We went up to his flat above the shop, John put a bottle of whiskey and two glasses on the table.
“Help yourself,” he said, “I just want to get some papers to show you.” He went off to his office, and I helped myself to a generous amount of John’s very fine whiskey.
I was just feeling the warmth of the drink wash over me when John returned with a portfolio of papers. He rifled through them for a moment, then found one which he handed to me. “What do you think of that?” he asked.
“That” was an architect’s drawing of this part of the High Street. To one side, you could see the building we were sitting in, High Street News, and next to it the shop front said “High Street Eats.” I looked at him puzzled, and then he handed me another paper, this one a menu for High Street Eats.
Maybe the alcohol was catching up with me, but it took me a while to realize that John was showing me plans for a new enterprise, to be opened in the shop next door. It was currently an old-fashioned haberdashery store, and no one was surprised when it announced it was going out of business. John had taken over the lease and was going to reopen it as a café.
“The way I see it,” John said, “it’s a perfect fit. I could run both from here, and the cross-selling could be great. The Anchor stopped serving meals a few years ago, the nearest café is the Lavender Tea Rooms, and that’s hardly the market that I’m going for!”
I could see his point. There were fish and chip shops nearby, and the Tea Rooms served the high-end tourist trade, but there was a definite gap in the market for a “greasy spoon” café.
“Well, I wish you luck,” I said. I gestured at the whiskey bottle, and John nodded, so I helped myself to another glass. “As you know, I’m relatively free right now, so let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”
“As it happens,” he said, “I am just looking for someone to manage the café. That was why I was so interested in what you said about the food truck. I’m looking to open it in March, would you be interested in helping me get it off the ground?”
It seemed that once again I’d been in the right place at the right time, and now I had the opportunity to get back into something I was good at; selling to the public. I told John I’d certainly be interested, and we talked late into the evening about his plans for the place, and how I fitted in.
The next few weeks were busy as we got ready for the launch. I had flyers produced by the local printer, who used to come to the Anchor when I ran it, so I got a good deal there. It was a slow time for work, so I got a couple of the lads who were just hanging around the bars to go door to door to the shops and offices handing out the flyers and generally getting the word around. In a stroke of genius, I suddenly thought about the local Morris Dancers. Now, I’m not one for all that Olde Worlde stuff, but I admit it does draw a crowd, so I got them to agree to set up and do their thing outside the store on the opening Saturday. For the inside of the shop, I did a bit of wheeling and dealing and got some good as new tables and chairs for a song, as well as fitting out the kitchen and counter space with everything that could be needed.
This was what I had been missing, I told myself, something that really connected me with the town again, and got my creative side working. Soon we were all ready to go, and even the weather cooperated by making our opening day a bright, crisp spring morning. The band was a great success, and people were coming in all the time to try out our specials of the day. The kitchen staff worked great, and the young girl I’d hired to be the waitress was excellent with the people that came in. All in all, it went just about as well as it could, and that night John was very complimentary about my part in the success of the day.
I was happy too, but very shortly afterward started to feel a sense of anti-climax. I’d really enjoyed the setting up of High Street Eats, but now all I could see was a daily grind of keeping it going. I liked meeting people and chatting with them about what was going on in their lives and the town, but it seemed that this was all I did. I was weary of the routine, and really wanted something new, without quite knowing what.