So for the last few weeks I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of some very expensive parts from the Blodgett pizza oven factory in Boulder, Colorado. The parts are inexpensive compared to the cost of a brand new oven which usually range between 13 to 37 thousand dollars. You see our pizza oven has faithfully produced a flame for 19 years until a few weeks ago. Interestingly enough one of our ovens and our dough mixer survived a fire in the year 2000 at the Naramata Bistro which is now known as the Nevermatter Cafe and was of course the original location of Real Things Pizza. The following photos document the journey and I can now sleep through the night without the worry of fire.
A few years back on good Friday I hoisted up the black chalk board sign with what was probably the most controversial sign I had ever written.
Over the years everyone has laughed, cried, been offended or really thought about the quotes that have been displayed. Everything from poking fun at tourism on August long weekend to the spring cleaning tip of burning down your house and of course words of inspiration and courage. For the most part, this sign has done its job. In a market like Naramata you cannot rely on a proper business plan like the one you take to the bank. Naramata is different, and my business needed something that would put me on the map and earn the support of the people of Naramata.
However, the sign I hung up on that Friday, was by far one of the most interesting from an anthropological point of view. As many of you know I am fascinated with human behaviour. I also grew up in a Christian home with a pastor as a father, I knew full well how risky this sign would be. I was just too curious to see what would happen. What unfolded over the weekend was truly inspirational and unexpected.
"I hope you have a better good Friday than Jesus did" ... is what the sign read.
Of course the sign works opposite to tripadvisor. Most people are apt to spread a negative comment about your food than a positive one. They say it takes 10 good compliments to wipe out one bad. I have found with the sign this concept is backwards. Most people feel comfortable telling me they like the sign and those who struggle with a quote and come to express that to me are the minority. However over the years I have had some very strong people stand up to me about a variety of quotes I've posted. I respect their strength, passion and determination. After all, I myself was once told while playing "settlers of catan" that I was a red head who had control of her emotions. So I can't help but value the individuals who desire to speak their mind and stand up for a different perspective.
This particular sign however, launched an absolutely fascinating journey for me to witness. Discussion at the little church on the corner of Robinson and third was colourful and vibrant on Easter Sunday morning and from those I spoke to they expressed that they appreciated a sign that could inspire such valuable conversation.
Of course there were those who felt the sign offended their faith. One woman who has never ordered pizza from us came in and exuberantly spoke to me for 10 minutes about how horrible I was and that the sign was as offensive as if I wrote "I hope you have a better day than the victims of 911" ... on 911. Ouch. I made very little response as I have learned over the years some people don't want to hear what you have to say in response, so I let her really give it me. When she was done she turned on her heal and left. I began to cry. Rocky came to the door and tried to cheer me up about how effective the sign is that at least I got her through the door! Yet I still cried.
As I wept, my heart was so heavy. I began to remember each person that I had a discussion with that weekend. I reminisced the handful of people that shared with me their experience of growing up in church but hadn't thought of Jesus for years. I realized that my spirit was broken for those who could not see past religious agenda. Because you see the quote, which in fact is a common opening remark for sermons or greetings on good Friday, offended those who claim to spread the good news about Jesus, and they neglected to see how effectively it was doing just that. Instead of seeing the good work the quote was doing they crucified it.
Life can be so interesting. We see through a glass darkly. When we choose to only see things from our own perspective we so often become hypocrites that behave in the very manner that we judge.
What was so interesting for me to witness was how this simple chalk board sign suddenly took on the life of Christ. I know that there is many differing opinions about who Christ was or is, and perhaps that could be a good conversation for another time, but we don't need to get side tracked by that right now. What we do know is that Jesus created controversy and conversation ... just like the sign did that weekend.
And so, I just felt that this story could be shared this Easter weekend and especially in light of our political and religious battles that seem to surround us today. It is a story that I will forever remember and share with those who are willing to hear it. I do hope everyone has a better good Friday than Jesus did, because you see even if the day was good or bad, I can still hope you have a better one.
