Tuesday, 13 December 2011

End of an era

End of an era is a commonly used term for all sorts of events these days, but it really applies to long periods of time, such as the Victorian era, or in geological terms, the Jurassic era. 20 years therefore doesn't seem to warrant being called an era, but in this case it feels right.

In 1990 I was coming to the end of working for various companies in the advertising industry. It hadn't been the greatest working experience of my life by that point to be honest. Advertising well deserves it's reputation as a back stabbing world and I witnessed several incidents of people undermining another's work in order to have them fired and then take their job. This was early on in my working life as well and didn't serve as a good example to be setting I thought.

But a recession hit at the start of the 90s and a large number of advertising agencies went to the wall, including the company I was working for at the time. It came as a complete surprise on a cold morning in January and I vowed never to work in that industry again.

Within a few months I had really thrown a curve ball in my working life. I found myself the owner of a small delicatessen in my local town and for want of a better title named the shop Kitcheners Delicatessen, which was rather vain on reflection. It was still a creative type of job though, especially the marketing side, and I found myself enjoying every moment, working long hours 7 days a week.

5 years on and I expanded to the property next door and created a coffee shop in the original deli area and a much larger deli in the new extension. Overnight it went from me and one other member of staff to me and 9 staff. The workload multiplied overnight as well but so did it's success, largely due in part to my great staff and to my best friend's support.

Over the following years it became a destination for the local community. Several times over the summer months I would have live jazz bands outside and together with the tables and chairs on the pavement it created a real cosmopolitan atmosphere. I returned to film making at the end of the 90s, in tandem with running the business. Everything was going well but then a period of physical illness hit me over a period of 2 years and it became obvious that it was time for me to change my working routine. And so, partly on the advice of my GP, I said a tearful farewell to the deli on the 2 April 2006 and left it in the hands of two new owners.

I don't think they really knew the first thing about running this particular deli, despite my best efforts to help, but whatever the reasons the business started to nose dive. They sold it on just 2 years later and the new owners had a steep uphill challenge ahead of them. They apparently didn't get the business in the same healthy state I had left it in.

Then the global recession hit. Try as they might the economy was against them. As has happened to so many businesses in the past 2 years they have finally decided it's time to call it a day. And so, on 31 December this year, after just over 20 years of trading, Kitcheners Deli will close it's doors for good.

My best friend wrote to me about the deli once, comparing it to a scene in one of our favourite films, Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe:

It will always make me think of the deli and the wonderful times so many people have had there. In the film the main character says at one point that when the cafe closed the heart of the community was lost and people drifted away. But it always held a strong place in people's hearts and memories, no matter what.

I owe that period of my life so much. So many important memories were made there, and not just for me. I will miss the old place.

It truly is the end of an era.

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