Oh man- I really have been half-assing this blog for the past week or two, and I am so freaking bummed about it. Before the store opened I had a million things to do and I was totally stressed out. Then it actually opened and I had a million and one things. And then, as you know, Matt got sick, and as of a few hours ago he’s been admitted to the hospital with not only a massive kidney infection, but colitis and double pneumonia as well. It sounds scary, and to be honest I was freaking out for a good long while, but the hospital is the best place in the world for him now, and he’s already starting to joke around and get antsy. (If you want to send well wishes, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tweet him @mattrobicelli)
Photo courtesy of Foodaissance
I’ve gotten a ton of messages offering help, and even though I probably won’t take most of you up on them, they are extremely appreciated. From the outside this looks bananas, but when you’re a small business owner you honestly get used to this stuff. Seriously, I know lots of people dream about owning their own business, but they never talk about the excruciating parts in the books and those shows on Cooking Channel that make “artisan” food look so glamorous. When one of my best friends committed suicide three years ago, I had to go to work with a smile on my face for customers. When my 22 year old cousin was killed in a motorcross accident last year and my whole family was at the funeral, I was baking and making deliveries. Even when Atticus was in the pediatric ICU a few years ago with a lung infection, I did paperwork while I held my suffering baby, all tangled up in IVs.
What’s happening right now isn’t really unique- every single one of us has stretches of bad luck, we suffer through them and come out on top. The difference is that when you own a business, you don’t get paid leave from your job, or at least have the comfort of knowing that your job will get done by someone in a worst case scenario. You may think I’m my own boss, but you’re wrong- every single one of you is my boss. Every store, every customer, every single person who walks down the street that may potentially buy a cupcake one day or write about us on Yelp- all my boss. And no matter how stressful it gets, or how many balls I have up in the air, I know that my priority is making all of you happy every day, because honestly that’s what Matt and I live for and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I don’t mean to shatter the dreams of anyone out there who fantasizes of being an entrepreneur, but I think it is so important to be honest about the fact that it is not just a job, but an entire lifestyle change. I’ve seen peoples marriages and relationships crumble, perfectly amazing women unable to go on a date or socialize because they work all the time, nervous breakdowns, burnouts and bankruptcies. It’s wonderful to be able to survive these things and come out on top, but it doesn’t always happen, and it takes a very special type of person to do it. And that person is completely, utterly, and madly insane.
I made it a point to spend my entire pre-Robicelli’s career in small business so I would one day be able to open my own. I saw many people who were smarter, more experienced, or far richer than I fail in the most spectacular fashion. The universe’s message to me was “Don’t do it”. Yet still I’d move on to the next boutique caterer or next restaurant consulting gig and stand in the middle of bedlam. Again, “Don’t do it”. But I’ve never been one for listening to authority, even if it is the universe. Matt and I went out on our own, the stock market promptly crashed, and we lost everything we’d spent years working towards.
“Told you so! Don’t do it! Should have listened!”
Instead of making the smart decision of quitting, we kept going. And here we are- sometimes broke, always struggling, sometimes so stressed and overwhelmed that we wonder if we’ll be able to make it though. But we always do, and we keep going. It’s not just because we’re passionate about baking or our mission- it’s because the insanity, challenges and constant problem solving that comes with running a business is the most amazing thing in the world to us, and we’re addicted to it like a drug. The baking part of Robicelli’s takes the least time, and honestly, it feels like a break.
If you want to run a food business, here’s my advice: don’t do it. Go work in a restaurant and wash dishes, bus tables, answer phones and do every job there is to do no matter how “beneath you” you may think it is. Get a customer service job where you spend hours listening to peoples complaints. Buy a good pair of walking shoes and do cold call door-to-door sales. Every day, you’ll hear that voice in your head that says “don’t do it”. That voice is called reason.
Then, if after hearing it a million times, after learning every good lesson and seeing every argument against it you still want to do it? Well, then you WILL do it. And you will love every single goddamn second of it as much as Matt and I do.
However, there will come weeks like this one where your husband is in the hospital, your sous chef is on vacation, you’ve just opened a store, your apartments floods & you move in with your parents, you have you cancel your son’s birthday trip and don’t even get to see him on his special day, you get 2 hours of sleep every night because you’re covering all the work of three people, and you will want to run away to Aruba and make a living dressing up like Carmen Miranda for tourists. And you will look in the mirror every day at 5am before you go to sleep and go “Allison, you are a stupid, STUPID person”, and you’ll be right. But you’ll be the happiest stupid person in the world.
On a side note, today is my birthday! I’ll be spending the morning in the Jetro Restaurant Supply Warehouse buying Mexican Coke and paper towels- come say hi!
Clockwise from front: Horchata, PB&J, Cookies & Cream, Caramel Macchiato
PS: I was called about Matt being rushed to the hospital towards the beginning of production. Don’t thank me for today’s stuff- thank Rachel Anderson , Monique Henry, and Siobhan Wallace- former interns who have quickly become just about the best thing that’s ever happened to me. After the kids, of course. And Matt. And my InStyler- I really love that thing.
Horchata: Horchata cake, pudding and buttercream with cinnamon sugar rice crispies
PB&J: Vanilla cake, grape jelly, peanut butter buttercream, crushed peanuts
Cookies & Cream: Chocolate cake, cookies & cream buttercream, crushed homemade chocoalte cookies
Caramel Macchiato: Chocolate espresso cake, caramel macchiato buttercream, ganache, salted caramel, crushed chocolate covered espresso beans
ROBICELLI’S AT DEKALB MARKET: Flatbush Ave Extension & Willoughby Street, Downtown Brooklyn
BAGEL SCHMAGEL: Third Avenue & 76th Street, Bay Ridge
CUPCAKE STAND: Fifth Avenue & 60th Street, Sunset Park
CRESPELLA: Seventh Avenue & 9th Street, Park Slope
TAZZA CAFES: Henry Street off Atlantic Ave AND Clark Street off Henry, Brooklyn Heights
RADISH: Bedford Ave & N8th, Williamsburg
BATTERY PLACE MARKET: 77 Battery Place, Battery Park City
CAKE SHOP: Ludlow Street btwn Stanton & Rivington, Lower East Side
JOE: COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: West 120th btwn Broadway & Amsterdam, Morningside Heights
BROOKLYNEER: 220 West Houston Street, West Village