Opening up today to this beautifully cleaned sink inspires me to take a moment and pat the backs of my incredible employees. All of whom are so different but equally amazing.
The one who brings me the best ice cream sandwiches from the local market because I never get to go. The one who exclaims I want to really help you when it's slow in the pizza place and so she offers to clean the bathroom and mop the house floor. The one who gives me a magnet of a moose running off a tourist because she has a sneaking suspicion that I just might like it. The one who gives such a heartfelt thank you for their Christmas bonus and you know they mean it and never expected it. The one who also rescued a woman from what she thought was a rattle snake in her tub while delivering a pizza. The one who took the time and effort to design and cut the pizza slice in our new sign. The one who carefully highlights and writes the receipts in such a way that it makes it easier for me to add them all up. The one who writes stories of my big shoes but takes the time to fill them when hers are already so big. The one who texts me a picture of the beautiful sunset because I always miss them and it's my favourite time of the day. And last but not least the one who writes me rock and roll songs and cleans the things that no one notices ... but I do ... you all know who you are. Know that I appreciate it all and you ;)
I have witnessed hundreds of locals and tourists alike stopping to photograph the many funny, insightful and controversial quotes that have been written on the sign.
This is hands down one of my top five favourite "sign" moments.
Working with all these young kids and listening to them talk about what they want to do with their lives is interesting.
I did one of those "what you should be" tests in high school and I got a lighthouse keeper. When I told my employees they didn't even understand what I said. What they heard was Light housekeeper. Well i sure felt the age gap at that point. If i had become a lighthouse keeper, I would have been out of a job due to the computer age.
What I wanted to be was a surgeon.
I didn't have the academic smarts for it. So I started out cleaning at a nursing home and quickly worked my way up to a personal care aid and was on my way to licensed practical nurse when I met Rocky.
I left my life in Alberta and came to Naramata.
Life had another path for me.
Oddly enough when its crazy busy in the pizza place and the timers are going off all over the place I imagine I am in the ER.
My patients phone in their orders. I have to triage the walk - ins especially those with starving crying children. The timers sound like heart monitors. And I have great assistant pizza nurses who follow my lead and know what I need done next.
I giggle to myself because although the pay may not be the same, I feel like I may not have enjoyed being an actual doctor as much as I enjoy cooking and creating.
All I can do is teach good work ethic and tell my story. I take pride in knowing that my job will be a stepping stone for these young kids and my words may be something they take with them forever.
Yes that dreaded time when I must sneak into all the other pizza places unnoticed and snag their menu.
Every once in a while I have to check out how I measure up in comparison to the competition.
Do I have a nice variety of pizza. What is my price point for the quality of pizza I serve. Is anyone copying me!
I also found this old menu from 1999.
Take note that our Traindock pizza was $15.99 plus tax.
The Traindock pizza as of today is $26.00 TAXES INCLUDED.
So my price has only gone up $7.92 in the last 16 years.
Meanwhile in the last 16 years the price of;
Cheese at 32.00 went up to 63.00 per box.
Flour at 5.00 went up 19.00 per bag.
Because I am not a big pizza chain I do not have access to bulk pricing or near the volume of sales like the big city.
Minimum wage at 6.80 went up to 10.25 per hour.
It is incredible how much the cost of food has gone up even in comparison to minimum wage.
No wonder the concept of minimum wage being a living wage has come up in the last ten years. However hiring teenagers at minimum wage has been one way that I have kept my overhead low to stay alive in this town.
So after weeks of contemplation I have come up with the new spring summer 2015 menu which has a very small price increase.
I thank each and every customer that has helped to provide me with a modest living in this beautiful community for almost 18 years now.
One of my favourite spring events is when the preschoolers visit to make mini pizzas.
I get such a chuckle when I watch how they create without a parent to influence their decisions.
For example this young fellow who by the way exclaimed with such surprise how much he was actually enjoying his pizza when it came time to eat it.
Or this young fellow who piled everything on and then took it all off to eat only the dough.
While they were waiting for their pizzas to cook they enjoyed playing with real pizza dough.
Overall Real Things Pizza got a total thumbs up!
