Welcome back to On the House, a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to open a restaurant — or several. In 2013, Steve “Nookie” Postal shared weekly glimpses into his experience opening Commonwealth in Cambridge, and now he’s back as he works to open two cafes (Revival) and a beer hall (Mothership), all while keeping Commonwealth up and running. Keep an eye out for new installments of On the House on alternate Fridays.
I have a confession…I totally forgot to write last week. I had planned to do it, I had it all figured out, and I spaced. I remembered Friday night. I think there is too much going on. Things are happening; it’s fast and furious.
I did find the time to head up north with the family to Maine for some skiing, so it’s not code red freakout time yet, but it’s coming. I can feel it. Cliché saying, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
I have this romanticized vision in my head that I can and I will continue to balance my life. Always making time for my family. My wife makes sure I keep that going. I mean, I could potentially always work. In my life now, there is always something I could be doing; there is always a place I can go and help or do something.
But I need to keep balanced. Marathon, not a sprint.
So what’s going on? Grease traps still haunt my dreams. They suck, and I don’t want to talk about them or pipes, plumbing, water, sanitary lines, indirect vs. direct, pitching…I don’t even know what most of this shit is.
I sat in a construction meeting the other day for Revival Alewife with about 10 people, more calling in on the line, and they were talking about grommets for, like, 10 minutes, and I was like, “Ummm, what the fuck is a grommet?”
Apparently it’s the round thing the wires on your desk go through. But that’s what makes this process so difficult: I’m not a plumber. I’m not a millworker. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not an architect. I’m not an engineer. I’m not a zoning expert.
I’m a chef. I feel most comfortable in the kitchen, but that’s not enough. Not anymore. You need to do more. Everything, actually. That’s why it’s so challenging.
And it’s personal. Restaurants aren’t cheap to build, and they are very difficult to make money in. I’m sure, if you are reading this, you know the perils of how hard it is. Most everything is stacked against you; you can lose money from so many different angles. And money is pouring out now.
Shit’s expensive. Everything is. Coffee cups, right. We need coffee cups. Branded vs. not branded? Branded looks better, right? Yes. And if you order enough, the price comes way down. But how many is that?
Try eight or nine pallets. Pallets! WTF! And then you’ve got to design them. And, um, where the hell are we gonna put them? Um, Megan (that’s my wife), um, I’m gonna have to put a shipping container on the driveway again. Sorry?
What else is going on? Demo is being finished at Revival Davis. This place has nice bones. Soul. There is something special and something that I love about this building; it’s got stories and history. We need to bring that to life. It’s in a little...how can I say this gently?…disrepair right now, but it’s gonna pop when it’s done.
Rode, my architects from Commonwealth, are doing it. When we went through Commonwealth, Rode was this tiny little baby firm — they have now grown. It’s great to see.
I know Davis is gonna be amazing. We started picking out plates and saucers and spoons and shit like that. There is a lot to choose from, and a lot is really expensive. We got, like, a million samples, and then you’re like, “I like these,” and then you look up the price, and you are like, “I don’t like those anymore. How ‘bout paper plates?”
It all comes back to the same thing: It’s all very expensive and it’s a little nauseating. I had to write a monster check last week. Almost barfed. Then had a nervous breakdown and then went to work.
At this point, it is what it is. We are in the “let’s-open-a-few-cafes-and-a-beer-hall-oh-fuck-what-did-we-do” phase. It will be fine. It’s gonna work out. Because it has to.
I have surrounded myself with people who are smarter and better at things than I am. I think it’s gonna be okay. There are a lot of moving pieces, lots happening. Buying and digging for equipment coming in the next couple of weeks. Working on an amazing mural with Chloe Rubenstein. She has done a bunch of stuff, maybe most recently the tiger one at Lamplighter, so that is really fun, and I’m super pumped about that. I think it’s gonna be really cool.
I learned that when you look at a picture and the subject doesn’t fill up the whole picture, well, that has a name: It’s called negative space. See, I’m also not an artist. Just a guy with a dollar and a dream. I feel like I probably plagiarized that line from possibly some old New Jersey lottery commercial from the ’80s. Who knows?
And shameless plug: @duckysfriedchicken is coming soon. Stay tuned to the ‘gram for that one. Anyway, that’s all I got. I’m beat. Going to sleep. Have a great couple of weeks; see you on the flip side.
Hugs and kisses,