16 October 2014

coffee talk.

I think it is time to tell a little story, so here it goes, just a play by play.

Tuesday.  Its a normal Tuesday at River City Eatery.  I leave for about 2 hours after the lunch rush to get some work done, you know, all that small business paperwork, marketing, paying bills, mailing bills, emails, researching recipes, planning events, reaching out to potential catering opportunities, compare food and drink costs, work on web presence, etc.  I come back to then start prepping for round 2, meaning dinner.  Literally, the first thing I noticed after walking into the kitchen was the large McCafe cup laying right on top of the trash.  I'm thinking to myself, what is that doing here? Weird.  And this is when the story gets pretty interesting.  My staff begins to tell me that Mr. Collin Peterson came to eat with some city leaders while I was out.  Cool, right?  I was pretty thrilled to hear he came to River City!  And this is when the story gets even more interesting.  They continue to tell me he ordered a coffee and food with the group he was with and when the server told him it would be about 10 minutes before he could get his specialty coffee because the espresso machine/steamer needed time to regroup (it has been a busy machine since the weather has been cooler), Mr. Peterson and his staff person left the eatery and came back with McCafe in hand to finish his meal.  Wait...what?!

I'm a small businesses owner, nothing really surprises me anymore, I've witnessed a lot of people do some crazy things.  I thought this was worth sharing because I found it kind of funny coming from a politician, and in all honesty, it was a bit frustrating, so I took a picture of the cup and hit post.  I wanted people, not just Mr. Peterson, not just democrates or republicans (it is not about politics FOR ME), but everyone who sees the post to really think about it for a second, you know, what this picture says and means.  It wasn't about calling out a democratic politician to me, I saw it as an opportunity for people to think about not only small businesses, but manners and etiquette, and how the choices we make affect others, you know? 

Next day (Wednesday).  Yeah, wow, I really didn't expect anyone to really care until 15,000 and counting Facebook views later and a phone call in the early evening from Rep. Rod Hamilton asking if its okay if Torrey Westrom comes to buy a cup of coffee tomorrow around 4pm.   And then at 8pm, the phone rings at River City Eatery while I'm mopping the floor after another day at the eatery. 

"River City Eatery, this is Mari," I answer. 

"Yeah, Mari, this is Collin Peterson."

Pause. Pause. Pause. All I could think was, this is a joke, right?   Pause. Pause. Pause (for dramatic effect, the pause felt quite long)

"Yeah, Hi!"

He continues to apologize, he says he didn't know what he was thinking, yada, yada, yada.  The food was really good, yada, yada, yada, the next time he is in town he would love to stop by and get a cup of coffee, yada, yada, yada.

"I really appreciate your apology. Thanks!"

I can respect anyone who has the ability to apologize, and I sure wasn't expecting that, so wow.

Today (Thursday).  Nervous as all get out trying to wrap my brain around what the heck just happened in the last 48 hours and anticipating a visit from Torrey Westrom.  We had a lovely chat, nice guy, small business owner, gets it, and bought some coffee.

And there you have it, a little bit of coffee talk.  The moral of the story...the choices you make, even the small ones, have a great impact on the world around you, choose wisely, my friends, choose wisely and don't forget to shop small and tip your servers.

20 August 2014

please rsvp.

I wouldn't by lying if I told you the last couple of months have been quite difficult, and I'd like to tell you why.
The last couple of months for me have been a trial of understanding.  All summer I've been trying to understand the reason the City of Windom could possibly think the pallet patio behind River City Eatery is a nuisance.  Is anyone else having this problem of understanding?  You know, I've been doing a lot of thinking this summer, reflecting on what I could have done differently through the process, what I could have done different during my years of wearing my heart on my sleeve when it comes to Windom, what the City could have done differently to prevent such stress on a local business owner.  I've been reflecting on the decision I made almost effortlessly a little less than 10 years ago to return to my hometown of Windom to open my own business, especially a business many have told me are "impossible to start," "very difficult" and "when pigs fly" I would own and operate my own eatery in Windom.  Never in all those years of trying to imagine all the different kinds of things I would have to deal with that would make this dream of mine "impossible" and "very difficult," did I think dealing with a Nuisance Violation from the City of Windom would be one of them. 