I came across these old menus from 1999. If you look closely you will see burgers and alcohol on the menu below and breakfast on the menu at the end of the article.
Stumbling upon these inspired me to write a little bit about a buzz fraze in our community these days; "family licensed diner".
I'm not sure what is going to happen with all our closed restaurants and there sure is alot of hear say. But what I do know is that it is not an easy thing to provide in this community.
It was Rockys parents (Monica and Alan Gould) that started Real Things Breakfast Snack and Pizza Shack in 1997 after previously running the Naramata store for 8 years. Alan turned a simple house into the commercial building now known as Cafe Nevermatters. Rocky ran the pizza end of things in the evening with the help of his younger teenage brother Marty.
I helped out with breakfast and also helped Monica with her postal rural route in Penticton.
After a few years Monica and Alan were ready to move on. Rocky and I were preparing to take over the business and trial ran things for about a year. During that time it was clear that pizza was the primary income for the business. Furthermore the long hours (6:30am -9pm) were very hard to hold and we could not afford employees in the slow times. We also had one child at the time who was almost 2 years old.
We took the pizza and opened a take out only establishment that opened at 4pm located in what is now the Shades of Linen clothing.
As years went on and Rocky and I saw that the take out business was growing.
Because we opened at 4 till 8 or 10pm depending on the time of year we naturally had low overhead and employee costs. We could also work most of the hours ourselves without facing long hours.
We also seemed to be producing children as well! So we sold what is still my favorite red barn house on eighth street and used the credit to build what is our present location.
NARAMATA BUSINESSES ARE LIKE GUYSERS but you never know when it's going to blow!
One minute you are twiddling your thumbs and the next you are so busy you don't know what to do. Naramata businesses are difficult to staff for this very reason. You never know when you will be busy and you lose a lot of money to staff waiting.
If you notice many local businesses that survive are ran primarily by the owner and have niche hours for this reason.
It is hard to work all the hours yourself and afford employees when it is slow.
Business owners here either work all the hours themselves or restrict when you are open to survive without employee costs.
So you can see that although a pub and a family licensed diner would be wonderful for this community it is no small task to make it successful.
I'm sure each and every face behind our local food establishment would have Common look of exhaustion and a story to tell of how hard they have worked.
I remember after having my third kid running into May and Peter from China Beach. May actually asked me how I did everything. She would say "you busy mom, how you do everything?" I would laugh and say, "Oh May YOU are amazing! You run an all day restaurant and raise your 3 boys!" What May and Peter did is amazing to me. You could even call at 2am and they would be there to make you food. LONG hard hours and self sacrifice for their family.
I am blessed to have the time in the day for my marriage and family, to provide great pizza to my community and tuck my kids into bed at the end of the day through the winter months. Who would have thought that an aspiring nurse would end up flipping pies with a smile on her face!
I hope that whatever comes of these missing businesses in our community they will be equally blessed.
I have to admit I was concerned going into this winter without some of my fellow restaurateurs in Naramata.
Running a small business in this town is no easy feat especially with ammeneties only 20 min away in Penticton.
Most people assume that the closing of two of our local restaurants would make those of us left here very busy. What they don't understand is how good it is to have healthy competition to keep people eating in Naramata. Choice is a good thing.
I expected and began to prepare myself for a decline in sales because people would get tired of what I have to offer. I am thankful to announce that business has been on par but what I am surprised and bewilldered by, is the appreciation customers have been expressing. I honestly didn't see that coming.
Isn't is funny how we take for granted things we have and it takes loosing them for us to be jolted out of our self centered disposition.
I'm writing this blog just simply to convey that my heart is warmed by the benevolence that you locals have shown towards me in the last few months.
I would like to say a HUGE thank you!
Your words of encouragement and your continued support in choosing my pizza has bewildered me.
I try to notice and appreciate you all.
Here's to a happy holiday season.
Real Things Pizza is cooking up some incredible harvest pizzas at 1775 Bench winery this Saturday. You can also request any one of the following pizzas this week at Real Things Pizza.