Archive for the ‘Meandering Valley Thoughts’ Category

I have lived all but a few of  my 52 years right here in the Spokane Valley. In fact, I have lived 23 of those years at 11518 East Alki, the first 7 of my life and the last 16, but that is another story. The point is I am a Spokane Valley lifer and until today I have never come close to any kind of claim to fame. I have never seen even one of the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol said we should all bask in at one point in our lives. But as the fickle finger of fate would have it, today I at least had perhaps an entire 6 seconds of glory on the local evening news. The funny part to me is that those few moments and how they came to transpire have given me a story that I undoubtedly will  retell with heaping relish for the rest of my life. I still can’t believe how winding and surreal the story line was from the shocking moment I shot myself in the leg with my framing gun last Friday to seeing myself on the 6 o’ clock local Monday night news.

In all the 35 or so years that I have wielded such dangerous tool/weapons as worm-drive skil saws and pneumatic nail guns, I have never delivered unto my personage a serious wound. I have always accredited that to a vivid imagination that has always fearfully invisioned the blade of my saw or the nail of my gun ripping or piercing my soft, sensitive tissue far more easily than the wood I had directed my tools toward. So when I shot myself with a 3 1/4″ nail Friday morning as I reached down to grab the gun I had squeezed between my legs, I refused to believe that I could have crippled myself even though the nail buried into the side of my right knee.

There wasn’t that much pain and so I was hopeful as I hobbled to the van and made my son grasp the head of the nail with pliers and give a hard and fast tug. That is the moment of truth with a nail imbedded in a body part, if the nail comes hard then it is buried in something hard like bone. If it comes quick and easy then it drove into soft tissue. We were both relieved when it came out like it had been buried in soft butter. In fact, we went back to work and worked another hour until lunch break.

I did fine that first hour and was going strong until I got out of the van and headed across the Subway parking lot. In the 7 minute drive from the job to the fast food joint, my leg siezed up and hurt like the dickens. We were planning on staying and eating at Subway but I did not want sit any more than I had to and so we headed back and ate on the way. I had a steep roof to sheet that afternoon and to be honest, every step I took on that roof as pulled up the 4×8 sheets of plywood and then threw them down into place hurt pretty good.

It never crossed my mind to stop and I give my father credit for that. I worked with him for many years and I have never in  all my years in constructtion seen a tougher man. I will never forget as a young boy seeing him suffer a wound in a motor cycle accident that ripped into his legged so severly that it still makes my hiney pucker to this day.  He just winced and never said a word. Another time I saw him bounced a chain saw off his thigh, wrap a rag around and went right on working. My glancing nail wound was nothing compared to that and so I gladly taught my son a lesson in toughness while completing the job we set out to finish that day.

But by the time we went home, my leg was hurting. It was hurting in the back of my calf quite a ways from the wound and so that concerned me a little. When I got up Saturday morning, the calf was really tender. I had been asked by a friend to walk in the 3-mile ALS Walk at Maribeau Park and for some reason I thought would help the stiffness. Elaine was sleeping when I left, and so it would be hours later before she told me how dumb she thought I was. I limped a bit but it was not that bad.

Somewhere about this time I brought the power of facebook into my unusual weekend. I love facebook and am fascinated by its immence power. I contend that facebook is the most important developement to come along since the internet and it is debatable which is more significant. I posted a question about why the back of my calf would  hurt when I shot myself in the side of the knee. I have a lot of friends, and the mother hens came clucking out, warning me that my life could be in jeopardy by a blood cot. I do not mean to belittle them here because I was very moved by them scurrying out of the woodwork so to speak, considering I had never heard from most of them before. It was just a shot in the dark but it quickly went out of my control as my concerned friends threatened to drive over and kidnap me down to the emergency room.

