Monday, May 20, 2013

What We've Been Doing

I can now say to all those people who told me things were going to get busy soon (and you’ve been saying this for nine months) that things are CRAZY busy now.  We are around a month out from opening and so are making decisions left and right. Here is a roundup.

Instead of  cash registers we will use ipads. This should allow us flexibility in how many order stations we have open, where the order stations are, and possibly even (during slow times) going out to tables to take orders. At busy times we could possibly open a window that is credit card only. We have to get it up and running to be sure but there seems to be a lot of flexibility to the system.

We are finishing up interviews and creating our team! So many great neighborhood young people have shown interest.

Buying Stuff
Identifying and filling out account applications with all our vendors.

Waste Oil
I met with Richard Elmquist from Community Homestead who will be collecting our waste oil. He is aiming to convert all of his cars to run on vegetable oil. He will also use the oil to heat the greenhouse in the winter. His farm is a community in which people live and work together so that individuals with developmental and other disabilities can reach their fullest human potential.
Over 200 aprons that will be screen printed with our logo for uniforms.
We are making decisions weekly on things like colors, kitchen doors, and where all the electrical sockets go.

Liquor License
All the forms are in! Business Licensing downtown has been great! Our Public hearing for our beer and wine license will be on Monday, June 3 at 1:30

You are welcome to email support to License Inspector Mohamed Ismail at:
Be sure to include your address. And refer to Sandcastle. Or show up to City Hall, Room 317 to show your support for our application.  

Here are the details for the public hearing in one place:
Monday, June 3 at 1:30, City Hall, Room 317 

We plan to announce our opening date on Memorial Weekend. We want to be sure that construction will be completed as planned. We had to push the date back once already as the building was sinking and some of the structural integrity was off. We were able to fix this rather easily however the city inspector required an engineer to come out to evaluate it …… submit their appraisal of the integrity …… which then needed to be reviewed ….  and then approved for us to move forward.  Whew! But back on track now!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Neighborhood Architects
I wanted to take a post and share a bit about my architects, Locus Architecture. They have been a great partner and are not only good people, but engaged Minneapolis community members.

Locus is made up of Paul Neseth and Wynne Yelland. Paul is a local boy and met Wynne in grad school. They dreamed up Locus at that time and Wynne came to Minnesota for a couple years but then never left. While it is a dream to work for yourself, Paul also shared that it can be scarier with more ups and downs.  On a side note, I’m encountering this myself these days. I find there is a certain amount of just jumping in with both feet and/or tunnel vision needed to keep moving forward.

Part of this project was working within the guidelines to maintain the original feel of the concession building. This was a sentiment mentioned in community meetings and was heartily shared by the Sandcastle team. Paul really liked respecting the classic style of the building but giving it a modern flare.

He is particularly excited about how the siding will look. We are using thermally treated pine. The treatment is chemical free but has the same effect of chemically treated wood, making it weather and water resistant so it can be used in building. This is a technique new to the US (it’s been happening for decades in Scandinavia) so we were fortunate to find a Minnesota company that does it.

The siding will then be painted a muted blue color (like in our logo). It will be placed horizontally on the building with gaps between the boards. Underneath the building will be wrapped in an inexpensive bright orange material (again like the color in our logo) so that it can be seen through the muted color. This will have the effect of appearing differently at different times of the day due to how the sun shines on it. Additionally, one part of the building will have a clear material under the siding to that you can see in and out through the gaps. Locus was focused on ways to make the inside and outside as interactive as possible.

Locus does a Speaker Series called 2 x 2. Local pioneers come in to talk about passions, inspirations, and relationships.  The next one, 6th in the series, is called Responsible Investing and will have Anna Forsberg a Kiva Fellow (of the worlds first online lending platform), and Kelly Guncheon, a financial planner.  It is at 7:30pm on 4/20/13 at their offices in south Minneapolis. You can RSVP and get the location on their website.

Other projects of Locus:
  • They are working on the expansion at Birchwood in Seward neighborhood.
  • A number of residential projects.
  • SAM – Sustainable, Attainable, Modern; a pre-designed home you can afford to want. & first photo below
  • They have been doing presentations on strategies for designing a home to live a more sustainable life and be motivated to do it. Contact them for details if interested.
  • Oaxaca Project –RAW, a design/build workshop for the curious and committed.  Paul recently returned from Oaxaca, Mexico where the workshop took place. & see photo below

 SAM – Sustainable, Attainable, Modern; a pre-designed home you can afford to want.

