Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Day The Music Died

When Dee Dee and I moved to Atlanta in 1989, we couldn't afford a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.  We had been married for over a year, and I was newly graduated from college.  We left Jessica in Mobile with her grandmother and papa.  This was extremely hard on Dee Dee, but Jessica was "officially" too young to be in first grade.  We needed her to get past the point of no return before joining us in Atlanta.

Together, we settled in.  Jessica joined us, and the happy little family began their new life in Atlanta.  I didn't stay very long at my first job.  They were programming in a language called MUMPS, and C++ was the rage.  I left there after my first year and joined a very small consulting company.  It ended up being a fortuitious move.  That little company merged, and grew, and merged, and grew, and unmerged and finally was bought out.  I was there for the entire deal, in on the ground floor, and a key employee.  I could afford my pot now.

We paid off the house, and the cars.  There was no budgeting.  No bills worth worrying about.  We always saved more than we needed.  A couple of years after that, Dee Dee and I began looking for our "thing".  We wanted to take a shot at being our own boss, have our own company.  For two years, we couldn't find anything we liked.  We took the family to a little neighborhood pub that opened up down the street.  It was called "Beef'O'Brady's".  We loved it.   We loved the food, the concept, and family oriented environment.  We had found our thing.

In 2004, we signed the lease on our space, built our restaurant, and began cooking in earnest.  We poured our heart and soul into 2800 square feet of space.  It didn't take long to realize that the we had not opened a gold mine.  The sales just weren't there.  We worked hard, struggled to build our sales, and coped the best we could.  Like a lot of new business owners, we bit off more than we could chew when we opened a second restaurant.  Why we would open another store when the first one wasn't doing so well escapes me.  That little dream collapsed in 9 months and scared the hell out of us.  Fortunately for us, we were already back to being "shit house" poor by then, and the leasing company went after our business partner instead of us.  We managed to escape non-the-worse for wear.

By this time, the other store was self sufficient.  I had been pouring money into the store every three months or so to keep it running.  Now, it had to survive on its own.  There was no more money.  I had committed my entire savings to the store and my two son's private school education.  The store was coasting along, but it still wasn't doing well enough for Dee Dee to draw a pay check.  We made a little money here and there, but regular pay was not forth coming.  I fully realized it wouldn't take much to tip it over.  I hoped and prayed for the best.

The economy took a turn for the worse, and that proved to be the "tipper".  We got behind in the rent.  The shopping center was already mad at us because we were disputing common area maintenance charges, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.  We got our ten day notice in October.  January 12th, we got the letter telling us to get out immediately.

Dee Dee and I put our heads together and tried to work out what was best for everybody.  We could have stayed in the space until they forced us out with a court order, but that could've gotten ugly, and besides, it's just not our way of doing things.  We thought it best to give our employees some notice so that they could take care of their jobs and their families.  Plus, it gave us time to sell off our remaining stuff to pay our taxes, employees, and vendors.  Saturday night, our last day in business, we would have a private party for our employees and friends to say good bye.

Friday night, we were extremely busy.  Almost all of our regular customers were at the bar.  So busy, as a matter of fact, that Dee Dee decided not to open for business on Saturday at all.  I stopped by the store after Matthew's indoor soccer game and made the rounds.  I wanted to personally invite each and every one of my regular customers to the going out of business party.

Dee Dee got up early Saturday and went to the store to meet a few of our employees and clean the place up.  I stayed home, nursing a hang over from the previous night's stress reduction ceremonies.  After getting a hair cut and buying Matthew a video game,  I went back to the house to meet Dee Dee.  She got cleaned up and purtied up for the party.  She looked smashing.  We went back to the store around 6PM to get the place ready.  A neighboring franchisee came by and picked up all the stuff in our cooler and freezer.  Dee Dee finally got another pay check.  I went down to Publix and picked up party trays and beer.  We had a good amount of fancy smancy beer still in the cooler, but very little regular beer like Bud and Bud Lite.

Everything started off pretty low key.  It was just Dee Dee and I and a couple of our friends.  The employees began to arrive, followed by more and more key customers.  It didn't take long for things to heat up.  My girls are a crazy bunch.  Almost all of them had been with us for years.  Some, since the store opened.  There was dancing on the bar, body shots, including a few off of yours truly, and some display of boobies.  I kept things reigned in a bit, but the leash was long.  The kids needed to let it all hang out, and I was NOT going to spoil that for them.