Not wanting to be branded a fool on facebook by this flock of mother hens and risk never being able to seek their guidence again, I beleaguredly made my way into the Rockford Emergency Cinic Sunday morning, only to be told that they could not perform an ultrasound on my leg to determine if I had a clot and so I would have to go to the Vally Hospital Emergency room. Losing my momentum towards this end, I stopped at the house to tell Elaine how my efforts had been thwarted and I was being redirected to the hospital emergency room. That is when she first told me that our flimsy insurance policy had a $1,000 deductable when it came to the emergency room. Just two years before we had spent that amount at the Valley Hospital emergency room to find out that our ailing daughter did not have appendicitous and would be just fine. That took the well-meaning wind right out of my sails and grounded me and my ailing leg right there. I would risk it until the next morning when I could go into our regular doctor’s office when we had better coverage. Besides, by this time I was beginning to abandon the blood clot possibility which I had never bought into in the first place.

But I truly respect each of my motherly hen friends and did not want to suffer any admonishment from a single one of them and so I headed out bright and early this morning with instructions from my major mother hen, Elaine, to call our doctor at 7 and schedule an emergency appointment which she assured me the always kept room open for on their daily schedule. I go out for coffee just about every morning to Burger King or McDonald’s but this morning I went for the Jack in the Box at Pines and Mission because it is right on the way to our doctor’s office.

Remember that I am a blogger-slash-internet goofball and so I looked about the dining room and was delighted to find a corner table with a near by outlet that I could plug my laptop into. So I plugged in the laptop, dialed in the smart phone to the net, layed out breakfast for a picture, ( I shoot before every meal in public like a born-again prays before every meal, always thinking of a possible blog). Then I looked up over my laptop, through a 10″ gap between the posters plastered on the windows in front of me. It was at that moment that I saw a foaming head of white smoke arise from a building  a thousand yards beyond Jack’s window posters. Within seconds, before the white head of smoke had risen 30 feet above the building’s rooftop, a rush of sinister black smoke shot up past the slower light smoke and I grabbed my smart phone and headed to out the door to further investigate, knowing that there was a building going down in a blaze.

Having seen that first smoke shoot up and then going outside and not hearing a single siren, I knew that I was seeing this all unfold from the very beginning, even before the first 911 call. In fact, as I waited on the south side of Mission to cross east on Pines, I saw a cop pull up in the southbound lane of Pines on the far west side preparing to go west down Mission but a pedestrian tapped on his window and pointed to the burning building. He looked and saw the flames, hit his lights and turned across 7 lanes of traffic and shot down Mission and arrived at the scene before the first siren sounded.

In the meantime, I impatientley waited for my side of the light to allow me passage across Pines.  I remember thinking I had the chance of getting one of the videos you see on You Tube or Greatest Home Videos. I bought an Android smart phone to always have that capabillity at all times. And this morning it was about to pay off big time.

This my doctor's building going up in flames.

Click here to see the video.  It appeared on khq and krem news and both stations came by my house to interview me.  While the interviews took at least 10 minutes apiece to film, I appeared for one 6-second sentence in each broadcast. More important to me was my video which was the star of the evening news on both stations in their lead story. (the firey video scene in this news feature was mine.

BTW- I went back to the Rockwood Clinic that afternoon and got a tetnis shot and a clean bill of health.

