Open For Business
Well, HELLO, Mobile!
It's been some time since my last blog as we have shifted our focus to opening. And open, we have.
Towards the latter part of last year, we were preparing for our opening with somewhat mundane things such as - what type of salt and pepper shakers should we buy or where do we find a reliable source for good mozzarella. I became obsessed with "the experience" of walking through our shop because I had nothing but time on my hands to dedicate to this endeavor. Rugs ordered - check. Tables built - check. Chef hired - check.
The construction continued into December. The only dining area outside started to take shape, bringing to life the architect's vision of old world, loosely Mediterranean/French/Italian style. This once jagged concrete slab and gas station was becoming a destination. The husband continued to curse me for new design elements that required his skills to complete. On and on and on.
In the meantime, our youngest Navy sailor son married his high school sweetheart in Norfolk, Virginia. They would be taking leave around Christmas, coming home as newlyweds. That meant I needed to throw them a party. And why not do it at the cottage, right?
As construction was drawing to an end, the pressure was on. We needed to be able to 1) Host a party for our son January 6th, 2) Softly open January 9th, 3) Plan a grand opening for January 19th. Then, I guess, just sell cheese? (Intentionally left the question mark here...)
The folks completing the building worked their butts off with these dates in mind. Invitations were sent for both the party and grand opening. But wait... I need to order the cheese. Oh, you can't do that until all of the approvals are in place? Oh, and that hasn't happened yet? And who do you get wine and beer from anyway? But at least I have really nice salt and pepper shakers in storage. Good thing I was working on the important stuff.
Christmas came and went. Our son and new bride (and dog) spent 10 days with us. Party went off without a hitch. Life was good. Now, let's get down to business.
Our first employees showed up the week before we opened. We began the activities of setting up the kitchen and shop. Construction crews finished their punch lists and final permits were scheduled.
On January 10th, the doors of The Cheese Cottage officially opened. I really don't remember much about that day because it was like childbirth - painful. I vaguely recall buffing wine glasses and turning around and seeing my first customer and thinking, "How do I greet her?". "Welcome to The Cheese Cottage! Is this your first time?", came rolling off of my tongue. Well, DUH, of course it was her first time. It was anyone's first time.
She wanted cheese. "Oh, that's right. I sell cheese!", I remember thinking. I pulled the wheel from the cooler, cut a quarter pound, wrapped it, rang it up and ran her card. Then there were two behind her. They wanted cheese too. And a sandwich. Then more came. Each and everyone that visited us in those early days were so patient with us as we worked out our kinks; i.e. "The salad didn't print in the kitchen", "The bacon was not crispy enough" and my all time favorite, "I forgot your flatware - AGAIN".
Next, there was a grand opening to plan. The invite was sent out via social media so I could start to get an idea of size. About 350 folks responded as planning to attend. We purchased the wine and cheese, preparing to wow the attendees with over 70lbs of marvelous cheese. And 4 cases of wine should do it...
Nope. Not a chance.
As the two singers/guitar players serenaded the crowd, the cheese disappeared and quickly. We opened the doors at 4:00. By 5:45, most of it was gone. People had turned up by the hundreds - almost 800. We were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from friends, family and the community. I cannot tell you how many times we heard, "I'm so glad you are here." And, "Thanks for your courage.". That night, we went home feeling excited about planting of our flag on St Louis Street.
Now, fast forward to a month after opening. We had an unfortunate event with a break-in (not going to give this much attention here as it could have been so much worse). We have a fantastic staff of eager individuals who are truly invested in this dream or ours. We have some wonderful customers that, when they miss their regular day, we miss them. We have a community of supporters who just stop in to say hello. We have "cheese groupies" that frequently belly up to our counter for the weekly tastings. We are open for business.
I'll wrap this up by saying, thank you. Thanks for your patience while we've figured out the most critical elements of The Cheese Cottage. We have great mozzarella and salt and pepper shakers too. :-)
And cheers to a long term relationship, Mobile.