From The Top Down

Gone are the days we shivered at Thornes, holed ourselves up at Starbucks, or hid under the covers in the bedroom… killing time and waiting for warm. With the recent turn in weather, we have ushered in a new wave of productivity — possibly directly related to the rising temperatures but, also, due in large part to the nature of things just coming together… finally. There were so many puzzle pieces to locate for this unwieldy 3-D escapade.

We finally have all our Men pinned down — our contractor, Alex; our mason, Another Alex; our plumber, Joe; our electrician, Charlie; and our HVAC tech, Jerry. This cast of characters is colorful, each with his own motley story to tell. We’ve been cursed at, blown off, accused of blowing one or more of them off, shouted at, stormed away from… mistakes have been made, designs have changed, parts haven’t been delivered, codes have been called in for review… I think almost everyone has threatened to quit, each in his own way. But here we are, a bedraggled family pulling this cafe together. Our mason lent me his scaffolding, a hoe and a shovel… our plumber lent me a magnificent light and some extension cords… our electrician is bringing a wheelbarrow tomorrow to help us pour some concrete… they all text me suggestions, pick up the phone to answer questions, the plumber loves telling people about our cold-pressed juice, our contractor complimented me the other day on thinking outside the box… So it’s ok. Emotions run high on a job site.


And we’re learning as we go. All of us.

The most recent excitement surrounds the 2 foot by 14 foot (by 4 inch deep) trench stretching through our Gallery… and the closely related large pile of dirt, rock and broken concrete slab sitting next to it. This trench deserves a post all its own — from the concrete cutting to the laying of waste pipes for our 2 bathrooms to the re-fill and masonry (by Fitz and myself!) to tomorrow morning’s pouring of concrete with Charlie and the wheelbarrow… the story is as layered as the trench.

But, before we go Down, let’s look Up.

Fitz says he likes to start at the top and work his way down. So, after we wrapped our heads around a relatively final design, we started with some Top Down projects. First one was the ceiling in the Gallery. In the 1800s this half of the property was a barn for the horses and carriage. Huge beams stretch wide across the expanse, begging to be left exposed and highlighted in our Gallery. We chose to paint them because of massive amounts of water stains. We also want this room to appear a bit more “blank slate” so artists’ work pops off the walls and sits as well-deserved centerpieces for our customers. Our color of choice? Evening Hush… a lovely dark charcoal as monochromatic as we could find (ie no blue, green, or brown tones that often plague blacks and greys).

Another project we whittled away on during the long cold winter was the Built-in Oven. Our commercial kitchen will be on the second floor, and we are using a wall-mounted residential-style oven. Why? Well, #1 it was free. Good ol’ Craig’s List for ya again… This time on the Peninsula in California! I’ll never forget the day Fitz pulled up at the Cal Train Station to pick me up and there was an Oven in the back of the car. 🙂 And #2 our business will start pretty small, pretty low key on the pastry front. If we have to ramp it up at some point, we will. And that will be cause for celebration!

Just two of the many projects we’ve been picking away on the last few weeks…

Some other light tasks around the ol’ homestead include running lots of electrical wire, filling holes in the drywall in our kitchen, taking out our air return on the second floor, re-framing a door way in the kitchen, our first trip to a scrap yard (amazing pictures and post pending!) and many more little bursts of activity. There is never a dull moment here, and no two days are the same. Often we wake up thinking we’ll head a certain direction and look back hours later knee-deep in something entirely different — and typically more complicated. We have to be ready to change direction at any moment — and to bounce back quickly from inevitable set-backs. We have to find the sparkle and humor in the dark moments and use that energy to propel us to each finish line. The final line still stretches way in the distance but each lap we take pulls us closer. We celebrate those small victories and recognize their significance every single day because those successes will give way to the ultimate goal of opening our cafe. And, without these benchmarks, I would have long ago lost sight of what we’re doing. So hooray for Evening Hush and the Built-In Oven! Accomplishment prevails!


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