Of course, the support I received from the community was indeed humbling.  I was overwhelmed by support from the community and patrons of the pallet patio and River City Eatery alike.  Although the summer was difficult because I often contemplated starting over in a little city that was more accepting of creativity, art, reusing and repurposing, and a city that was supportive of small business, especially a business that for the last 3 years has defied the odds of remaining open despite the negativity surrounding such a crazy endeavor. As I have made clear since the inception of this blog, I love Windom, so for me to seriuosly question why I decided to start my family and my business here was quite scary and stressful.  You must know, community of Windom and patrons of River City Eatery, you are in fact the reason I would never leave my hometown, even when our city decision makers send me to the doghouse for trying to be a forward thinking business owner. For that, I THANK YOU!!!   

In fact, because of you, I'm not going away.  I will continue to raise my voice, to take pride in my community, to remain optimistic, to be active, and most importantly to be creative and resourceful because this is who I am. I have surrounded myself with people like Rachel Wilson.  It is people like Rachel who help me realize why I chose to live in Windom and remain in Windom, and I would like to introduce you to her if you haven't already had the pleasure.  Community of Windom, this is my dear friend, Rachel Wilson.  She is the next generation, our possible legitimate rural future. She speaks wisely and with intention, and we must listen to understand her.  Our future is giving us hints, and it is louder than a whisper.  For a wise man plants a tree whose shade he knows he will never sit under. We must start planting trees of creativity because creativity can drive our economy, increase our quality of life, and maintain a legitimate rural existence. 

Below is the Windom I love, the creative, full of possibility, young, vibrant and ready to keep our roots alive and well, but only if we are willing to accept the challenge to create the kind of community that is forward thinking, creative and progressive.  This is also the kind of Windom that many folks of all ages are seeking, so when will we start to send out the invitations?  Wouldn't it be nice to have more young folk like Rachel moving into our community, opening businesses, getting involved in our community, raising families, helping to create all the things that make our community wonderful?

Rachel Wilson

           " My favorite time of every year is late May when the warmer weather starts to show its face, flowers begin to bloom, and the anticipation for summer is nearly palpable.
            Raised in Windom, I now attend a private college in the Twin Cities where I am studying journalism, rhetorical communication, and graphic design.  Spending nine months out of the year in the Twin Cities, I attempt to take full advantage of what the metro has to offer, attending concerts, frequenting museums and farmers markets, and scouring vintage and thrift stores regularly.   
            It goes without saying that the Twin Cities has much to offer young, middle-aged, and older people alike.  Internship, job, and entertainment possibilities at my fingertips, and still, I find myself craving my small-town roots. 
            Because of this, I’ve spent all of my college summers thus far at my parent’s home in Windom.  In fact, I denied all work-related and internship opportunities in the Twin Cities this past summer to return to work and live in Windom.  Though some coined it crazy, I knew a few months at home is exactly what I needed. 
            You see, I love Windom.  I love talking about Windom.  I love dreaming about Windom.  I enjoy small town life.  I enjoy seeing cars on the town-square and windows lit up with lights and smiling faces.  I believe in small business.  I believe in community pride.  I adore my friends here in Windom—a group of creative, progressive, intelligent folk who embrace rural life.  I adore the quaintness and closeness small-town life allows.  And though society may contend that small towns are dying out, I think it’s the perfect time to grow our roots deeper, spread our wings farther, and cultivate a community that defies all the odds.         
            I write this as an encouragement to the community of Windom to cling to their small-town roots while allowing space for growth.  Allow space for people to be creative.  Allow space for people and things to entertain ideas and evolve.  Allow space for people to dream aloud.  Allow space for people to be vulnerable.  Allow space for people to see the beauty of small-town life. Most importantly, allow space for people to realize that there is such a thing as a legitimate rural existence, and it is a beautiful thing. 
            Not all rural lives look the same.  We need farmers, teachers, bankers, machinists, small-business owners, artists and so many more.  But we all play a role in contributing our little, but significant piece to the community of Windom.  I challenge you to continue to take pride in your small town.  I challenge you to take ownership of this community and cling to the small-town roots that make Windom unique, while reaching beyond.  I challenge you to dream alongside your neighbor and be the positive change in this community.

            Surely, it was important that I go away (I’d recommend to almost anyone), but it may be even more important that I return someday.  And I’m not alone.  Countless young folk like me have an aching desire to return to small town America, but these communities cannot remain stagnant and expect to persist as a legitimate option for a younger population.   I’m proud to call Windom home, and I care deeply about Windom’s success.  It is a collective, community effort.  Believe in your small-town and believe you alone are the difference. "

24 June 2014

i'm a nuisance.

