When Will You Open?
April 4, 2014
Look at the comments made from time to time about what I write here and the questions asked. Wonderful, useful comments and very few questions – other than one now being asked several times each day:
It’s a reasonable question to ask us after all these weeks of construction.
We have a bit to do before we open: Finalize recipe books, install remaining equipment, test the equipment, hire more people – and practice, lots of practice and opening parties.
A few staff members started work last Monday – Jack Revelle, our pastry chef, his deputy, Chris Licciardi, Ben Arnold, our head baker, and John Flemming, in charge of coffee and other beverages.
Their starting dates arrived last week because we had thought we would begin our practice next week. But we won’t.
Now at the end of this week much of the equipment we need for practice is in place and waiting for us to begin. But we are waiting too – for electricity and gas and we don’t know when we will have them.
When we started creating Bread Furst last fall, I was determined to have fun; it was an injunction imposed on me by my son, Philippe. But my optimism – the optimism that one must have to start a business in the first place – is being tested now.
I had hoped to open by Valentine’s Day; that was unrealistic. I revised my aspiration to be open by my sister Carla’s birthday in her memory. That too will pass shortly as will Passover for which I hoped to be open.
All who open food businesses know that the District government is understaffed and slow to respond but in fact D.C. held our permit application only a month longer than we expected. What is now delaying us are our “public” utilities.
We are upgrading gas and electricity in our little building in huge ways. In October when we filed our building permit application with D.C. we also filed applications for utility upgrades – from Pepco and Washington Gas.
Opening a business is complex. I hope if you have been reading these essays over the past months, you understand that. There are many delays, many disappointments and frustrations and so many of them are beyond our control.
But Bread Furst is going to employ 30 people and pay tons of sales taxes. It will be an addition to the neighborhood and it is going to buy lots of gas and electricity.
I imagined that the utility companies would help us upgrade. But I was told I ought to hire a utility expeditor, someone who works all the time with Pepco; and so we paid him to persuade Pepco to do its work. We asked and pleaded and cajoled and finally I appealed to our city councilwoman, Mary Cheh for help.
Pepco finally approved our work in February but even with prodding didn’t authorize the work to begin until the middle of last month. And yesterday a Pepco inspector came to inspect the hole! Just the hole! We have to get another inspection before Pepco will certify that the work was done. And only then will Pepco schedule another visit to make the connections.
As for the gas, we were told originally that nothing would be required except a change to a larger meter. But then the gas company changed its mind and decided that we needed new lines from the building to the street. And then our permit application got stuck in the District Department of Transportation that had to approve digging into Connecticut Avenue
Finally this week, the work was authorized but it hasn’t been scheduled yet.
When I began these essays I resolved to tell the unvarnished story about the complexities of a start up but of course I haven’t. It’s a lot smarter to feed the hands that can bite you than it is to bite those hands.
Still, we now are paying staff. We can’t fire up the oven to season it and begin our practice. We are ready to go but can’t do much of anything and don’t know when we will open.
We’ll get there. I know that. But getting there hasn’t been half the fun.