Sunday, December 21, 2008

Before I was a successful entrepreneur...

Not everyone who loves food and cooking dreams of having their own restaurant.  Half & Half was not the culmination of all my culinary and power-wielding desires, it was a way to be self-employed.  And it just so happened that food was the logical vehicle for a sliver-sized commercial space in a great area of downtown Portland.  

I did have a few food related business ideas before opening Half & Half.  In college I studied film and literature and wanted to be Pauline Kael, only I just wanted to write Lacanian critiques of Antonioni films, only I wasn't really that smart.  So, why not open a movie theatre that shows indie films and serves great food?  This idea was hatched back in Colorado and probably around the very day that the McMenamins brothers rehabbed their first theatre. 

Later on, I had an idea for a restaurant that only served leftovers, my favorite way to eat food. You could make really delicious lo-mein noodles and serve them cold in cardboard boxes, spaghetti in tupperware, etc... OR, you could have a refrigerator at every table. Diners can just raid theirs individually.  A horrible idea, but later on when we opened Half & Half I still wanted to put cold pizza on the menu.  

After I was living in Portland for about a year, my friend Marti convinced me to buy the outdoor vending cart she had recently purchased.  Her business was going to be "Generalissimo Marti's Smoothies and Cigars".  A computer programer with a BA in Math, Marti wanted to do something fun with her life but ultimately couldn't bring herself to launch a smoothie and cigar cart.  I, however, as a college grad with a BA in English and Film, a day job at a bakery and a public access cooking show called "Eat Me", was the perfect candidate for this kind of gig.  

I named my business "The Wandering Jew" and I was going to sell latkes, knishes, matzo ball soup and other Jewish soul food on the streets of downtown Portland.  I just needed to find the perfect sidewalk, a commissary kitchen, and the chutzpah to do it all myself.  At the time I was 23-24 and full of many things but business acumen was not among my riches.  Also the idea of schlepping soup and grated potatoes around and standing outdoors in downtown Portland all day lost its luster by the minute.  The Wandering Jew never surfaced.  After sitting in storage for years, I finally sold the cart to a guy who paid a small deposit and stiffed me for the rest. Maybe I didn't find my success as The Wandering Jew, but I did dispel at least one stereotype.   


No comments:

Post a Comment