Well, where to start? It has taken me a few days to reflect on everything that has happened in the past couple of weeks, not only just as the owner of a small business (River City Eatery has been wonderfully busy!), but as an active member of my community trying to convince city leaders and decision makers of our community who have the power to grasp the controversy of the pallet patio in a positive way to move the community forward. In all honesty, I’m exhausted, but energized at the same time because all of my passions, personal and professional, collided last week, and I have no doubt in my mind I could write an entire book on River City Eatery’s Pallet Patio story, and I’m not kidding either. So, maybe that’s just what I’ll have to do because it was all so exciting, so energizing and proved to be an eye opener for not only myself, but should prove to be a little bit of an eye opener for the community of Windom, and that is pretty cool.

Chapter 1: The Facts

Chapter 2: The Spirit of Community and Its Energy

Chapter 3: Setting a Precedence and Its Effect on Local Economy and Community

Chapter 4: Making Decisions and Not Making Decisions: Fear of the Unknown

Chapter 5: Promoting Positive Change through Action and Reaction

Chapter 6: Embracing Controversy to Progress and Move Forward

Chapter 7…well, you get the idea…

I’ve had my blogspot.com “New Post”open for 5 days now. Typing, deleting, leaving it for another time, coming back to the blank page, typing, deleting again. Why has this been one of the toughest posts to write and complete? I’m overwhelmed with thoughts, ideas, frustrations, excitements, and so much to reflect on. This isn’t about a Pallet Patio anymore—it’s so much more. Where do I even start?

So, now I’ve finally decided that the very first post to write regarding the Pallet Patio must be to thank everyone who has shown their support because you are the heroes in this story that I will tell in print someday. Wow. I’m grateful, blessed, humbled, excited and feel like the luckiest woman in the world to have such wonderful people both living in my community and not living in my community who are willing to stand up and say, “SAVE THE PALLET PATIO!” because you are the ones who see what I see in Windom-a freakin’ awesome place to live, work and play.

The energy from your support last week, the week before, even this week so far, heck since I opened River City Eatery, has been what gave me the courage to challenge the silly precedence the City of Windom was trying to set because River City Eatery is more than just a small business to me-it is my life, my dream, my passion, and that is worth fighting for.

I have given up time with my precious and patient son, my dedicated husband whose integrity is inspiring and gives our son a true role model of a decent man, my amazing mom who has been battling stage IV cancer, yet she still shows up at River City Eatery with her chemo attached at her waist to help however she can, thank you for your understanding and patience when I couldn’t give you what you needed from me because my priority has been chasing this crazy dream that I have to continue to struggle for. Thank you to my dad who continues to take pride in the work we have done to fix and endlessly maintain the brick and mortar of my dreams, my brother and sister-in-law, my friends who have been by my side encouraging me and helping any way they could to see this dream come to fruition, and my staff, my other family, you all play a vital role at River City Eatery and you all probably know more about me than you care to, and for that I thank you. You mean the world to me, each and every one of you.

I put every chip I had into the kitty, over 12 years in the making, in order to open River City Eatery because I believe with all my heart this is what I was put on this Earth to do. And holy cow, the foundation of my dream, River City Eatery, is strong with the support of not only my family and friends, but my community and the patrons of River City Eatery and that makes the 16-18 hour days, swollen feet, and sleepless nights worth it. To all of you who believe in River City Eatery, patronize River City Eatery, I cannot thank you enough for making my dream possible every single day. I’m astonished at how much support I had during this difficult time, Just on Facebook alone, the Save the Pallet Patio Event has reached over 4,000 people-that is what I call a strength in numbers! It is all these things that make River City Eatery such an amazing place, a place to be proud of community of Windom because you helped create it! This is what love, patience, hard work, dedication, and support from family, friends and a community can do, what power we all have to do good things!!

At the end of the Nuisance Board meeting, I may have lost a little bit of control of my emotions, the tears came unannounced. It was not because the Pallet Patio was officially considered a nuisance by the City of Windom, but because I was absolutely overwhelmed by support, and I really wish I could tell you just how much that means to me. You should be proud.

An African Proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I hate to say it folks, but the work mustn’t end here, we must continue to move forward, to stand up for what we believe in, to challenge silly presendences that hold our community back from creative and wonderful things that not only supply a positive community gathering place, but stimulates our rural economy. We can move this community forward together, but we must continue to be willing to listen to understand, engage in our community, and voice our legitimate concerns to our city leaders and decision makers because we are the experts in our community, and we should be heard.