El Arca de Noah - An information center for the ecological practices being demonstrated on site in Oaxaca.

Friday, March 8, 2013

I'm Certified

I just took a course to be a certified food manager. What does that mean? Every restaurant needs one person on staff who is certified. This person is responsible for ensuring that food stays safe throughout the restaurants operation. We are kind of like the food police.  

I was initially excited for the course because I thought it’d be like the motorcycle class I took a few years back.  There is no way to get that range of people in one room other than for something like motorcycles. In that class, I took a quiz with the guy next to me on motorcycle safety.  He reasoned the answers based on knowledge he learned in jail (so he kept saying). I sat behind a young lady who had a tattoo on the back of her neck which I swore was a particular lady part that I’m too shy to write here. I was hoping for similar fun in the Food Manager course.

It was a day-long course. Our instructor was eager, young and had spent 7 years training at McDonalds. The highlight? Drawing pictures of puke and toilets to illustrate common symptoms of Salmonella. The painful part? An afternoon of one cheesy video after another. Nothing like my motorcycle course that included riding a 250cc bike around an obstacle course.

Having no professional background in food service (not sure my stint in the kitchen at Pizza Hut as a teenager counts), I must admit the content of the class was very useful. I learned about the danger zone for food, 41 to 135 F. Dangerous pathogens grow during this time and so you cannot let food sit in this zone for more than four hours (and ideally no hours). I learned about the foods most likely to be contaminated, let’s just say most here. They shared how to store food to ensure that if there is cross contamination it can be cooked off. And then, of course, the memorization part; required heat level and cooking time for different food items to eliminate bad bacteria. Whew!

The make up of the class was also not as exciting as I had hoped. It ranged from a 35 year White Castle employee and a couple folks from Mickey’s Diner (that seemed very concerned about how long you can leave eggs out), to a resort cook from northern Minnesota. The latter gentleman enjoyed sharing his kitchen “war stories” which the instructor did not know how to curtail. I think that added an hour to the course throughout the day.

Honestly, they should have let me just read the book and test on it. The sections on basic hygiene and ­­­­­­­­­­pest management can be shortened to, “Don’t be gross,” and, “Call a professional.” The cleaning and sanitizing section I learned in 5 minutes doing dishes at Piccolo. As much as it’s important, it’s not rocket science ( I wonder what rocket scientists compare their jobs to?).

Most of what we covered is easy to expect of an establishment. Sandcastle can easily build in simple processes to ensure our food remains safe. However it is concerning that some of the suggestions to ensure food safety would preclude buying local and possibly even fresh. I also could not help but think about time spent in homes in other countries (remember that was my past career, I’m not being pretentious), and how it’s customary to leave food out all the time. Okay, maybe not in restaurants (but maybe there too actually). So a part of me thinks about how over-sanitized we can be. Yet, the rule follower in me will be sure to comply with all regulations!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Open House Recap

Thanks to all the great neighbors, friends, and family who came out last night to share their thoughts about the outdoor seating plans for Sandcastle! 

There were over 40 people who showed up and we were flowing into the hallway. The MPRB did a great presentation on what went into the current design plans and then there was a healthy question/comment time. Here are some of  the topics that came up.

  • How to manage the bike lane to lessen chance of accidents for bikers and pedestrians
  • A desire for as much space as possible for seating
  • Talk about materials for the seating; decking vs. paving
  • Canoe parking
  • More picnic tables in the larger park area
  • Moving bike rentals to other side of beach and adding bike parking
  • Interest in making this happen sooner than later (MPRB stated a timeline as beginning construction after Labor Day) so that beer and wine would be available sooner than later also (nothing like a beer on the lake!)

Updated plans will be posted on the active projects section of the MPRB website. Also, the MPRB announced they will be having public events for input on master planning the entire Lake Nokomis park area later this summer. 

