The Schitts Creeking of Americas Highways

Posted on November 21, 2022

The Schitts Creeking of America’s Highways. I am sure there are small charming places all over the world that are getting facelifts and resurgences thanks to the charming show Schitts Creek(watch it if you have not seen it yet) but as the great American road trip and wandering grow, so does the motel resurgence.

In my last post, I spoke about the nightmare Airbnb has turned into. I am here to describe one of the more charming things we discovered last summer. That is the cool thing happening in the motel world. The comeback of sorts of the roadside motel is in part due to Schitts Creek and probably also Covid19.

Factors in the motel’s resurgence

Travel did not stop during Covid, but it did change, and some of those changes are directly in line with what was happening at the time. Americans were not flying. We were driving. Many of us stayed close to home for the most part. The big corporate hotel chains had to scale back on staff, and some even closed their doors for extended periods. I traveled to New Orleans and stayed in a 17-story hotel that, in pre-covid times, I would have never entered, but in New Orleans, at that time, it was one of the only games in town. I spent one long 24-hour period not seeing another human being. That’s a very weird feeling when you are in a place where normally thousands would be staying.

At the same time, big hotels turned into ghost towns. Small independent motels found the PPP money useful in renovating enough to keep folks interested in their small motels. With the help of Schitts Creek, making them cool and trendy, we started staying in them again, and others started opening them again.

When a Karen Visits

We found in our travels last year that the owners of the motels went out of their way to explain what a small roadside motel was. Smaller rooms, rustic wood paneling, small bathrooms, and sometimes tin shower stalls. No kitchens or refrigerators. Unless you get a kitchenette. These are general but not set rules for motels, but they are the things a Karen complains about… a lot, as we learned from talking with some of the awesome folks that run or own the motels we stayed at.

Both my mom and I found it odd that the folks we spoke to on the phone went so far out of their way to explain what a motel was and how it differed from a hotel. Once we dived into online reviews, it became evident that some folks don’t get the charm of a road trip or a roadside motel. That’s too bad because they are missing out on some awesome places to stay and a cool way to meet new people and learn about the fun places to eat and drink locally that frequently you don’t get from the big hotels or in big cities.

What constitutes a Motel

This is my definition, I’m sure someone has a respectable official definition, but this is mine. A drive-up establishment where You park your car in front of your room. There is an office with an attendant or a bell you ring for service. In a pre-covid world, you would have been able to stop on the spur of the moment. Many motels you now reserve as they don’t have full-time desk help or the front desk leaves early evening. There are often Vacancy or No Vacancy signs located by the road. They are usually single stories tall, with a few being two stories if there is a view. There may be a vending machine and or ice machine outside. Feel free to add what constitutes a motel for you in the comments. But I think have provided a visual; if not, I will remind you to look at Schitts Creek.

The Great Lakes

I got my love of road-tripping from my parents, and we have stayed in many a motel while we traveled the highways of these here united states. There is something very yin and yang about the Great Lakes and Motels. They go together like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers.

When I was a kid, an escape to the Northshore of Lake Superior and a night in a motel were so fun and exciting. It is where my love of both the road trip and the roadside motel stems from

In my opinion, it is the best way to travel the great lake states, and the motels were some of our favorite stops on our road trip around Lake Huron

The Favorite

I will tell you, I wish it was anywhere but where it was. But it won the favor because the woman running it was an outstanding hospitable human being and made everything better. The sunrise was breathtaking, and it had a haunted put put course next to it that we were told about! Sadly I did not see a single ghost.

The winning motel is Bayview Motel in St. Ignace, MI. It is small, it has tin showers. It has a microwave and a TV, they have heat that works, and they have a view of the lake, which is amazing! BBQ grills if you don’t want to eat tourist food. A firepit where they have nightly fires burning. A beach area that you can swim from if you want to. And again, a stunning sunrise. The downfall is it is in this particular tourist town. But it is everything you want a motel to be and then some.

That Sunrise!