This is where my story of my ceaseless passion and a City who has labeled it a nuisance begins, may the continuing chapters of my story remain positive, no matter who tries to cut me off at the knees.

Long live River City Eatery and the Pallet Patio!

Happy times,

“To seek, to thirst, to yearn, to meander…is, by nature, human. So, darlings, let’s journey forth, choosing contentment through the seeking and the finding, measuring any weariness on our shoulder against the greater truth that says we have it in us. Let us discover a strength, a certain resolve to have eyes to see beauty where we are told it can’t be found, and a bravery to reach deep into that pure, rich water of our soul and find the courage to let it spill out onto a world in need.”

-Sarah Dubbeldam, Editor-in-Chief, Darling Magazine

12 June 2014

concerned citizens.

As you all know, the City of Windom has sent River City Eatery a City Code Violation regarding our beloved pallet patio (please refer to past post containing the violation letter).  On Thursday, June 19th, I must meet in front of the Windom Nuisance Board, and they will determine the fate of my patio.  I have created an event on Facebook asking for the community's support in order to save the pallet patio.  I have received so much support it makes me believe good will prevail!  Of course, as you all know, I will remain professional and poised in order to do all I can do as an active member of this community and to protect its reputation.  For the last almost 4 years since the inception of Finding Windom and my blog, I have tried to remain positive and use positivity to promote progression in our community in order for Windom to have a legitimate rural existence in today's world.  Since I have not heard much from city leaders, I thought it would be appropriate to express my concerns about the action taken against River City Eatery's patio:
Dear City Council and City Administrator,

It’s me again, your biggest cheerleader, Mari Harries. As someone who genuinely cares for her hometown and its reputation, I want to express my concerns with what is going on in the Building and Zoning Department. As elected officials of the great City of Windom, I hope you have been informed of my recent letter sent by Mr. Kartes, the Building and Zoning official for the City of Windom. I have attached it for your information. I’m hoping you will take the time to read it and take the time to fully understand what this City Code Violation letter means. I appreciate the updated nuisance abatement procedure; however, I ask you to research this violation letter sent to me by the Building and Zoning official by not just asking Mr. Kartes what the ordinances may be, but by also talking to your fellow community members and myself. I’d love for you to research it by physically stepping into my business, heck, stay all day because I’d love for you to meet the wonderful people I get to meet every day who come to River City Eatery and are craving not only my menu items, but craving a Windom experience that gives each of them endless reasons to come back. And, I’d love for you to personally enjoy my pallet patio. I ask you, after reading for yourselves the City’s Codes and Ordinances to see if this pallet patio is truly a public nuisance because if it is against City Code, you have made a very big mistake, I’m afraid. I’m asking you to start holding yourselves accountable to truly knowing the community you live in and the people hired to keep it up to the standards we all deserve. I’m asking you to take a stance on the can of worms this man, who works for our great city, has opened. I’m simply trying to prepare you for what may happen by targeting River City Eatery's Pallet Patio instead of focusing on legitimate, ongoing Nuisance Abatement issues within our community. The nuisance issues that truly affect public health and safety.

You see, as a small business owner who uses social media as a vital, necessary marketing tool, I’ve made this City Code Violation public by using social media because I have never been so disappointed in my home and feel the public, and you, deserve better than the archaic principles of this hypothetical code violation. I’ve also shared this Code Violation Letter because my customers and guests deserve to know the potential fate of the beloved Pallet Patio, a positive community gathering place. I’ve made this letter available for the world to see on the world-wide-web, so please, pretty please, act wisely because the last thing you and I want is for Windom to have a negative reputation, especially a negative reputation of City government. We also don’t want the kind of reputation that negatively influences the infinite possibilities of future small businesses in our community.

I’m not trying to sway you one way or the other, I just want you to know the weight of the action taken by sending this City Code Violation regarding River City Eatery’s Pallet Patio may prove to be heavy as many people are just as disappointed as myself regarding this violation. Many people will be showing support at this Nuisance Board meeting on Thursday, June 19th at 7pm at the City Council Chambers. So please take the time to get to know this case as I’m sure there will be many people there with questions. I value your reputation as a City Council-I hope you are aware of the power you all have to do wonderful things! And also have the power to do not so wonderful things, but those not so wonderful things don’t give people what they are craving, which is a delightful reason to return, stay, live, work and play in beautiful downtown Windom.