Here are some photos from the night. 
Ward 11 City Council Member John Quincy, Sandcastle owners Chele Payer and me, and Ward 12 City Council Member Sandra Colvin Roy. 
Cliff Swenson, Director from MPRB presenting. 
Paul Neseth from Locus Architecture presents with MPRB. 
Friends of Lake Nokomis Founder Steffanie Musich and Sandcastle's contractor from The Big Room, John Booth. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Things are Rolling

Things were inching along and then, BOOM, they just started to roll!  The pace of things is hard to get used to but exciting nonetheless. Here are some great updates. 
  • Food Plan Approved by Environmental Health Dept at the City of Mpls – This means our kitchen meets food safety standards.
  • MPRB Plans Open House on Outdoor Seating -  Please Come! See details below.
  • Permit Applications Submitted to City of Mpls – This will give us approval to begin construction.

We are hoping to start construction the first full week of March. This is close to on schedule for us so we are still hoping for our open date to hit the end of May.

The MPRB has been really excellent about coordinating and communicating with us. They have begun their process for the outdoor seating. But this is a long process. I have heard that we can expect our outdoor seating to be completed anywhere from 4th of July to early August. We are working closely together to ensure temporary seating for the time between when we open and the seating is done.

One implication of this is that we will open without beer and wine. We cannot receive a license until the seating is complete. In Minneapolis, one of the beer/wine license requirements is tied to a minimum number of seating. We will begin the application process so that we can be ready when construction is completed.

All public support for the project will help it stay on track. You are welcome to attend the Open House where Locus Architecture (who works with both Sandcastle and the MPRB), a couple of us Sandcastle owners, MPRB staff and Commissioners, and the Community Advisory Committee members, will be available to share information about the outdoor seating design, plans and timeline. Your thoughts on the outdoor seating area are welcome also.

Sandcastle Open House
Date: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Time: 7-8pm
Location: Nokomis Community Center, 2401 East Minnehaha Pkwy

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why the restaurant business?

That’s what I was thinking when the Piccolo Sunday/Monday dishwasher changed jobs but didn’t tell anyone. The expense of a temp was high so my husband asked if I wanted to help. Considering I’d already quit my job, I thought, why not? I can put off re-learning knitting another night.

My previous job was in study abroad. For over ten years I worked in various ways helping college students earn credits toward their degree in other countries. The job I just left had me traveling around the Midwest working with partner universities. Over four years of being gone three weeks every month made me miss my husband, miss Minneapolis, and miss all that happens here. So now I will be on the other end of the extreme, staying in a few mile radius of my house working at the lake almost every day. 

Washing dishes turned out to be pretty fun. There is a certain zen to be found once you get your system in place and attack the dishes. It was pretty slow and everyone working that night was very helpful. It didn’t hurt that I knew it was a one night gig. And of course, I snacked all night on brownies that were on the dessert menu. It was manageable!

Dishwashing was easy enough, the real challenge was that my husband kept repeating how great this experience was for the work I will be doing at Sandcastle. It wasn’t my dream to leave higher education to become a dishwasher. He can’t really think that this is ‘training’ for me?

The Small Business
What the husband knew, after many years of owning his own businesses, is that you get to do everything as the owner. He didn’t imagine that my role would be the dishwasher, but he did imagine that the same scenario that had him calling on me to wash dishes, would happen to me at some point at Sandcastle.

In fact, that is one of the reasons I wanted to switch careers and open a business, you get to do a little bit of everything. Here are other great aspects that have me excited. 

  • Small businesses are good ways to become part of a community by supporting neighbors and local initiatives. 
  • You can create your own little community within your business. 
  • I get to be the boss and implement any crazy idea I have (I swear some of them will work, if not I can blame one of the other two owners!).

Doug and Chele have lived and breathed restaurants most of their lives. They couldn’t live any other way. I have lived restaurants on the periphery for 12 years of marriage and am excited for all its challenges. Honestly, I’m even looking forward to being on my feet more. I hope to say the same after the first season at Sandcastle.

This particular endeavor with Sandcastle in the Minneapolis park system was appealing for even more reasons. I am overwhelmed at the thought that I get to be a part of people’s lives from planning a concession building that might last longer than me, to the possibility of becoming a memory for someone growing up, falling in love, or simply spending a night of their lives at Lake Nokomis.