|Angela crafted three beautiful tables for us, doing her first big wood burning project!|
Yes, I am trying to convince her there is another business in this for her :-)
The delighted grin of a young man with Down's Syndrome when asked if he'd like to learn to make pizza. The catch in a mom's voice as she calls to inquire if we really, really plan to hire people like her child. The eager yet anxious nervousness of a young person with autism who honestly explains why they have been fired from a job before, and how they are trying so hard to learn from their experience and just need a chance to practice things that are hard for them.
The past few days of interviews for prospective employees have been equal parts heart breaking and mission affirming. There simply are not words for the emotions I have had wash over me as one by one, people sit across this table from me. I knew there might be a need, but that need is generic until you have precious faces to put with it. Something changed for me this week, and it was actually unexpected. I mean, after all, I AM that mom with those kids! I KNOW the heartache, the fears, the obstacles. I have walked in shoes that are similar, waded through waters that are waist high wondering if we were ever going to get to dry land...and hope. Heck, I am still there this moment! So how in the world did this impact me on such a visceral level when it was all so familiar??
Each person's unique story captured my heart. Each person's courage humbled me. Each person's desires to have the same kinds of experiences and success that everyone else gets to have reminded me that regardless of how different we may be from others, we all truly have the same yearnings in life. We are far more similar than we are different, though some might never be able to really recognize that. Watching the sweet gentleness with which Olesya and Angie treated each and every person that walked through the door, I saw light beaming in to Buckaroos.
Oh, this is going to be so, so much more than a pizza and ice cream shop.
As we near completion of all the construction tasks and neaten it all up, the pride the kids feel in their store is oozing out of them. They have built a beautiful little place, handling so much of the physical work with some direction, but having put in sweat equity of the type few would be willing to do. As they work to pay off the debt over the course of the next few years, they will be adding in even more.
The other night, the first pizza rolled out of the conveyor, a moment of great celebration for us all. Josh wasn't in town for the event, but everyone else was there and admiring the great work of art:
There it is...the "fruit" of a year's work. Olesya and I were alone in the restaurant for a few minutes and draping my arm around her, we faced "her" kitchen, the dream of her life.
"Can you believe we did it? We are almost there? Think about what this looked like a year ago!" I said:
"And NOW look at it!" I added, and this was what we saw:
Sure there are a few little things left to do, decor to put up, etc. but the transformation of the slimmest thread of an idea a mere one year ago to THIS has been nothing short of astounding. And they did every ounce of it, they painted, they laid flooring, they tore down cinder block walls, they built new walls, and so much more that isn't photo worthy.
Kenny has spent the past several days creating order guides for every single item we need to make our recipes, and he has updated the painstaking work he and our very-much-missed-adopted-intern/cousin/dear friend Billy did this summer by further editing our food cost analysis documentation. Yes, down to the penny, every.single.menu item has been broken down into the exact cost to create it, and he and Billy priced checked against multiple vendors, and did yet one more review this week. Seven pages of cost analysis, and every vendor online has a set up wish list or online order guide for every single item, all done by Kenny.
He has also been our "shelving putter togetherer" :-) Hahaha!
Angie has taken a ridiculous sketch I tried to make (Oh man, glad I never tried to teach art!) and turned it into an Instagram worthy mural on the outside of our building! We were unable, by law, to depict anything that related to our business...no images of pizza, no slogans, etc. so we came up with this idea, and she spent 2 entire days perfecting it. We love it and hope others will enjoy snapping pics as they point to where the have visited in our beautiful Western Slope area.
Olesya has been in seventh heaven as she has been staying at the store until midnight several nights this past week, cleaning, organizing, and basically keeping us all in good shape there after messes are made as new equipment, countertops, etc. have been installed. Tomorrow is her happiest day to come, I bet, as our first really large food order arrives and she can sort and stash until her heart is content! Haha! She has done so many new things, and is practicing on the cash register with Dominick at the liquor store so she can make change easily, which has been a challenge in the past.
She also handled addressing and sorting all our "soft opening" invitations, as well as our Grand Opening invitations.
Poor Dominick has spent 7 months dealing with contractors, city planners, health inspectors, and more. He willingly gave up more and more backroom space at the liquor store when we wheedled and whined over needing "just a little bit more". He has been a rock star through all of this.
Matt and Josh have helped in all kinds of ways, from being a TShirt model:
While Josh has been doing that, Matt designed our web site, and recently spent tons of hours learning how to create an online shopping cart integrated with a payment solution/credit card merchant account so we could sell TShirts to those who have expressed interest. He has also spent several hours in training for our marketing system. Check out our web site and TShirt page with our homegrown model at: Buckaroos Merchandise. Oh yeah, he is our Chief Pizza Tester, and after our first one came out of the oven he took a couple bites, looked up over the top of his glasses and said, "That is a darned fine pizza, I would totally pay for this!" and as cheap as he is (and Josh too! Hahaha! We tease Josh about going out with his friends to Denny's and ordering a glass of water, then bragging about not spending money!) that was a high compliment!
And me? Well, I have been the Woman of Many Hats, I guess. I am Keeper of the Project Deadlines, Calendar Monitor, Delegator of All Tasks, Social Media Manager, ServSafe Trained Manager, POS System Coordinator, Accounting and Financing Overseer, Interviewer and Encourager, Butt Kicker and Problem Solver, Interpreter Of All No One Gets That Each Other Says (HAHAHA! Probably my main task!!!), and Outside Entity Collaborator. I have just tonight finished my last online class for Job Coach Certification offered through the Virginia Commonwealth University so that I have a better understanding of the work ahead of us. Oh yeah, and I grocery shop and plan meals, and keep the house clean...maybe teach a little school in between. And I have no photos to share other than this one, because no one takes pictures of the terribly exciting desk work I do!!!
And maybe my most important role is to continue to pray that God uses this once dark and dingy trash filled back room to become something very special. Angie said it best this past week when, as we were talking about very real financial concerns, she shared, "As long as we keep the mission first and never forget why we are doing this, we will make it. The minute we start making decisions based totally on money alone, we will fail."
We are risking so much for this, I won't pretend otherwise. Dominick and I know retirement will never happen for us, but if we can somehow help our own kids, and make a difference in the lives of others, too, then we will be content. What I love about this group of unique people pulled together from different genetic backgrounds is how our spiritual DNA is the same. We all feel this way, that welcoming others into our lives, perhaps especially those whom others have rejected, is part of our calling as a family. We do so in a no frills sort of way, for we are not really anything special or fancy. We are, hopefully, creating a bigger living room with Buckaroos, a place where others can join us, be accepted, be nurtured, have standards to live up to that are high for character and relationship, and maybe...just maybe...make a really good pizza and serve rich and creamy ice cream crafted by another family business out of Utah.
Later this week, I will have a very special story to share with you all, one that had us all with jaws dropped and left us teary. We received an unexpected gift, actually we have received several, but this one was from way out in left field! I have feeling it may not be the last we share, if the past few days are any indication, there is a whole lot of beautiful ahead of us, along with a whole lot more hard work.
As I finally head off to bed, my mind and heart are working overtime, still processing the interviews, the faces that won't recede into the background, the hope that we are carrying ourselves that this place will be the place where all belong.
"Pizza with a Purpose for People with Potential"...may it be so.