Hm...This is a question we get a lot. In the beginning, there was a sense of beaming pride as we said, "Two days! We've been open for TWO DAYS!!!!" Now it's more like, "Is it 4 months? Four months and how many days? Well, October 11th is when it happened." It's still exciting to have people just stumble into the store, surprised that we exist. I wonder if the enchantment will continue to last years down the line or if we'll be scratching our heads, thinking to ourselves, "Well, it has been like 7 years...are we still a hidden gem?"
I think this is the longest stretch of time I have gone with working continuously, 70+ hrs a week as in without any days off. I'm not sure how Simon does it. He gets up early each day, regardless of what time he went to bed the night before, and he's just ready to go. I spend the first hour of each day fighting to keep both eyes open at the same time and then fighting to get them to focus properly. Simon is the endless well of energy and I'm so happy that he's up front and I'm hiding in the back.
As tired as I get, it's hard to step away, still. I had imagined that we'd smooth things out sometime in January and we'd be taking at least 1 day off a week to take care of things or relax or something. I sleep in one day a week and I spend the first hour or two of that day
thinking about work, what needs to get done, should I help in the
kitchen or do paperwork? I think about work, but I make an active
effort to not work until I actually show up at the store. Simon slept in for the first time this week, but I think he still made it to the store within the first hour it was open. There's still a real sense of guilt for me to not actually work and I think that's normal, for now. I think it'll be normal for the first 6 months, but if I can't manage a day off a year from now, then I know that there's some serious issues going on. Either I don't trust my staff or I'm a huge control freak.
The thing is, I am a control freak. It breaks my heart to look at bad macarons, even if they're not mine. I am sad looking at them online. I am sad when I see it in pictures. I am sad looking at them in a store. I am especially sad if they're in my oven. Three years later and I still feel really proud when I make a really good-looking batch and I still feel really bad when I have one that came out less than stellar. I think that starting off with 6 months of really bad batches has primed me to feel proud about good ones for the rest of my life. I still strive for that perfection and thousands of macarons later, I still care. I care about the other items, too, and it's still hard for me to give up that responsibility. There are a few things I still make on my own because I'm still trying to figure out what method is the best. I really care about what we make and the pride I have over our products trumps any desire I have to compromise quality for the sake of profits.
I think people have noticed. I know how much the French care about the quality of their pastries and for them to even suspect that I am one of their own tickles me. I love the idea of waltzing out of the kitchen like, "I am not what you think I am." However, when I waltz out, it often turns into me feeling really small, young, and totally awkward. I'm not gifted at small talk so my pimp walk is really all I have and there's nothing to back it up. So at best, I poke my head out, smile, acknowledge that I am not French, and hide back into the kitchen. I've used this walk maybe 3 times and then decided that I don't have enough swagger for it. I feel awkward calling myself a chef, so I suppose I have to nail that first before I can try to brag.
Four months feels like a lot of time, but it really isn't. I pushed so many things off when we first opened, calling them "January Problems." The January problems are now February problems and maybe soon March problems? We're still a little overwhelmed with being new business owners. To the point where it took us 3 weeks before we looked at one of our signs and noticed that while writing it, "earl grey" somehow ended up as "oorl orey." Just yesterday, I realized that our kitchen could really be reorganized to improve our efficiency. We're still trying to figure out how to fit in our classroom. Our architecture drawings suggested we could fit 8. Now I'm not sure we can fit 4 and those 4 people would have under the age of 13 to avoid feeling cramped. I want to get tables to force ourselves to really figure it out. Simon wants to wait on the tables so we don't get the wrong size. This debate can go on forever. We made a few compromises because we couldn't afford what we wanted and still open on time, but now that we're open, we have to go back and readdress those compromises to see if we're ok with what we have or would going back to the original plan substantially improve our experience. I had thought 4 months was a long period of time back when I was a naive non-store owner. Fortunately, it really hasn't been that much time. People are still surprised to see us. I am still surprised we actually have a store. I think we have enough time before that surprise wears off for us to address those February/March/forever problems.