I will catch heat for what I am about to say, but Mackinaw Island is overrated. As much as I enjoyed this motel, I do not understand the fascination with the overpriced ferry ride to an island with overpriced fudge and taffy. As always, I will explore this topic of popular tourist destinations I hate in a future post. Until then, let me know what you love about Mackinaw Island. Maybe you will convince me to return to the Bayview Motel again.

Schitts Creeking of our Highways and what I think it means.

Despite my favorite motel experience last summer being in a town I don’t like, I have to say the schitts creeking of our highways is an exciting development. In all my travels over the last year, I have stayed at several reasonably priced motels with varying degrees of success.

I am excited to see more affordable options. I love that a new group of managers and people who have hospitality in their bones are deciding to do renovations and upgrades to a uniquely American way of travel. The road trip is alive and well, and with many of us suffering from wanderlust, let’s hope that we see even more of this something old is new again mentality.

Leaving the Restaurant Business

Posted on January 30, 2021

Today Is the Day

Today marks the end of an era. I am leaving the Restaurant Business. I have left Antonio’s one  other time, but for whatever reason, the last time did not feel permanent. Maybe it was because my heart wasn’t ready. Maybe it was because the plans were not firm.  
Today is my last day at Antonio’s and today it feels over. 

My World Changed

I have a new job and a new goal. There is a learning of a new skill, and there is doing what I have done in the past: helping to grow a company. 
At 53, is this my swan song? These are my feelings, not those of the people at Antonio’s or anywhere else.  This is my heart, sometime full and sometimes broken.
My intention was always to finish my career at Antonio’s, but in the last 12 months the world changed.
Not just my world but the whole world.

The Covid Effect

Tripping Vittles suffered blow after blow with shortages caused by the political climate and by covid. 
The restaurant business I loved so much became something I dreaded going to work in. 
I saw the very best in some people and yet there was also the very worst. 
For a few short weeks we were “heroes,” but then we very soon became the doormats for everyone’s frustration. 
You somehow dragged us into your political theater of rights. 
I am not just speaking of my job, but of those jobs my friends and I have done throughout this country in the restaurant business for the last year. 

I Really Care, Do You?

As liberal leaning as I am, I’m smart enough to know that a virus does not care if you were for Trump or Biden.  It only cares what kind of host you are and how it can use you to spread throughout the population. 
We as an industry have been told over and over again: You don’t have to wear a mask, we don’t care. That became disheartening. I CARE!!!
If I can at all help it, I don’t want to give this to a customer and  have them get sick or die. And people have died  to the tune of over 400,000 in a year. 

We were mandated and told how to do business. I worked for a woman who had the health department on speed dial because she cared about us, our business, and most of all you as patrons. She made sure we did it right, even when others did not. We did it right and we cared! Everyone I know in this business has tried to do it right because they care about you, about their business, and about the rules and the nation. 

But too many customers did not care about those of us in this industry. 
They have yelled, screamed, aimed their cars at us, suggested we go outside and fight it out. People have been rude and nasty and suggested how our procedures should be changed. They told us we were not doing it how they wanted, told us that the virus was not real, told us that we were paranoid. And even when we carried an order out to their car, in the heat, rain, snow, or freezing cold, so many could not even shoot us a $1 tip.

Many Customers are Angels

Pizza Shop Amazing Customers

On the other side, there really are many, many generous, amazing customers who tried to make up for the empty tip line. I have heard stories and seen firsthand huge tips and gifts given. Customers care. Many of you all over this country tried to make up for the bad behavior exhibited by patrons, but the empty tip lines and outright anger and bizarre behavior have taken their toll. For me personally, I have been given an opportunity to go do something new and I am jumping at the chance.  I want you all to keep eating the amazing pizza and food from Antonio’s, and tip all the servers, be it in the restaurant or curbside. They deserve it! I know I will — I can’t live without the Buffalo Chicken Pizza!

I Loved My Years in the Restaurant Business…It is a real job!!!

The funny thing about writing my honest feelings is that it comes out like I am bitter and angry. I am far from it. I’v made friends who are like family at Antonio’s. I have watched kids grow up into amazing adults. I have watched kids fall in love and get married. 

