“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” ― George Bernard Shaw
I wrote this on my Facebook page two years ago today.
“An art bar….
I’ve been wanting to open a pie bar for as long as I can remember. Smoking Mo’s was just one part of the dream, but as business grew and my time was needed more there the other half of the dream kept getting put on the back burner. The Magnolia Room developed out of need and opportunity, and with my experience managing banquet rooms for Hilton, it just made good business sense. It’s working, so I don’t really want to mess with it. But our catering business has boomed to the point that it’s now interfering with our daily dining room service. The last thing we want to do is miss out on business if the need is there enough to support the cost of growth, which we believe it is. So we’re signing the lease on a new kitchen space to accommodate our busy catering needs. Now, that opens a whole new opportunity, because this new space comes with a dining area and the kitchen will not be in use 24/7. So…. perhaps the universe is telling me it’s time to take the leap with my dessert bar. As much as I’d like to believe it will, pie and drinks alone will not attract enough business to make this effort worth my time and initial cost. So I’ve spent time trying to decide what it needs. Ironically, the answer came from the question, What do I need? Sometimes, often, I get overwhelmed by work. That doesn’t mean I don’t love it or that I want to cut back. No, I just want to find balance. Recently a friend asked when or where do I feel completely free of work and life stress and my answer was when I make art. But I don’t have convenient space to work on my art and with little time to do it I end up wasting most of that time setting up and tearing down, so it’s not really worth trying. With this new building, however, I pondered dividing a small portion of the new dining area into my own little private studio space. But then I thought, well heck, why can’t the whole area be open and available for everyone’s art. The idea has grown from there, leaving me excited, anxious and barely able to sleep. My mind has been racing with possibilities and creative energy. I feel more motivated than I have in a long while. So, that’s what I can tell you now. It’s all still materializing, but the wheels are in motion. I’ll definitely be contacting my artist friends for instructor led classes and tutorials, and for advice and inspiration. And maybe support and love to assure me that I am in fact not insane! I always say I want to make Shelton better, but we often wonder how. I think the answer is to create unique and interesting places that people want to go to. The same ol same ol businesses over and over are fine, necessary, but they aren’t going to make Shelton a destination town. I think of Port Townsend, full of bizarre and exciting shops and food spots. We can do that too. So, it is with genuine hope, excitement and some anxiety that I’m going to try to do my part to bring something new and unusual to our little town. We shall see! I’ve learned pigs fly when you dream big and work hard. Perhaps they make art too!”
Craft Pie & Art Bar opened in the Spring of 2018. I tried really hard to make it work. I worked long hours. I tried to be innovative. I tried to be resourceful and creative. But in the end, for many reasons, the business never succeeded beyond being a burden to my other business which is the main source of my income. So, less than two years later I closed it.
It was devastating. To soothe the burn I told myself that I was going to move it into a new bigger better space after our main restaurant moved to its new home. The new building had room that I convinced myself and others would be perfect for the reinvented Craft. This Craft would be better. This Craft would be a success. One year and one pandemic later, I admit defeat. I don’t want to fight for it anymore.
Because I now realize that I didn’t create that art bar for me, I created it for other people to live my dream for me. It’s time to set down the weight of a burden I’ve been too afraid to let go of. I’m ready to be able to breathe new again. I failed at that business. What’s done is done, and no amount of effort can make that fact untrue.
In college, I focused on art. I left that college equipped with a basic education and a degree, ready to show the world my art. Apparently I wasn’t ready to make that art though, because almost 20 years later I’ve created less than a dozen pieces… if you don’t count logos and designs for my restaurant, which you shouldn’t. Now before you all email me with support and love because it appears that I’m having a low self-esteem day, relax. I’m ok. In fact, I’m very okay. I did man push-ups this morning and am now typing with swollen knuckles after knocking the shit out of every bully that lives inside my new speed bag for the last half hour while I baked a lemon cake. I’m basically a badass and my hair smells lemony delicious. Ya, I’m feeling very good about myself today. What I mean is I consider work and art to be two very different things. Your job can be creative, which is awesome, but art needs to be something that you need to make but aren’t necessarily required to make. At least the kind of art I’m talking about. I want to create something just for the experience of it. I want to send a message out into the world that nobody asks or pays me to do. I want to make art because it’s living inside of me and deserves to be honored. Not a day job. A life force. The hurdle for me is that art does not ensure a paycheck at the end, or any sort of tangible reward for my loved ones. In my definition of “necessary” this art never appears. This convenience of avoidance is also an easy out to not have to create something so personal and terrifying. I fear people’s opinion of my art. I fear my own discoveries in my art. What better way to not have to make this art than to convince myself that it isn’t important or valuable.
