Monday, February 27, 2012

What Wasn’t Meant To Be

One of my earlier posts reported on a space that we had submitted an LOI for.  Well the love affair must come to an end because we didn’t get it.  I’m not going to lie, this stung.  More like a bee sting vs. a jellyfish sting but there is a twinge of pain nonetheless.  The space had SO much going for it but at the end of the day, there are so many things that need to be in alignment.  The blessing and curse to this process is that we may never know why we didn’t get it, I can only speculate.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.  We had been awaiting a “phase one” report that is basically an environmental site assessment.  Back in the 40’s or 50’s the property used to be a gas station and the EPA findings had the potential to be a hot mess.  As they say, “On to the next!”

Our primary area of interest in Phinney Ridge/Greenwood which rumor has it the two are merging to become Phinney Wood.  We would like an 1800-2200 square foot building with outdoor seating potential.  Keep your eyes peeled.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Penny Profiler #2

Peanut butter and jelly.  Steak and frites.  Macaroni and cheese.  Potatoes and gravy.  Certain things belong together and Val Markus and Craig Serbousek are no different.  Part wine maven, part food guru, and much, much more they offer a slice of balance and joy to Ballard and beyond.  Val’s wine knowledge and portfolio are impressive to say the least (  Her spunk, fervor and grace are SO infectious.   Craig’s soft spoken, humorous, and attentive nature makes me melt.  Craig has left his mark on Queen Anne with his two restaurants Crow and Betty.  Both are worthy destinations and local institutions!  ( and

Their significant penny donation is appreciated.  Their friendship is treasured.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Taste at the Seattle Art Museum is one of Seattle’s hidden treasures. Open for Sunday brunch, weekly lunch, happy hour and dinner, they feature almost exclusively local foods, highlight neighboring breweries and wineries, and have a mean cocktail/spirit program to boot!

They were crazy enough to bring me on board as extra help during the Gauguin exhibit that runs through April 29th, 2012.  Please consider coming down to see this amazing show:

I have missed the front lines and to be surrounded by patient guests and a humble team feels amazing.  My training is drawing to an end and while I feel comfortable on the floor, it is clear that I have been out of practice and my rusty joints needed a little movement. 

The workings of a restaurant are no different than a big Broadway play.  There are countless things happening before the doors ever open.  When they do, you have the team behind the curtain, the actors on stage, the musicians, etc.  Seen, hidden, they are all crucial components to the bigger picture.  It is pretty magical to see it work well.

Come in, request my section or heckle me from a far.  It is always great to see familiar faces when I am getting my ass handed to me on a platter.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Back to School for Jen!

My outlooks on life and business ownership are quite similar: I aim to amass as much information and experience as possible.  I’m comfortable in the classroom, where ever that may be. 

This month I am embarking on a weeklong class of bartending 101.  My knowledge up to this point has been enough to entertain friends and give me confidence when ordering out.  Considering my recent endeavor to actually own a bar, I realized it was time to raise my own.

I have received glances of skepticism when mentioning this class time. I cannot argue that applied knowledge is a preferred method for comprehension.  However, when attending seminars, classes, lectures, whatever, I always say to myself… “If I can walk away with one new idea, one new way of thinking about someone/something, one new way of doing something better, it was all worth it.”

Check back to see my updates on how I make it through. I wonder if they give us grades or if it’s a pass/fail system? Truth be told, I am a little competitive.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Penny Profiler #1

Meet Danielle Custer.  Our paths crossed about eight years ago with mutual friends intersecting at every turn.  In Seattle the degrees of separation seem smaller than normal and ridiculously tighter in hospitality circles.  Danielle is a creative and determined force that has a special way of making everyone feel at ease… both with her cooking and personality. She has opened restaurants in Dallas and Seattle and in recent years left her foodie mark as the Director of Taste at SAM.  She is now about to join the food truck circle with her very own “Monte Cristo” later this spring.  Learn more at: 

The day I announced my penny project, Danielle delivered a glass milk jar overflowing with pennies that evening.  And so it grows.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Creating the identity for a business reminds me of when I was a child learning phonetics.  We were little investigators decoding letter by letter, word by word.  You sound it out feeling a rhythmic sing-song like pattern.  Letters associated with pictures, joining A for apple, B for balloon, C for cat and so on.  Now fast forward and here I sit working at playing the same association game.  Phonetics and our visual identity work to blend patterns creating a much bigger picture. 

Where do we begin?

