Peggy Martin's Exterior Concept
the new Uptown was a challenge. How do you turn a 1950's 10,000 square
foot box into a restaurant? A few of the things that were major
considerations were laying it out so you could make money when it was
slow as well as busy. In other words we had to be able to
close down part of the dining room as well as the kitchen when we did not
need them or want to staff them. Also, no one wants to be one of 3 or 4
tables dining in a sea of empty tables.
After living with tables 7, 8
and 13 next door ( those were the tables that floated in the middle of the room) for over 10 years we wanted every table to be
comfortable. This makes the seating much nicer for the customer and can be seated fairly for the wait staff. I
also think that it is important not to be in an aisle and to have a wall
to "anchor" every table.
Original kitchen entrance door.
We wanted the kitchen to be centrally located with the
tables surrounding the service area. This also allowed for every table
to be near a window. With 10,000 square feet coming from less than 2,000
it was almost hard to find a way to use up all the space. I was coming
from a situation where every cubic inch was important to a place where
we had square yards to waste. Some where, very
late in the process, we decided if everything went as planned to finish
the back space as a banquet area instead of renting it out as retail
Ray in construction garb.
The architects and engineers gave me the go ahead to chop
the walls full of holes to accommodate windows and to pour 3 inches of
concrete through out the entire building. A great surface for laying
ceramic tile. Peggy Martin of Ottawa gave us an exterior look that we
really liked. Since we never had a set of firm plans many of
our costs were a guess. Another thing that entered in to the equation
was that we had 18 months left on our lease. Since I had the construction
bug from building a house the year before I thought with that much
time I could save a lot of money by doing much of it myself.
The future home of the Uptown bar.
took possession of the building in early August 1995 and started tearing
things apart about a week after that. When I walked in for the first
time as the owner and looked at the size of that empty shell it was
rather daunting. I have taken on projects before that required almost
100% of my time for months, but nothing that would last a full year. It
is a good thing I had that construction bug. Why is doing someone elses
job so much fun sometime?
Construction crew. Ray, Dave, Jeff, Chris, Macky.
For the first 6 months we worked 6
week and I would still fill in next door when needed. The last 6 month
became a mad scramble to wrap it it up and most of the time we would
work 2 shifts. My sons high school teams had started their run of 3
straight years of playing in championship games, 4 of them in all. It
was hard, but I didn't miss any games that year. I remember thinking as it was getting closer to making the move that I was not
wanting it to end. I had been a construction worker for a year and I
liked it. Maybe it was because the real work was about to start.
Dave, Jimmy, Chuck, Ray. Getting ready to knock out the front facad to accommodate the patio.
Jimmy Lannen was a
dishwasher/busboy/cook at this time and to get extra hours he would help
on the night construction shift. When I asked him for his recollections this is how
he responded. "I
was proud that at age 15 you let me lay the laminate flooring from
the front desk all the way to the coat room while you worked on
something else . I remember
the move over here, it was like a factory, out the back mini mall door to
an army of gorillas that were taking a pressure
washer and scrubby buckets to all the equipment. Then taking it all in the new
back dock door. Everything was all measured out ahead of time
to fit exactly where it would go, and I was suprised that everything fit pretty much to the inch. Geoff Hejl trained both Ryan and I to be janitors and then
we both trained Danny
Marsha sorting through "the move."
As we mentioned in last weeks chapter, we closed the old Uptown on Saturday night. We started the move on Sunday morning. It took 3 days to
make the move because we needed a couple of weekdays under our
belt before we hit the weekend. It was either open on Wednesday or sit
out that next weekend and that didn't seem right.
Chris sorting through "the move."
After 3 long days of
cleaning, restocking, prepping, training, reorganizing, reinstalling
equipment, and programing our point of sales system, we were ready.
Kris and Ray, Day one, both having a bad hair day!
We needed to more than double our
staff. The weeks preceding we had started training new staff as much as
we could in the old Uptown way. This was a unique situation because when
we made the move our new people were 2/3 clueless, our veterans
were only 1/3 clueless but at least we weren't totally clueless. I do
remember it being much harder than I thought it would be. Business was
great right of the bat!
Plenty of plants and well wishes for the new building.
With needing so much more help I had
developed a few sure fire staffing techniques. Number one and most
effective was to steal my wifes babysitters. Heck, if she could trust my
children to them, I could for sure trust my customers to them. Over the
years they were a very formative part of my children's lives and damn
good waitresses too. Thanks to Tierney, Lynn, Gretchen and Susie just to
name a few.
When we found an employee that was good and they had siblings
we usually tried to sign up the whole "fam"-chise. We had many families
that contributed multiples to our staff. There was the Tooveys,
Edgerlys, Eitens, Straits, Peters, Maciejewski's, O'Connors, Konzcaks, Victors, and
the whole Batchelder clan. As you would expect we have had all 5
Anderes's working at the same time and I am proud to say they filled in
just like any other staff member. We would always hire a
(someone from the Igloo) when ever we had the chance. Also over the
years we had the greatest group of college students that would come back
for the summers and Christmas seasons to help us get our vacations in
and get us over the sales jump hump.
Drew and Denise Bernabei and Danny, Salad crew for Spaghetti Dinner.
It was 11 years ago that we were
able to start doing the Lighted Way Spaghetti dinner. Our facility was
made for an event like this being able to pump out 1200 meals in 3
hours. This charity particularly interested me because of how local it
is and I know where the money goes.
As the next few years went
on we grew into our space rather nicely. We learned how to do banquets.
Increased the number of different things we sold both in food and liquor.
Our wine list quadrupled. Seating was a breeze, because every table was a good one . We could knock things
back a notch when it was slow. Business was easy to find. Employees were
Ray and Jason Clydsdale
Later in the 90's it had gotten very hard to hire help and to keep
Unemployment was at an all time low. This actually might have been the
most challenging period in my career. We had health insurance and paid
vacations for our staff at the old place. We bolstered both of these and
added an employer funded simple IRA in order to keep staff. This might
not sound like much to some people but this is extremely rare in our
business. Many of the people I compete with don't offer these benefits
to their staff. I feel it is worth mentioning because this was one of
the things that we did that contributes to the consistency in our staff
Uptown Christmas party at Red Door Inn
We were in the boom years. Real estate prices were rising, low
inflation, low unemployment, a federal budget surplus and the stock
market was soaring. I swear you could feel it in the dining room atmosphere when the market had a really good day.
Since 1985 we really did not have
one thing happen in our country that shook our confidence as a country.
Maybe a hiccup of a recession in the early 90s but nothing I ever
really felt in my business. It had gotten really lucky to have increased
our size at the time of a great economic expansion. Then 911
Now I hate to
historical or political point at which to end this chapter but it
really seems like the only logical point to do. Things were
different after this. We felt it and not just in a monetary sense.
If you have anything to add, comments, pictures or memories you
would like to
share please don't hesitate to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org