Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Calendar Year.

On my home from PJP Buttonwood this evening, it occurred to me that we are just eight days away from finishing out our first full calendar year in business.  I KNOW, RIGHT?


And really the only thing I can say after 20 months or so at the helm of the PJP ship is this:  THE LEARNING CURVE IS STEEP, PEOPLE.  On occasion, when we are really busy and things are really crazy, I find myself wondering when the person responsible for all the mess will show up so I can go home and watch House Hunters.  And then I remember that the person I’m waiting for is well, ME.  Which is sort of a hilarious realization on one level and a terrifyingly deep realization on a whole other level.

But looking at our year as a whole, trying to grow the skills to manage and lead our burgeoning pie empire is the headline of our 2015 story.  I know both Jeanne and I have been challenged in ways we never expected over our first full calendar year.  And given that we both quickly lose interest when we aren’t challenged and pushed to our limits, PJP continues to never disappoint in making us stronger every day.  (Today, it took us both to heave one massive leaking trash bag into the dumpster, so I guess we are getting stronger every day, both literally and figuratively.)

When we were leaving PJP this evening, we were looking at tomorrow’s baking schedule and discussing what time we should start in the morning.  In frustration from our conversation and my general disdain for getting up in the middle of the night, I flipped off the front lights and said to Jeanne, “I’m sick of this place.”  And then I wanted to whisper an apology to PJP for hurting her feelings.  AS IF SHE WERE A PERSON.  But to us, she is.  She has our early mornings, our late nights, our 20 hours in a row marathon baking.  We’ve cried there, laughed there, been righteously indignant there, made friends there.  We’ve worried in there, made goals in there, and had so much hope in there.

That’s what our first calendar year has given us.  And we wouldn’t trade it for anything.  (Except for maybe a baking schedule that starts after the sun comes up, on occasion.  Just sayin’, PJP.)

Jars Across America.

In case anyone reading this has a few hundred thousand dollars to spare, I have an idea: INVEST IN OUR JELLY JAR PRODUCTION FACILITY.  In the past week, we’ve made hundreds of Jelly Jar pies and looking at the baking schedule for the week ahead makes me want to go buy a case of wine and a jumbo bottle of Aleve.  Jeanne and I worked for a good number of hours today on six-packs of pies going all over the country (literally…one shipment was to Largo, Florida and the other was to Portland, Oregon and the others covered the map in-between like a Connect the Dots activity page).

(I don’t have any current plans for a Jelly Jar Production facility…at least not plans on paper.  But I do in my mind and in my mind, our facility is AH-MAZ-ING.  Also, in my mind, at our fictional production facility, someone else that isn’t me types all the shipping labels and writes the note cards.)

In other news, here are a few things of interest:

  1. Next week, we will be open Monday – Wednesday, 10:30 am – 5:30 pm.  We will be open on Christmas Eve from 9 am – 1 pm.
  2. Orders for next week are stacking up.  I’m starting to miss Spare Space.  That’s my subtle way of saying that if you want something in particular for next week, please call ahead or order online by Friday, the 18th.
  3. We’ve decided to close the last week of the year, just as we did last year.  Jeanne feels zen about the decision, while I feel a little stressed about it.  But she is right…a week with our families and a week to revive our creativity before meeting up with 2016 is exactly what we need.
  4. In January, remind me that we were crazy busy in December and deserved the week long break.
  5. Because I hate January.  And January hates all retail business.  Except for probably Starbucks.  Because I get the feeling that even January likes a Skinny Caramel Macchiato.




Water Woes

At around 8 or so this morning, the water main at Nifong and Buttonwood was accidentally broken by contractors working on a utility project in the area.  We had been baking for just a bit when Gunnar noted that while there was plenty of water flowing down Buttonwood, there wasn’t actually any coming out of our faucets.

It wasn’t long before neighboring business owners and employees began wondering around in the parking lot trying to figure out exactly what had happened and most importantly, an estimated time until water would be restored.  A quick call to the city water and light department revealed that the department was actually not aware of the problem (at least the person answering the phone wasn’t) and the poor lone construction worker standing in the middle of gushing water could only estimate a six hour wait until repairs could be made.  SIX HOURS.  And then another person shouted out that it could be 10 or 12 hours.  And then I just hit a spiral of panic.  Because you know what is terrible for a small business?  Not baking for 12 hours and canceling all the pies on order.

Shortly thereafter, Starbucks decided to close for the day.  And if we were a multinational corporation with millions of dollars in sales, closing the location on Nifong and Buttonwood for the day wouldn’t have been a gut-wrenching decision.  But when your business is small and every single dollar counts, we considered taking a shovel over there and asking if we could help dig so the problem could be fixed more quickly.

A few news outlets stopped by for our take on the story and we appreciated the opportunity to discuss how even the most mundane of issues can significantly impact the success of small business.  As we loom closer to the new year and our slowest time of the year, we are working exceptionally hard to make and sell as much pie as possible to be in the best financial position.  And while water main breaks are just part of life and a reminder that I can’t really control everything, what was exceptionally frustrating was the lack of information available from the city regarding the cause, the plan to repair, and the estimated time until we could safely use our water again.

Because the water main break was in a major commercial area and impacted all businesses within a quarter-mile of the main (according to the lone construction worker, not any official information), my expectation is that information regarding the situation be immediately available…and I don’t think that is a terribly unrealistic expectation.  A simple mass text notification to customers in the impacted area could have resolved a lot of angst and squelched a lot of misinformation.  And if not text, then perhaps an automatic calling system.  Or an email.  Or tweet.  Or Facebook post.  Or Instagram picture of gushing water.  You get the point.

Because we weren’t sure what else to do, we stayed open and sold our half-price pies from yesterday and the few we had finished before it all happened.  We made phone calls to customers who had ordered pie for today and explained the situation.  Some moved their order to tomorrow and some simply needed to cancel because we weren’t sure if baking in the afternoon would be possible.

But, by noon or so, we found ourselves with water again, and was a beautiful sight .  Perhaps an hour later, a city employee stopped by with a boil order hangtag, in effect for 24 hours.  (The boil order only impacted potable water).  And so it finally became business as normal at PJP…around 1:15 this afternoon.  We were so thankful that it didn’t turn into an all day water outage and that we could safely be open this afternoon.  (But seriously missed our afternoon Starbucks caffeine boost.)

I’d like to think that I won’t take clean water for granted again…because when you don’t have it, then you just realize how much you need it.  To that end, I did a little research on clean water initiatives and made a donation to the The Water Project – an organization focused on bringing clean and safe water to sub-Saharan Africa.  Cheers to clean water for everyone on the regular.