On October 24-28th, General Manager, Marc BrownGold, and Marketing Director, Anthony Saufley took a trip to Seattle for a seminar by a World Famous Pike Place Fish Market consultant. The following is an account of that harrowing, adventure filled and legendary journey.
Day 1-Smooth Sailing
MARC – I packed my bag this morning and was excited to get underway. Seattle here we come. The one thing that we did do was overestimate our wait at the airport. It was empty and we waited three hours to get our flight in the Philly Airport. The one thing that took me was that on the face of the parking garage was a giant sign with Billy Penn throwing a fish to a fish monger in Seattle. Go figure. Lunch at Harry Carays, a smooth flight to Seattle and an EASY tram ride to our hotel. We had dinner at 9:30 at a restaurant near the hotel. Anthony must have been sick of hearing me complain about the meal after a long day but I could not help myself! The food was decent, but the service was disappointing. As a former restaurateur, I feel that I am not picky, but there are some things that cannot let go. If a restaurant decides to charge $30 for an entrée than I do not want it before I am done my app, and certainly want my plates cleared before it comes. Diner….ok….a “fancy joint”….NO. I was ready for tomorrow!
ANTHONY – I packed the night before and was amped to hit the road. I had to stop by the Co-op in the morning to tie up some loose ends and Marc stopped by the Co-op with his wife to get us to the airport. We got though security much too quickly and had to wait forever for our flight. On a good note, however, we got to witness the Philadelphia Airport’s budget hard at work while a member of their janitorial staff swept the floor with a broom that had no more than seven wisps. Seriously fun to watch. Flight was smooth though one of the landings was a little sketchy. Marc and I discussed it later and I asked what the protocol was for the appropriate time to begin screaming. We are still unclear on that subject. Dinner was food that filled our stomachs (which is about all you can really ask for) and the hotel was very nice. It also included a bed for each of us so that was appreciated. The next day would be the test of how the trip would truly be, so I rested my neck with that dancing in my mind.
MARC – We left early for our first day of the seminar and toured the market before we were to enter the hotel where it was being held. (7 blocks from the hotel and 1 block from the market) I was struck by the rawness and excitement of the market. I live for this stuff and am never more at home than when in this scenario. I am in my home zone. Kibitzing with the purveyors and talking shop! I always feel that we know each other and there is a certain code that we immediately start speaking in. Did I mention that we passed 7 Starbucks on the way to our destination? We laughed at this and laughed about it for four days! The seminar…….8 hours of Buddhist philosophy, Albert Einstein quotes and the most awesome business philosophy that I have encountered. These are great principles that I feel will help the Co-op be the best Co-op in the world …..and I mean that! We will realize our goals and be amazing. We are amazing!! No breakfast, lunch at a down and dirty fish and chips joint (excellent) and a braided cardamom pastry. Dinner was a Tom Douglas joint. Sustainable seafood in a pleasant atmosphere. We happened to meet one of his employees over beer in the place next door while waiting for our table. An oyster shucker who was excited about the joint and touted his philosophy of atmosphere, sustainability and taking care of his employees. (sounded familiar) We felt privileged when they led us through the kitchen to get back to the place next door. A walk uphill to our hotel and early bed. We were to be up at 530 to hit the fish market and meet the salmon throwers. I was ready!
ANTHONY – Morning seemed to come at the normal time, and that was odd because I figured I’d be more tired than I was. Walking down Pine Street and seeing a Starbucks on every corner, sometimes across the street from one another, seemed excessive, but hey, we’re East Coasters. I got a Starbucks, of course, and we headed to the Pike Place Market to check it out before our seminar began. Not too shabby. The sun was just rising as we saw the Waterfront and scoped out some of the sites. Beautiful. As the seminar began, I was a little skeptical, but then the Phil Jackson-esque (The Lakers/Bulls coach with 13 Championship rings) philosophy began. Jim actually gave us about 3 hours of his knowledge and coaching before asking us whether we wanted to continue or opt out with a full refund. We stayed. He told us about the ‘game’. Got some crazy good fish and garlic chips and a good old fashioned Coca Cola for lunch. Back to learning. Had a great conversation with a young couple (am I officially not young anymore?) from the area while waiting for a table for dinner. Had a good meal of more fish. When in Rome…then back to the hotel. Still not tired but had an appointment to set up the fish market with the Pike Place Fish Market crew before dawn so sleep was mandatory. Early bed, as Marc puts it, was 11:30, or 2:30am Philly time.
