jake's will give all of the profits for the day to the Bend Community Center. Judy and I will match those funds and Andy & LMAS have agreed to match all that we give. I am hoping that this will be a profitable day for the Community Center and Taffy Gleason, their director will be on hand to help pour coffee and answer any questions about the great things that the center does for the community. I met Taffy a couple of years ago when we had some extra food from a cater job and donated it to her kitchen. I was very impressed with her operation there. So much so that I put her card up on the side of my computer screen with the thought that some day I would do something for the center.

So, come on down on Saturday, April 26th. See the new main dining area, meet Andy and his crew along with Taffy Gleason and maybe a surprise person or two, and support this great Community Center that helps the poor and needy in the area in so many ways. Weather permitting, Richard and Ted Taelour will be entertaining in the parking lot.