As a small business owner, I count my blessings for having the support of generous patrons and the lovely West Village community in NYC. As 2014 rounds down to a close and I take a lookback at the year, I have much to be thankful for. It is healthy to pause for a deep breath and reflect on all that is good in life. It is all too easy to get caught up in dramarama, and in 2014 we experienced a lot of ups and downs. Here’s my top 5 learnings, doors closing and opening, and blessings.
5. Diversifying Desserts – a work in progress
When I launched my restaurant and wine bar Sweet Revenge in Manhattan nearly 6 & 1/2 years ago, I deliberately designed the the business not to be tied to cupcakes, in the event tidalwave sized macro events went against that mini cake darling. Patron palettes change, tasty innovations are thankfully embraced, diets, seasonality, media coverage, demographic shifts and availability/accessibility can tip the scales favorably, or not, in the life of a restaurant owner. I am very glad that I made that business decision out of the gate. Over the years we have added what I jokingly refer to as “real food” menus. This year we began the process of focusing on our core skills. We decided to up the volume on our beautiful desserts and our unique place in the world as the only dessert, wine & beer pairings concept. Although the following seems simple, the hurdle of allocating time, money, staff and attention is ever the challenge for entrepreneurs. We started simple. We add a cheesecake of the day, complete of course with wine & beer pairings. What a delicious undertaking! We offer 5 different cheesecake flavors for custom order and feature one cheesecake as the day’s special: http://www.sweetrevengenyc.com/menus/cakes-pies-cheesecakes
Stay tuned for tasty dessert happenings in 2015. Du jour offerings will include pies, cakes, cookie bars and other sweet treats. Prepare now for seriously sugarbuzzing in the new year with us!
4. Fighting the Good Fight: Department of Health Standards & Procedures
As patrons in NYC, the letter grade on the front of all restaurants is an instant identifier of quality and trust. I take great pride in maintaining an A since I’ve been opened and thanks goes to staff for making that a daily reality. I won’t sugar coat this process. It is extremely hard to do. We have highly detailed, comprehensive daily DoH checklists for the staff. It is the right and only way to run a restaurant. However, that being said, the health inspection isn’t always rational, sane or reasonable and often times takes a turn into madness. Talk to any restaurant owner in NYC and they will share some tales that will make your head spin at the unbelievably unfair things that happen. NYC has probably the world’s most demanding health standards related to food safety. I’m a proponent of this as it serves the public’s interest. The reality in restaurants is that everything is human dependent. Humans make mistakes. Most of the time these errors are simple, easily fixable and wouldn’t cause any harm to anyone. An example from my last inspection: while my chef was cracking eggs and had asked the inspector for a few minutes of time while she finished the task, one egg shell, out of an entire carton (36 eggs to a flat), fell on the floor as she was tossing the shells into the trash bin by her side. The inspector sighted the eggshell as an indication of having debris on our kitchen floor and not properly maintaining it. We went to court and presented photos of the floor, copies of our DoH procedures, receipts for new lids for trash bins and testified as to the exact happenings that day during the inspection. Thankfully justice prevailed and the judge sided with us, dismissing the charge and the fine. We do the right things by patrons and take the DoH standards seriously. Having one’s NYC Food Safety License is a mandatory requirement for my chefs and bartenders. With everything that can go against you in small business, it is essential to stand up for what you know is right, insisting on the highest of standards by employees and voicing the truth when your small business reputation is on the line. Go to bat for yourself fellow small business owners. You owe it to yourself to fight the good fight.
3. Doors Closing…And Opening
Seven restaurants within one block of Sweet Revenge failed this year. For the sheer fact that we survived what other long term, beloved spots did not, I am so thankful. I attribute the restaurant closings to a shift in neighborhood demographics and rents that are way too high to support the reality of sparse foot traffic. The corner of the west village where this has taken place has very little foot traffic, and this year has experienced a palpable decrease. We lost many regulars who worked at companies headquartered a few blocks away when their companies exited leases for more attractive midtown rents. The west village, while a precious place to live, is notorious for high rents and small spaces, making it ripe for patrons to love and then leave the neighborhood in search for a better quality of life (ie less rent, larger space = simple math). When a block goes quiet and there’s a lot of open commercial space, it becomes less inviting for folks to stroll down it. In my business, there are safety in numbers, so we are eager to see these commercial vacancies filled. Having yummy neighbors is a good thing. They provide reasons and buzz to bring patrons to the community, and that is helpful to all small business owners who make their living in the vicinity. Although there are sadly still holes, including one next door to us and two more at the end of our block, a few new beautiful venues have sprouted up. We wish them much success and are hopeful that their presence will be a present to all of us who love and cherish Carmine and Bedford streets. These changes in our neighborhood have inspired us to look at simplifying, overhauling some of our menus and brainstorming ways to get our products out into the world. Bring on the new year!
2. Candles, Incense, Home Diffusers, Lip Balms, Perfume & Lotion oh My!
AKA my most fave new addition to the Sweet Revenge family! I got into making soy candles, beeswax lipbalms, good smelling products for the home and yummy scented lotions and a roll on perfume in 2014 (the original inspiration Sweet Revenge for Her perfume launched in spring 2012). I had a ball bringing these to life. I joke with my folks that I love doing arts and crafts and would like to do it for a living! It is feelgood and joyful to make deliciously fragrant home, bath and body products. I make everything from scratch from recipes I tinkered with in the kitchen at Sweet Revenge, using beautiful ingredients. You can buy these products at Sweet Revenge Shop online or stop in at 62 Carmine to get them in person! Stay tuned for our etsy store in 2015!
1. Support of My Loved Ones
My biggest learning in 2104 was a simple beautiful reminder. I am truly blessed to have the love, support and rahrah cheerleading of my family and friends. Hubby Gur and I are going into 2015 hand-in-hand shoulder-to-shoulder to pursue our goals. My dear galpals offer up help and awesome ideas. My mom and dad, brother Matt & sister-in-law Brandy exude positivity, sending me good thoughts each day and reminding me of the importance of being kind to and taking care of myself (and doing meditation!). We have so many patrons who support our dream and who truly love Sweet Revenge. I am leaving 2014 on a note of gratitude.
Wishing a happy, prosperous and healthy 2015 to all,