November 6th 2020 marked 6 full years in business. At that moment, there was really nothing to celebrate because an employee brought COVID to the safest-run business on the planet! We hadn’t had a single person in the store to dine-in since March 16th 2020 and an employee brought it through the back door. But I digress.
Since this is 2020, please allow me to share what goes into creating a business – behind the scenes – that you don’t know or see. The old saying “everyone is fighting something” is absolute fact. In late 2014, my daughter was essentially self destructing due to the pressures of adolescence and bullying, despite every conceivable intervention and therapist/help you could get; we had a failing coffee shop in Lafayette where employees were stealing from us while we were at the hospital and the drive-thru I entrusted to folks up here in Estes was being run into the ground. When I wondered why the ice cream we had been making wasn’t selling, I later learned that the young lady in charge said “I won’t sell ice cream, it makes people fat” and threw it out daily. Even while all this was going on, I gave my custom van to an employee with 4 children who was supposed to make payments and did while she worked for me but then moved and essentially stopped paying. Another employee told newcomers in the first months: “we don’t do much here but watch Netflix”. With all of this happening around me, people asked: “how do you trust anyone”. The fact is, I will not alter my personality because others screw me. Sure, I will get angry in the moment, but fundamentally, my soul/spirit is unaffected. Someone has to lead by example. Some wondered aloud how I was able to run this business with so many people around me essentially trying to destroy it from within. Pure will and a couple of good people is the answer. Despite all of their attempts to derail Antonio’s, I wasn’t going to let that happen. Many many people were shown the door to find the few that are good people. Even good people have issues and you have to work with them. That’s the secret.
To succeed in business, you must have unwavering-self-confidence, resilience, the ability to accept huge risks with terrible odds but above all you need people- both employees and customers. Above all, your spouse needs to be onboard and it doesn’t get any better than my wife! You cannot do it all yourself. At a young age, I learned that if you hold the flag up long enough, the right people will find you. They did. Through the entire ordeal, it took another NY’er to stand with me while my wife took the reins of our daughter’s healthcare. Without Tracey being home with her, there is no way she would have made it and my story would be very different. The other NY’er is Tony Francher and eventually his wife, Kate. Antonio’s became the family-run place it was always destined to be but not without many scars, some from employees, some from bitter customers and even some from the landlord – an attorney – who tried to sell the building out from under me as we grew. Ah yes, the story has many more facets, but the whole idea of sharing a few snippets from the journey is to normalize what others endure in the hopes of creating the opportunities that others squander.
Restaurant owners aren’t all egomaniacs, they are creators of economy, opportunity and many make good food. We are all on the same road, but some have quicksand, arsonists, king cobras or God knows what else in their path. Stay the course my friends to be rewarded. Now we have a wonderful team that I enjoy deeply. A family. And as Stitch said in “Lilo and Stitch” – “our family is small, and broken, but good”. In year 6, we have endured the worst pandemic the world has known in recent times and wildfires that got so close you could feel the heat. We transformed the entire business into takeout on a single day’s notice and rearranged everything. Today, I am planning for the reopening and going in to work on being ready for it.And in this disaster filled year, my daughter has taken her place next to me and we continue to look forward, not back. As they say: “fire brings new growth” and we had to endure these fires to become who we are today. Antonio’s and its people will continue to grow. I wish the same for you. Don’t give up, don’t let others block your path. Be true and let the wrong people disappear from your life. As 2020 comes to an end – with vaccines in sight -there is light on the horizon again. In the interim, God bless us all! Stay safe and healthy. Thank you for being on this journey with us!