Years ago, Whitey and I were desperate to get out of Bend. We were traveling all over the PacNW and researching towns to relocate to.
After visiting Sandpoint, Idaho (gorgeous, but waaaaaay expensive) we decided to check out Baker City. Back in his early college days, Whitey had stopped off the freeway in Baker City to get gas, and he remembered seeing snow-capped mountains. He made a mental note to check it out in the future. The future was thirteen years later…..
We drove over on a Saturday afternoon, stopping at the Painted Hills outside of John Day, and taking photos at every rest stop. We were 100% tourists.
We rolled into town at about 4 o’clock, not knowing that Baker City literally closed for business at five p.m. We unpacked our bags and walked downtown. Nothing was open. Nada.
Except for the bars. We had a drink at the local sports bar, the Main Event, and then at the Stockman’s (which was for sale at the time for $220K – building and business). We were turned away at all of the retail stores by CLOSED signs, and I wondered how the locals found time to shop their fellow merchants.
We had dinner that night at Barley Brown’s, and chatted with a few people while sitting in the bar. Our overall impression of Baker City was that it was a close-knit, sleepy town, and we pondered whether or not our vision of opening a restaurant would be supported by the community.
A few weeks later, we visited Baker City again, and decided to stay at the Best Western instead of at the Geiser downtown. It was less expensive, and has an outdoor pool, making it feel more like a vacation. We encountered the same closures downtown, and decided to head back to the hotel to have an evening swim and dinner on the outdoor patio.
Our server that night ended up being one of the nicest people we’d met in Baker City. She inquired as to why we were in Baker City, and we ended up telling her that we were on the fence about moving from Bend and opening a restaurant. She was so excited, and shared a ton of great advice on locations and her thoughts on our concept. I was in awe of her enthusiasm.
The next visit to Baker City, we stayed at the same hotel, and when we went to have drinks on the patio, she remembered us. She wanted to hear all about what was going on with our move, and shared even more ideas about opening a new restaurant in Baker. Her positive attitude and local insight was a driving force in finalizing our plans to open a pizza restaurant (versus the initial idea of a more formal Italian eatery).
Her name was Saundra.
A few weeks ago, one of our employees mentioned that we needed to look into helping a local young man in his fundraising attempts. He is in need of a double lung transplant, and of course, insurance isn’t going to pay for the entire surgery.
I noticed a write-up in the newspaper about him, and found a website online to donate. But just giving money didn’t seem like enough – how could I use the marketing power of owning a restaurant to get even more people to donate?
I agreed to match all donations in the jar at our restaurant up to $1000. Realistically, we’d donate that amount anyway, but it seemed a good way to get people excited about dropping a bill in the jar.
I also began doing spontaneous Facebook and Twitter notes saying that the next 10 people who came in and dropped a $5 bill in the jar would get a free slice of pizza or cheesecake. It worked.
One night, Joel came in to introduce himself, and he brought along his wife.
I was frazzled (7pm on a Thursday night can do that to me) when I shook her hand, and she said “We’ve already met.”
It took me a moment to recognize her – it’s been about four years (?) – but it was a jaw-dropping moment for me.
Full circle. Here’s the gal that was so sweet, so nice, so positive about our plans in Baker. She probably has no idea how much she had helped us just by being herself.
And now that we have the restaurant open, how fitting that we’d give back to her and her husband by helping their cause?
And with that long story, I hope that you’re smiling, and in a giving mood.
I know that I can be a slacker on this blog, and I also know that I get hundreds of readers a day.
So here’s my challenge to my friends and family (and lurkers) who are reading this: I want to try to get at least $100 donated in the next 24 hours.
If every one reading this donates even one dollar, we can do this. Don’t buy that $5 latte today, or that $7 glass of wine – donate that amount to a very deserving young man and I promise it will come back to you.
Please leave a comment below if you intend to donate. If I get 10, only TEN people to do so, I promise to blog every.single.day for two-weeks.
A small act of kindness to start your weekend….