Around 10:30, quarter till 11, Dee Dee decided that she had had enough.  She'd been crying pretty much all week.  It was time to say good bye.  One of our friends put the theme song from Cheers on the overhead, followed by "Closing Time" and the tears started to flow.  There were heartfelt speeches, more tears, and quite frankly, a few of them came from people that surprised me.  You just don't realize, sometimes, how you touch people's lives until something like this happens.

We finally managed to shoo everybody out the door.  It was just Dee Dee and I.  We were ending just like we started.  We turned off the radio, shut out the lights, and locked the door one last time.

There will be no more tears.  We have work to do.  For us, on this day, the dream has died...

38 comments:

Karen said...

Wes; I'm some what lost for words. First off thank you for sharing what must be a very poignant moment in your and DeeDee's lifes, on of the lows rather then the highs I guess.

I'm sorry that I never got to share that beer with you over the bar.

I'm glad that at least you had the chance to try out your thing

I'm sad it didn't work out right now, who knows that the future will bring?

Time to reflect, take a deep breath, hold you head high.

For what it's worth I'm sending a big blog groupie hug x

Kevin said...

Wow. I am so sorry to hear that. This economy has hit us all hard. I know things will turn around, hopefully sooner then later. Give Dee a hug for Cathy and I

Stef said...

You must have been SO stressed for the last few months and that's probably putting it mildly.

I hope some of that is alleviated. And that other doors open for you and Dee Dee as a result of this closure. Cold comfort right now though probably. :-(

HUGS to you and your family, and be open to opportunity. :-)

TJ said...

Will keep yall in my thoughts and prayers as you move through this transitional time.

Steph Bachman said...

I was so sorry to hear about this. Beefs was a really happy thing. : )

{{{hugs}}}

Ron said...

That is sad. How could there be a dry eye with the Cheers theme song playing. Time to make lemonade. Company I put in 16 years with closed and I thought OMG what will I do now. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Here's to wishing you a quick and successful transition.

Shannon said...

I'm so sorry, hang on to the good memories. It's the people that step out and take chances that learn the most even if it doesn't end up the way we think it should. I like people who take chances....

((((hugs)))))

jkrunning said...

I'm so sorry Wes, that is also a dream of mine, to open a neighborhood, locals only type bar. I hope that you and DeDe were/are able to cherish the times you had there and the time you had living your dream.

You will find something else, I am sure of it.

J~Mom said...

Sending you and Dee Dee the biggest hugs!! Stupid economy!!

Missy said...

As a small business owner myself, I'm sitting here crying:...( I hate it for you and I also know that it can be 'any of us' right now. The thought of starting over is daunting but like we say to each other everyday, we HAVE each other and it's more than some people got. Hang tough and we'll be thinking of you!

Firefly's Running said...

Oh my! That's so sad! I am so sorry!:(

Calyx Meredith said...

With the shop my mother and I opened together teetering and the company my partner John started faltering - I have a small idea of stress and heartache you've been going through. It sounds like you and DeeDee pursued your dream with passion and integrity. I'm sorry for your loss. Hugs galore to you as you gather yourselves up for the next steps.

Lisa Slow-n-Steady said...

Wes, I'm not quite sure what to say. My prayers that you find the window that opens as this door closes. May you find peace and happiness as you move onto the next chapter in your lives.

Backofpack said...

The others said it all Wes, about one door closing and another opening... I hope you and Dee Dee find something new to challenge you. Also, I admire that the two of you are in this together, and making it through. Way to go!

Makita said...

I am so sorry, Wes & DeeDee. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story. The economy is affecting us all - some harder than others.

<< Hugs >>

Smithposts said...

Hey Wes, so sorry about the restaurant! Sounds like you guys gave it your best shot (darn the economy!!) and you have a lot of really great memories to go with the effort.

Thinking of you as you take a deep breath and begin to assess. I am sure a new adventure is lurking around the corner!!

Annette said...

I don't know what to say except I'm sorry. It's so hard to close the door on a dream. I hope the next phase of your life is positive and brings you joy. You will be successful. It's in you. Look at how far you've come with your fitness. You are the man! :)

Jodi said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this! One thing I know, however, is that you and Dee Dee will make it through this. You two have so much love for each other and this world that I have no doubts you will come out on top.