Pizza Shop to Future Doctor

To every teenager that ever came through those doors whom I had the pleasure of teaching and working with: you made me a better person. I loved watching you become firefighters, hairdressers, bankers, doctors, engineers, Marines, Army and Air Force members. I watched you come in quiet and shy, and develop personalities and go off to college and work. We have Fighting Irish and Buckeyes, Wolverines and Cardinals.  Each and every one of you are going to make a difference in the world, and that is a legacy I could not be more proud of!

You all are my favorites

From make your own pizza to co-worker

To those kids whom I still work with: I am going to miss you! You are going to go and do amazing things. I cannot wait to watch you. I have no doubt that you can do anything! You will be amazing!! You already are! 
To Rita and Robert: all I can say is Thank You! You gave me a home and a place to be me. You saved me when I was drowning after the Boston Bombings. Fran and Sam started a legacy all those years ago on State Street, but you have continued it.  Thank you for letting me be a part of that. 
Off I go to start what could be the final chapter in my work career. I am about to step onto a rocket ship. I feel like I have been preparing my whole life for this ride!  Backroom Coffee Roasters: let’s light the fuse and see how high we can fly!

Working Through a Pandemic

Posted on July 24, 2020

It has been since February since I have written anything other than Facebook Posts. Covid19 blew into town shortly after I wrote my last post like a hurricane that would just not stop. What has it been like working through a pandemic you may ask. Not easy is the overall answer.

2020 Has turned into a year that no amount of imagining could have predicted. You will call me crazy I am sure but I am happy. I feel a bit guilty for being happy and maybe some of that happiness comes from luck.

I am so Lucky

You know I work at one of the greatest little pizza shops in the whole world. Yeah, I know I’m biased but I also write the blog soooo. Antonios has been able to weather the storm of Covid19 fairly well. Don’t get me wrong we have our struggles and on some days I think we all would like to throw in the towel or in my case the mask! But we also love what we do and it shows in our food and the support we have received from our customers.

If you would have ever asked me if I would know what it was like to work in a restaurant through a pandemic I would have said hell no. But here we are. So I am going to run it down for you. At first, it was scary and panic-inducing.

Scary because one I have asthma, two the unknown that can kill you is always a little scary. Add in the fact restaurants are closing and the industry I love is, was, and will be decimated.

We are lucky We are still working through a pandemic

That’s when the panic sets in. How will I make a living? I left the professional world of pants suits and meetings behind long ago. I vowed to do only the things I loved because life was too short to do anything but.

It is hard to sleep at night.

Fast forward and here we are into July and so far we are still serving pizzas to the greatest customers in the world. I could go into all the challenges it entails and how it can still cause panic and fear. but it is easier to say we are doing it, it is going to be alright.

It is still hard to sleep at night.

A Message for Restaurant Customers

I am moved to write the remaining part of this post to the public at large from all my friends in this business. So you understand what it is like to be working through a pandemic. This is from California where I have friends who have not worked in months except to feed other essential workers. To Minnesota where my cousin works for a James Beard-winning restaurant that turned into a take out pizza shop.

Be kind to those who are serving you. they are doing their very best. Please follow the rules and directions they give you. Collectivity we are having to make changes on an hourly, daily, and weekly basis, and sometimes they don’t make sense to you or us but they are what we must do. The industry I love has made an absolutely tremendous effort to pivot our business models to keep as many businesses as we can afloat. To keep as many people working as we can.

There is something very intense about this business. it is built on dreams and it is family recipes and it is hot sweaty work. Most of us do it because we love it to the core of our being. We are watching our friends and other dreamers lose what they tried so hard to build. The effects of this will be with those of us who breathe this industry for a very long time.

There will one day be books written about working through a pandemic in 2020. Someone will tell the story of what it was like working through a Pandemic. I am sad one of those books will not be written by Anthony Bourdain because he spoke for our industry. If you are even the least bit curious about what drives those of us that have served you food all through this Pandemic give these two books a read. Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw

Now please be kind to us, listen to what we say. This is our profession and we love it and we are doing our very best!