Day 3-Hurling Fish, Shoveling Ice and Meeting the Team
MARC – An awesome start to the day. We were to set up the busiest fish market in the country. I took Salmon and Halibut and Anthony took Mackerel, Mussels, Redfish and some other stuff that I was too busy to notice. We worked for our breakfast! My mentor Ryan bossed me around there was no tomorrow. We set up our display in record time so I got to wield the hose as the others shoveled ice into dumpsters. I do remember watching Anthony work his backside off and wonder whether his back was going to give out. It didn’t. Crab Omlette at Lowell’s and great home fries, lunch at Bacco Café with the guru, and a commitment to focus our energies on our business by setting up a plan with dates and commitments. Anthony and I continued the conversation and realized that this stuff was now in our pores and was not coming out. We would hit the Co-op and work with our people to change the world! Dinner at Spur, a small plates wonder with everything including a stupid bell that would ring when food was ready. A distraction! I mentioned this to the waiter in jest and she bought us a round of drinks and laughed.
ANTHONY – Walking down to the fish market, I wondered just what we were in for…setting up the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market? The guys at the market were amazing. Instead of having that slightly annoyed “great, we’ve got guys that are clueless getting in the way” attitude, they had the exact opposite. They were legitimately psyched that we were there to help. Their goal is to set up their display by 8am and despite all odds, we actually did it. Every time someone made a mistake, there was no accusation, only gently coaching and support. I’ve never experienced such an intense yet amicable atmosphere. Amazing. With my herniated discs, I was worried I would not be able to do my share, but there’s a weird thing about my back…whenever I do back breaking labor I’m fine. If I bend down to tie my shoe though, all bets are off. After the market was set up we went to breakfast for literally the best “farmer’s” breakfast I’ve ever had (eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, toast, home fries and coffee). Then back to talking and learning. Good lunch (good, not great). More learning. And at the end of it all, after all of these therapeutic-like breakthroughs, and moments of clarity and epiphanies, we said goodbye to our new friends and our coach. We had been primed to make a real difference in our lives, our work and our world. Thus began the Marc and Anthony take Seattle part of the trip. Dinner was at Spur, and Marc and I both realized we are not 22 year old hipsters. The food was cool and interesting and pretty tasty, but the atmosphere was a little distracting. They had a great selection of Scotch though. They get my vote for that if nothing else. Back to the hotel. Back to bed to rest up for our Seattle invasion.
Day 4-Eric, Three Unions, A Beer, and a Chance to Really Enjoy the Market
MARC – We started the day like kids who had the day off from school and could not wait to play. First…….the market. We said hello to our new buddies at the fish market, did some shopping for our wives and had breakfast(really brunch) at the cutest French café known to man. Ham and Cheese on a baguette for me, an awesome croissant and a café latte. Then a 2 mile uphill climb to the Central Co-op. We were showed a great time by Eric, the interim GM and he explained the triumphs and trials of their Co-op. Three different unions, and anti- leader employee team, and sales of 15 million /year despite their faults. A new GM would start in 30 days and I thought of the challenges ahead. It was great to connect with another Co-op from across the country and we exchanged emails. We flew down the hill, ate some wings, drank some craft beer and talked to two Seattle residents about their great city. Back down to the market ( we could not stay away) another talk with my task master Ryan, and a promise to send Tastykakes. World Series…….. Steaks at Metropolitan and another snafu with salads coming in 2 minutes(way to fast) and our entrees we were done those salads(Anthony said it was a Seattle thing, I said it was just plain simple poor service or possibly a kitchen that pushed food on their servers. We sent our food back, sipped some wine and enjoyed a great conversation about our seminar and took our time with the rest of the meal. One of the running jokes we had all week was the fact that the Space Needle does not exist! Because the city is built on many hills, the needle is not visible from many vantage points. We walked down a quarter mile of steps and hit the waterfront, passed a large group coming from the stadium area(They just washed the Huskies upset the Ducks), passed 5 Halloween parties, homecoming dances, the Seattle Aquarium and lots of large yachts. We walked so far that I thought we had to be close to the needle and google mapped it. We were one half mile away! We had to go for it, even though it was now 11 at night. After a short walk, there it was! The needle, the music experience (a museum dedicated to Seattle music) and the science museum. Satisfied we headed back to the hotel and packed our bags. We did not know what Sunday had in store.
