August, 1635 Grantville
Arch Pennock looked at the balance sheet and wanted to cry. Yes, he knew. Up-time for sure, and probably here and now also, restaurants were the number one most failed business. Still, opening a restaurant had seemed like a great idea back in March.
He'd let a young chicken plucker use his kitchen to make the Hungarian dumplings he was homesick for one Sunday, after he'd fed the boy southern-style chicken and dumplings and been informed that, while they were good noodles, they were not dumplings. It happened to be Arch's turn to host the poker game and the guys scraped the pot dry of the rich broth after they scarfed down the ravioli-like dumplings stuffed with three kinds of meat and savory vegetables. The boy had two requests to cook for upcoming events on the spot. Well, Arch Pennock knew a good thing when it was sitting on his kitchen stove. So he fronted the money to set Janos up vending dumplings on the streets of Grantville. From there things went well, very well.
By March six pushcarts were bringing in money hand-over-fist and prep work was spilling out of the kitchen onto card tables in his living room. Arch wanted his house back. If he had to build or buy a commercial kitchen, he might as well add a dining hall and open an eatery.
Getting a construction loan was easy. After all, he had good credit and collateral. He wiped out his savings to pay cash for the land so he would have lower monthly payments on the loan. But that was fine. The business had a solid, consistent, positive cash flow for the last four months, and the loan was on a drawing account so he didn't have to make payments, or pay interest, until he used it. It was a bitterly cold, early March with frequent, howling winds and plenty of snow, so Arch assumed construction would have to wait for spring and he would have time to build up a cushion. But when he lined up the contractor, the man wanted to start right away.
"Herr Pennock, I have big work, sorry, many, no much work, come spring. I have sm—little work now. The men, they need to pay bills in winter, too. You buy big tent. We build you kitchen under it. I have natural gas burner so the tent stays warm and is not smoky and you use the tent for your dining garden come spring. In fall, we build you dining hall for winter. Okay?"
The contractor built a bonfire several nights in a row to thaw the ground enough to dig the foundation in the daylight. When the trenching was done they pitched the house-sized tent and started building. Arch had his kitchen and living room back by the end of April. The contractor rented the tent from Arch for the rest of the spring.Still, everything seemed to cost more than he planned on. Arch put the cars up for collateral on an increase in the drawing account, to get things wrapped up by June first. With great fanfare, and a rush of success, they opened the Dumplings Garden.
The pushcarts were all the advertising Arch figured he needed for the grand opening. Each cart had a colorful sign over the Nagyany Nokedlik/Granny's Dumplings, logo detailing the great dumpling cook off. People were invited to come and taste and then vote on which country had the best dumplings. Of course, the Hungarian dumplings which were the pushcart's trademark were on the top of the list. They were followed by Southern Chicken and Dumplings, Yankee Chicken and Dumplings, German Chicken and Dumplings, three kinds of Italian Dumplings (Arch called them ravioli in private) in white sauce, red sauce and a garlic butter white wine sauce, Vietnamese/Chinese dumplings and apple dumplings for desert. A cavalryman read the sign and objected so Arch happily added Scottish Dumplings to the list. When he agreed to add a kosher dumplings dish he couldn't pronounce, he never dreamed of the trouble it would cause.
"No, Herr Pennock, we will cook it at the synagogue in an inspected kitchen. We can warm it here before we serve it."
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- The Grantville Gazette Staff