As the founder of Finding Windom, a small business owner, an advocate for community pride, a steward for a legitimate rural existence, and now after seeing the countless comments and concerns regarding the fate of River City Eatery’s Pallet Patio on social media, I urge you to challenge yourself to find the right answer or at least do something to move our community forward in a positive way so we can all have a legitimate rural existence in today’s progressive and ever-changing world. This has always been and will continue to be my mission for our community, and I hope you agree.

I’m sharing my concerns with you because I genuinely want Windom to be all it can be, and you have the power to help, both as a city council member and as a member of this community, like myself. I wish you could see what I see in Windom-it’s a great place, just like River City Eatery.

I would appreciate your time, your concerns, your discussion, and your questions because these are things that move our community forward in a positive way. My door is always open and always welcoming. Communication is always important.

Will always continue to remain your cheerleader and remain an active member in the community who has shaped the person I am today,

09 May 2014

KDOM kalidescope.

The following was played on the radio last week, Thursday, May 1st, and I wanted to share for those of you who missed it or cannot get KDOM in your area.  Finding Windom thought it was appropriate to utilize KDOM's Kalidescope to promote the annual city wide junk pick up day (one of my favorite times of the year because I appreciate the opportunity to do my own "spring cleaning" free of charge).

A BIG thank you to KDOM radio for letting a few Finding Windom representatives discuss the 5 reasons why we should take pride in our community by keeping it clean and also to promote the city wide junk pick up, and of course to show our support in any clean up efforts that take place within the community.  We will continue to respectfully and actively support all efforts in making our city a better place because Windom deserves to be a desirable place to live, work and play!

07 May 2014

my response.

May 7th, 2014

Re: City Code Violation- 344 10th Street, Windom

Dear Mr. Kartes,

I received your letter regarding my pallet “fence” behind River City Eatery; however, this “fence” you speak of is actually pallet seating.
I would greatly appreciate exercising my right to request a meeting in front of the Windom Nuisance Board.  Please respond with a time and place for the meeting as I would like to meet in front of the board.

Thank you for your concerns,
Mari Harries
Mari Harries

Owner, River City Eatery

city code violation.

26 March 2014

something to ponder, if you have time...

Once again, I sit here in front of one of my happy places (my Finding Windom blog), ashamed it has taken me months to get here again.  Believe me when I tell you I have written a million posts in my mind while chopping onions to make the Soup of the Day or finishing up the last of the day's dishes in the kitchen of River City Eatery after a busy day. It is still a constant in my mind, this place I contently call home, all the possible evolution that is waiting to be surfaced around that beautiful "castle," as my son calls it.  The grandeur of history stands tall in the center of all the hubub of a day.  There is no doubt you can feel the pride of our ancestors work marking Windom as the county seat of Cottonwood County by building such an astonishing courthouse in our downtown.  Even my toddler can appreciate its beauty as he, and his cousins, ride their bikes up and down the sidewalks pretending it really is their castle.  The truth is, it really is everyone's castle. 
I recently read this article (below), and I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I finally understand why it stuck with me for so long-I think it can relate to Windom (and other rural communities) and what I've been trying to explain through all these crazy posts since the inception of my Finding Windom blog. 
Please read: 
"A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went... through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
Interesting story, right? 
Now apply it to Windom.  How many times have we dismissed talent in Windom?  How many times have we dismissed what a local business can offer to go straight for the big town, big box store who is offering the same product?  How many times have we sent our talented, educated young men and women away to a big cities because "there is nothing here for you?"  How many times have we accepted the garbage blowing across the street, crumbling brick and mortar, chipped paint, meth houses/buildings because it is just "good enough?"  How many times have we sought the help and ideas of companies from big cities to tell us what our city needs to do to "survive?"  How many times have we dismissed the beauty of our courthouse and our unique downtown?"
We are perfectly capable, as community members, to respect ourselves and to protect our quality of life.  How do we perceive ourselves as a rural community or what most would think of as "unexpected content" for success, talent, even creativity?  We need to start giving ourselves some credit, by respecting the work of our ancestors, by giving our community a thriving future, by evolving into a place where we celebrate what we have to offer and take pride in what we have to offer.  After all, we are the little city that would, so we should not continue to be the little city that could.  Just think about it for a second, the answer is within ourselves, you know, as a community, how we want to be perceived by others.