ANTHONY – Feeling like we could go anywhere, do anything, and see anything (except the elusive Space Needle) in a city that is strange and new is intense. We started by really exploring the market. I found a sweet necklace for my wife by a woman who melts glass that has flecks of color that reflect and change in the light into fish shapes (I got and octopus). We said hello to our coworkers from the day before. We ate at a fantastic French Bistro and I finally got a coffee (latte actually) that didn’t have Starbucks written on it. We walked up hill for about 2 miles to Central Co-op. Got a great tour, learned a lot is the same as our Co-op and so much is so different. I empathize with them, yet envy them. Another goal, another reason to implement our new found knowledge. The paradigm shift from the previous two days had changed my perspective in so many great ways. Walked back down hill and stopped off to grab a beer at a local brewery. Good stuff. Looked for the Space Needle. Still not there. Walked more, back to the market. Rested a bit at the hotel and headed out for dinner. Good steak but they had this archaic atmosphere that was juxtaposed with a rush to get people in an out. We were in chill mode, but they clearly didn’t see it as that so we actually had to simply sit with half finished plates in front of us, refusing our next course. Very strange. We left dinner and the Huskies had just finished playing so we were enveloped with Seattlites. And in the midst of them, we looked up and someone had moved the Space Needle back. There it was. We google mapped it and we were very close so we walked to it. After a short visit, we walked back to the hotel. But the way the streets are laid out in Seattle, that meant we actually walked away from the hotel for a while. Adjusted, walked parallel to the hotel. Adjusted, then walked toward the hotel. A very nice drug dealer was able to get us on the proper street. And no, we don’t do powder, but thank you anyway. We got in late, but our flights were all still on schedule and we had an opportunity to sleep in a bit. I think I was finally jet lagged. Just in time to get unjet lagged.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
MARC – The first leg was fine. An easy trip to the airport( you buy your ticket but they never check it on the train) Hanging out in the airport and hearing ominous reports about Sandy. I had smoked salmon at Anthony’s! We boarded our plane and headed to Denver , walked into the plane(our own row), and had a smooth flight. Reality hit soon after we landed in Denver, as we actually watched the board change from “on time” to cancelled. Some quick thinking and the idea that “WE WERE GETTING TO PHILADELPHIA BEFORE THE STORM”. I could not be away from the Co-op if disaster hit. We hit the Southwest counter, booked a flight to Canton, rented a car and crossed our fingers and toes. Would all the roads be opened, could we drive the 9 hours without trouble?? I took the first leg and Anthony the second. How he did not sleep, I will never know. After my leg, I quickly fell asleep and woke up in King of Prussia, we hit my house, his house, and then the co-op. We had been driving for 9 hours! No damage, no loss of power, we were in great shape. As I stood outside the Co-op, many people came to ask us if the co-op was in good shape and if I was in good shape. (I was tired!) It made me think that our market is one that is cared for on many levels, and will always be a center of community and food. We set up shop on Tuesday, opened our doors on Wednesday and voila! Back to normal.
ANTHONY – As soon as we touched down in Colorado, I turned my phone back on and got the portentous message, ‘flight cancelled’ from my wife. Uh oh. I called her and told her we were going to drive. She laughed and said she’d see me soon. So Marc and I changed our flight to Canton, rented a car and drove all night. We were not waiting until Thursday for a flight. We landed in Canton at 1:00am Philly time. And we drove. Marc drove first. We stopped after about 2 and a half hours to get a coffee. Stopped again to switch drivers. Stopped to get gas. And finally stopped at his house to get a second car so we could drop off the rental. We arrived in Philly at 9:50am. Our original flight was due to land at 9:50pm the previous night. 9 hours of driving, a four hour layover, and horrible weather and we were only twelve hours behind schedule. Our paradigm shift was working in every aspect of our lives. I walked into the house and say that my wife was not there. She was working. I called her to let her know I was home and she laughed. Then I told her I was serious. She stopped laughing. I showered, then I woke up much, much later. Frankenstorm came and went. Back to the Co-op on Wednesday morning. Let the game begin.