Love to the small businesses!
It’s Small Business Week in Asheville so I decided to give some love to the small bizz owners and share my story of growing up in a family business. Now that I own my own business, I have a huge amount of respect for all you people out there that started your own thing. It has been by far the most rewarding and terrifying experience (and I’m hooked).
Pictured here is a photo of me, my dad and sisters all working at my dad’s restaurant, Mac and Bob’s (he’s Bob). My dad opened a 10 stool bar in 1980 and sold New York style sandwiches and beer (he’s the Yankee in Salem, Virginia). In the almost 40 years that it’s been open, it’s grown to seat over 300 people and is one of the local’s favorite spots for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks. The other owner, Joe, has 4 kids who also worked at the restaurant with us.
When I was a kid I would roll silverware in the kitchen on Saturday nights and loved being part of the restaurant bustle. I then became a hostess and would ask people if they preferred “smoking or non” with my mouth full of braces. Eventually I moved up to waitressing and bartending. After college I moved back home to bartend with my sister Ryan and had to learn how to make all the ridiculous shooters that the Roanoke College kids loved to order.
My dad is a very talkative, personable guy that often walks through the restaurant chatting with friends and making sure everyone is happy. While being a restaurant owner may look like a dreamy job, there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes that many people don’t get to see. My dad is by far the hardest working person I know and I look up to him and respect him so much. My mom is the real hero because she somehow took care of three girls while handling all the payroll and accounting for the business as well as so many more things for the restaurant. It wasn’t uncommon to hear “Hey Wen?” yelled out from somewhere around the house asking if she can pick up 5 pounds of wings to drop off at an event.
Each morning my dad was up at 5am with his tape recorder in hand, scribbling notes onto his legal pad. People would call him all. day. long. On his "off day”we weren’t allowed to use the phone because he was on call 24/7. He then had to put up with three teenage girls complaining that we couldn’t call our friends, boyfriends or get on AOL. In the earlier years he often came home between 3-4am after closing up the bar. When the man wanted to start serving breakfast he flew around the country to the top breakfast spots and managed to weasel his way into kitchens to learn their process. HE DOESN’T STOP! He’s constantly reading about management and business, goes to tradeshows and is always talking about what he’s going to work on next. With over 100 employees, he’s got a lot going on.
As a kid I had fun being able to help with the design and marketing. I one time recorded an advertisement on the radio to promote that kids ate free on Sundays. I then started drawing the kids menus and eventually began taking pictures and designing the menu and advertisements. When I got older I designed the 30th Anniversary logo and have designed the Mac and Bob’s website THREE times now (check out the latest here). Looking back I’m so grateful that my dad trusted me and my sister Maggie (the actual photographer) to handle a lot of the business design needs. Being able to practice on a real life business was such a fun way to get experience. Maggie is now handling all of Mac and Bob’s social media and is doing a fantastic job!
Now that I work for myself, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my childhood and feel grateful that I was able to witness the life of a business owner first hand (his desk was literally our kitchen table). My dad doesn’t have an in-house marketing team or know what a vector file is, but he knows the importance of branding and consistency and trusted whatever my sister and I came up with. I have an immense amount of pride for my family business and I’m realizing I’m beginning to feel the same way about my clients and their businesses.
Working with local business owners in Asheville reminds me of the hard work that I saw in my dad and has given me a huge amount of respect for all the businesses working their asses off. There can be long hours, stress and uncertainty, but there’s also freedom and a sense of fulfillment that comes with owning a business. Asheville is such an entrepreneurial city and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by friends and loved ones that own their own businesses, including my boyfriend Geoff who co-owns Sunshine Window Cleaning. Geoff is incredibly business savvy, manages a crew of about 13 guys and somehow remains calm and charming during stressful situations — I’m inspired by him every day. As business owners we support each other, look out for each other and lift each other up so we can better our communities. That’s what it’s all about!
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