For the last seven years and three months, my husband and I have owned a little breakfast and lunch restaurant. We have done catering, as well. I remember when we opened the doors with stars in our eyes and optimism in our hearts. As a life-long dream of my husband's, we desperately wanted to succeed, whatever that meant: earn enough to be happy and contented, potentially make good friends along the way and enjoy what we do. It seems it may not be enough, after all.
We have been through a lot of heartache for a little cafe. We have attended more funerals of customers than we would care to admit, and have suffered loss ourselves, with two of our employees dying. When Bruce died two years ago, however, I believe that is when my husband truly lost heart.
For the last almost two and a half years, my husband has wanted to close. Business has been down for quite a while and we go through each week wondering if business is *off* because of the weather or because of fuel prices, because people are on vacation -- insert your personal reasons why*here*. When we first opened, things seemed wonderful and people came; word of mouth is a mighty tool. People still come, but ever since a SuperWaWa opened down the street from us, things started to take a downward turn -- impossible to compete with their prices. After Bruce's took his life two years ago, he also took part of us with him; he took part of our hearts. Since then, we, meaning the Cafe, haven't been the same -- folks think "well, life goes on," and for Bruce I am hopeful it did eternally.
On top of everything else we are going through with my health, Jim is seeking employment elsewhere. He really wants *out* and it appears that if he gets the job it looks like he is going to get, next week is going to be our last official week of being opened. I am so distraught over this - I cannot even begin to tell you how difficult it has been to stay open, but now with the advent of our closing I am now thinking of how connected I feel to our loyal customers and employees, how many memories we have in this place. I am even more distraught because I don't know how to do this.
How do you close the doors?
I simply don't know how to and feel like I am being deluged. In all fairness, so does my husband. We have sacrificed seven years of our lives with only one short vacation to Jamaica, and four days off a year closed for holidays. No matter what we did, it was simply never enough, but man, when the sunlight would stream through the windows and onto the hardwood floors, when I smelled the coffee brewing, when I looked over the door and saw my painted sign that said "This is the Day the Lord has Made," I really did feel glad in it.
There was nothing like the mamas coming in with their pregnant bellies, making odd requests, and now we have the honor and privilege of feeding their children. The kids that would run up and hug us tight around the neck and give us pictures from school and coloring for our Board O' Fame...or when we would send home soup with a husband whose wife was recovering from surgery, or flowers to a friend recuperating in the hospital.
Even with Bruce, holding his hand in the ICU when he was on a ventilator, or scrubbing the surfaces of the counters when we had heard Nick died and we couldn't be open because we were all crushed and devastated, but our staff needed to be together to get through the tough meantime, so we cleaned...when Jim and I stood holding hands at Cathy's funeral, knowing the last thing she said to me was "Pen, I will always remember this place for being here for me - it didn't matter what kind of a shitty day I was having, I knew I could park the car, come inside and sit at the counter for soup and conversation and leave, knowing I was in a better way because you were here, that it was all going to be all right..."
Connectedness. Now I feel loss. For myself, my customers, my employees...
There is so much more to this story, I could fill an entire blog with it. I needed to share a little bit more of the puzzle; part of me that is starting to grieve....on top of everything else.