  • ·         Naming our business
  • ·         Recognizing the attributes that solidify the personality, spirit, and values of our establishment
  • ·         Who are we serving?
  • ·         Finding the best possible location
  • ·         Develop a  logo that synchronizes everything

We have recently started the creative process with the lovely and talented Ms. Claire Parkin.  Strategizing our visual identity has been a welcome and demanding practice.  Claire is an interpreter that takes our lofty visions and regurgitates them into something that is artistic, meaningful and tangible.  At the core, we want our visual identity to be in alignment with everything else.  We are business owners that embody “what you see is what you get”.  We want the branding to reflect just that.

Part of the homework Claire gave us was to complete a creative brief to get out some of the crazy ideas in our head on to paper. I am providing, with her permission, the areas we explored in hopes this will help your existing/future creative projects:
  •       Overview: (project information, goals, measurable objectives)
  • ·         Deliverables Needed: (copy, design, printed materials, website, and/or mailing?)
  • ·         Target Audiences: (who they are---age, gender, income, geography, lifestyle)
  • ·         Market Position: (evaluation of company’s service relative to competition)
  • ·         Tone and Images: (funny and casual or formal, what time/imagery will be most affective, specific visual goals)
  • ·         Message: (What’s the context of the specific message in relation to the business plan? Where possible, include information to be shown in the designed item e.g. taglines, body text, imagery, etc.)
  • ·         Features, Benefits & Value: (prioritize top features of business, facts about the service, its value to target audiences. What’s the one sentence that summarizes its unique value? Other key points?)
  • ·         Objectives: (what do you want to achieve? Make objectives specific and measurable)
  • ·         Budget & Schedule: keep in mind 4 steps---consultation (research & strategy), creation (concept & design development), production (artwork & print procurement), and delivery (file handover)

·          Side bar: is a wonderful new website that allows users to create and manage an online theme-based image collection (reminds me of the collage boards on my office walls) and with social photo sharing technology you can “connect to everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.”

One day soon, you’ll see postings of our future logo.  I’m so excited I can barely stand it.

Friday, February 10, 2012


One of my all-time favorite board games is Balderdash.  It is a classic bluffing game with a variety of categories containing unbelievable but true statements about people, words, movies, laws and of course my favorite… initials.  

Learning all there is to know about business ownership is daunting, to say the least.  It might be fun to compile a list of all the acronyms we come across and make up our own definitions.

Well the big one on our plate at the moment is LOI.  While I’m tempted to bluff and come up with a phony answer to entertain you, I’ll take the serious route.

LOI or Letter of Intent according to it is a letter indicating that the writer has the serious intention of doing something, such as signing a contract in the circumstances specified.  It does not constitute either a promise or a contract.

What does it mean for us?  Every time we find a property of interest, we work with our commercial realtor to create a document outlining our offer for lease terms, defining the nature of our business, stipulating permitting requirements, etc.  Then, the landlord reviews it.   They might come back with other negotiating terms, they may have selected another business, or our business might not be what they want for their space.

Over the last year I have been in countless “potential” spaces.   Because of the various factors I mentioned above, I’ve tempered my enthusiasm with a note of cynicism.  While we’ve recently submitted an LOI on a space we love… it is too early to tell.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Put in your two cents... or more

And we’re off!  My office is a giant collage of ideas, images and menus.  One of the coolest ideas that I recently came across was this penny floor:

So I put out an APB to my friends and family inviting them to save up the little copper coins.  Recognizing that we’re mostly a credit/debit card society, it could take awhile to hit our goal.  Depending on how many we receive the collection could make up the floor, a walkway, part of the bar, or a wall feature. 

Sitting in the middle of my table rests a large vessel to collect the coins.  If all goes well, I’ll need to reload this as she brims (pun intended). 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I am a list maker.  At times it borders on the absurd.  Over the years I’ve jotted down interesting first names, brainstormed on dry erase boards, scoured dictionaries, and of course shared those late nights while I’m intoxicated with friends and in the midst of a conversation about nothing relating to bar names someone proclaims “that’s the one!”  Sadly there isn’t a clever back story on how our name came about.  

I’m pretty sure I was looking through one of my favorite books Schott’s Miscellany and the word brimmer jumped out at me.   Its definition is simple: A glass so full that the liquid touches the brim.  And heeltap serves as the opposite: the tiny amount of residue in your glass that you can never seem to retrieve. 

My vision all along has been to create a gastro-pub that serves as a gathering place for good food, good drink, and good company and has the feel that it has always been there.  You come in for a full glass and leave when that one or more are empty.  I can’t wait to introduce you to Brimmer & Heeltap.