Jodi

Michelle said...

So sorry to hear this, Wes. I can't even imagine how emotional this has all been for you, on so many levels. You and DeeDee are a great team, and I'm sure that the two of you will get through this and move on to bigger and better things.

teacherwoman said...

Wes, I am sorry to hear about your loss. We are all being affected or have been affected by our economy and it's very sad.

I am sending good vibes to you and your family in this trying time.


*HUGS*

triguyjt said...

wes..I had no idea... Thanks for sharing a very personal side to the whole business that you poured yourself into...

One door closes and many more will open....

best to you and Dee Dee

Joe said...

Boy, Wes, this is tough. Reading between the lines for the past few months, I was concerned for you. Now the gig is up.

It's a bummer two good folks like you and DeeDee have to hit this. I'm truly confident, though, that after some well-earned rest, you'll both be on your feet. Your move into your day job has to be a good safety net.

Give DeeDee a hug for me. You guys will make it. "Tough times never last, but tough people do."

Blaine Moore said...

Wes,

I'm sorry to hear about the closing. Good luck in your future endeavors, and if I get down there again in March this year then dinner will be on me this time.

An Athlete In Training said...

Sorry to hear about it closing. Best of luck moving forward!!!!

Carolina John said...

Hey bro. I know that was a difficult decision. it's the same thing I've had to do before as well. too many times. I'll email you the story of my 2007.

Kim said...

aw wes - im so sorry to hear this news :( im giving you and deedee lots of cyber hugs.

Marcy said...

(((BIG HUGS))) to both of you! Thank you so much for sharing this. I had no idea! My thoughts are definitely with you both as you guys move on to the next chapter.

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

As an accountant, I know just how difficult and all-consuming running a small business is. I'm sorry to hear that you had to close yours. All my prayers to you and Dee Dee.

Sarah said...

Ugh. I am so sad to hear this news, I saw Dee Dee alluded to it on FB and wanted to ask about things.

We recently went out on a limb with Paul's new business and it is a scarier time to be doing something like that. You guys worked so hard to turn it into a success and I'm so sorry that it didn't work out.

Pokey said...

You are a good man, Wes. You and Dee Dee have a ton of heart, integrity and guts!

I am so sorry for you both. Thanks for sharing with us...and I hope the next opportunity is right around the corner for you both :)

Viv said...

Wes, I truly can not find the words. The way you are so self less and continue to go by blog FB and show love to us all when you and Dee were battling such tough times. I am sorry and know that good will be back to your family soon. You and Dee Dee are two hard core value Americans who deserve to be blessed along with your family. I will keep your family in my thoughts and hope you music will play again some day soon.

wendy said...

=(

hugs to you and dee dee...

I'm glad your regulars were able to spend time with you before the doors closed - sounds like an amazing and special time together!

Ryan said...

Wes and Dee Dee,
I am a big loud mouthed, sarcastic asshole, who feels a little "weepy" right now. I am sorry to hear about the hard times, but just think how much more glorious the good times will be when it all turns around.

My thoughts are with you, and if you need a vacation feel free to come to beautiful Jacksonville NC, at least your room and board will be covered.

Your family is in my thoughts

John said...

Like everyone else I was so sorry to hear of your loss. My business sells to places like yours and I've seen this a number of times over the years and it's never easy.
I hope you recover from this and only find happiness from here on out with whatever you do next.

Stuart said...

Wow thanks for sharing, I can't even begin to imagine, but as they say when one door closes...

Lily on the Road said...

Oh Wes, I am at a total loss of words and yes, I am crying.

Both you and DeeDee truly do touch the hearts of all the people you meet.

Lots of hugs from up north....but as JT said, maybe there is another door just waiting to be opened!

{{{Hugs}}}

Jess said...

Wes I'm so sorry to hear the news. Thanks for feeling you could share with us. Passing on hugs to all of you!

Runner Leana said...

Oh geez Wes, I am so sorry. I know a lot of us don't post too much about our personal lives, so to write that took a lot of strength and courage. This crappy economy... Things are getting to be rather doom and gloom up north here too. I wish you nothing but the best in the future for you and Dee Dee and your family.