So two years ago, when art came calling, rather than jump in with both feet, I instead figured out a way to appease it safely. I said , “Soul, here, I’m making this space dedicated to art, now quiet down, I’ve got a business to run.” And my soul obliged. I created a beautiful business that welcomed and nurtured artists in my community. I sold locally made crafts. I hosted classes and art openings. I celebrated creativity there, and I did enjoy the freedom there to cook. I subsidized the business with food and beverage sales. I specialized in pie, a loving nod to my mother and grandmother. In my larger restaurant, aside from a few specials here and there our menu is mostly set. We do that for a number of reasons, such as managing food costs and maintaining a system that cooks of all experience levels can prepare. We are not in a market that brings in many well trained chefs, nor could I pay what experience like that would require. So we’ve created a menu that entry level cooks can be successful with and that customers can still enjoy. That business model works, but it doesn’t leave much room for me to be creative. So suddenly having a kitchen all to myself that I could play in was fun. I created daily menus based on what was fresh and local, and being only a two man kitchen I pretty much was able to oversee every single aspect of that operation. But over time I got sick. My body started to rebel. Pain, headaches, lethargy. I truly started to feel myself disintegrate. And to feel this suffering, while standing in what I thought was my dream come true, was almost too much to bear. How could I still be unhappy? How could I still want more? What was wrong with me?
As time went on I lost my desire to cook. Just like before, it started to feel like a job. Once again I was unfulfilled. And moreover, I was not financially succeeding. So with very little thought, I pulled the plug.
I created that space for everyone else to celebrate their art and to inspire their desire to make it. I made that for them, not for me. I made not one single piece of art the entire time I was there. I kept meaning to, but I stayed just busy enough in the kitchen and too tired enough not to. I devoted all of my energy to that job, but I had a reckoning coming. I had taken advantage of someone for far too long. It was time I paid her the respect she deserved. She had waited, patiently, while I stacked more and more work on my to-do pile. She gifted me time to focus on building my businesses and establishing a foundation to care for my family. She had even been supportive while I used little bits and pieces of her here and there to support my job. But 20 years is a long time to wait. It is too long to be used only for the benefit of something else. It was her turn now, and she was not going to take no for an answer. My creative spirit demanded all of my attention, and dammit she deserved it.
I now know that I opened Craft for all of the wrong reasons. And even though I truly am glad that I did it, I know now why it failed. Yes! I failed at something! But guess what? I lived through it. I fell flat on my face and I am still here to write about it, with a piece of cake to celebrate no less. Failing is not the end. It’s just a learning experience that leads to a new beginning. I do not regret one second of my time at Craft. Even if I knew then that it was destined to fail I would still take that leap because I am healthier and happier now. I found a new confidence in the kitchen that I didn’t have before. I proved I can make great food, truly cool dishes with complex flavors assembled in unique ways. I experimented with new ingredients that I had never had the courage to purchase before, all fantastic lessons and experiences that I can continue to practice in my day job managing our main restaurant. I made new friends at Craft. I helped further the career of local artists and crafters. I’m proud of the beautiful little space that I created there, if only for a brief time. I failed keeping it alive, but it lived nonetheless. And that is a glorious gift. Now it’s time for me to be selfish. Now it’s time for me to be brave. I created space for others, now it’s time to take up my own space.
Not everything of value needs to earn you money.
This is the lesson Craft taught me, and for that I am forever grateful.
Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you. It is my true belief that we make the world a better place and our experience in it richer if we share our experience together. I do that through food at my restaurant, Smoking Mo’s in Shelton, Washington, and through my story telling here. I deeply thank you for joining me on this adventure, and for giving me the love and encouragement to keep moving forward.