Every time that I do an interview for the Spokane Valley Scoop quarterly newsletter I always wind up with a lot of great stories that I can’t fit into the feature story. Jenny Hoff, the subject of the most recent Scoop was certainly no exception. The story she told us about going on a cruise was too involved to weave into the original article that I wrote but too moving to leave forever on the editing room floor. So on the eve of a great benefit for Jenny I thought I’d pick it up and give it a blog post of its own.
When Jenny was given the diagnosis of having Lou Gehrig’s disease in the summer of 2006 she had all of her mobility and coordination, she just had occasional loss of balance. The cruel and steady advance of the debilitating disease spares no one, however, and Jenny stubbornly moved along from cane to walker to wheelchair to powered wheelchair. Her family knew time was running out for Jenny and Jeff to make memories of adventure and fun and so they bought them tickets for a Mexican cruise.
Flying on the airlines with a powered wheelchair and being immobile is a difficult and complicated task. Jenny studied up long beforehand and then spent hours on the phone with the airlines and hotels and Carnival Cruise Lines coordinating every detail. Finally on a snowy day in January of 2009, Jenny and Jeff boarded their plane at the Spokane Airport and there they sat. After a long wait it was determined that repairs would take several hours and so passengers could wait or be assigned to other flights.
The trouble was there were no immediate flight connections and the four-hour, best-case-scenario delay did not give them enough time. So Jenny and Jeff had to go back home and say goodbye to their dream cruise and Jeff’s car keys which were on their way to Los Angeles along with their luggage. A friend had to drive out in the snowstorm and give them a ride home, stopping at the liquor store to let Jeff buy a bottle of rum. Needless to say, it did little to dull the pain of being left behind that wintry night in Spokane as their cruise ship sailed towards the warmth of Mexico thousands of miles away.
Jenny found out the hard way that cruise companies hold passengers responsible for getting to the dock on time and airlines take no blame when they make that impossible. For months Jenny called and wrote to the airlines and Carnival and insurance companies and received nothing but “please holds” and “we’re sorries.” With her window of opportunity steadily closing, Jenny finally sent out an email to everyone she could asking for suggestions.
One of her friends contacted KREM and they did a story on her. A mother and daughter from Post Falls who had already bought tickets for a Caribbean cruise saw the newscast and decided they could wait but Jenny and Jeff could not. They not only gave them their tickets, they also worked to raise enough money to pay for a caregiver so Jeff could relax and enjoy his time with Jenny that much more. When they booked their flight this time, they gave themselves an extra day’s grace before the cruise left port, knowing that it was by the grace of some strangers’ love, generosity and sacrifice that they had been given a second chance for a last vacation.

We have other stories on Video told by Jenny on our Facebook page at

    While I find the movie-dispensing Redbox kiosks amazing and super convenient, I also find it very easy to root against them in regards to their competing with Block Buster for Spokane Valley’s dvd rental dollar. It is a classic case of man against machine. Block Buster’s shelves are stocked with several copies of sci-fi films like the Terminator where droids and computers have taken over the world. This bleak future is nearly upon us here in the Valley as our neighborhood Block Buster at Bowdish and Sprague fights on valiantly against the circling, snarling Red Boxes that seem to be reproducing like rabbits.

    The warriors in blue shirts who man the frontlines are fighting the good fight and they are the reason I will remain faithful to the bitter end which hopefully will never come. The crew at the store has always been polite, friendly and helpful. They are like counsellors guiding us towards well-liked movies and away from the waste-of-timers. If I am not sure about a movie I always ask one of the staff and their advice is unfailingly sound which stands to reason considering they all seem to watch movies and they hear a lot of feedback from the customers. The one guy with glasses and a  goatee, named Mike, (that’s his name not the goatee’s) has been cheerfully directing our family from the days of Ninja Turtles and Disney to the Gump man and the first Potter and onto the Twilight years of today. He and the other people on the staff make renting a movie from there fun.

   Beyond being amateur movie critics with common sense and normal tastes (which is the opposite of professional critics) the staff at Block Buster have always been accommodating. For example, whenever they see someone looking through the stacks of newly returned movies, they will ask what title the customer wants and then rummage around in the drop bin and every other place the movie might be hiding.

   Just this week a gal searched high and low for the new release, “Faster,” for me but her noble quest was in vain and so I sadly shuffled off to see if I could find something to replace our beloved Rock. Just as I was getting to the last wall and hope was fading fast, I heard a sweet voice behind me say, “Sir, the movie you were looking for just came in.”  I was so impressed with her thoughtfulness and it was all the better because it was one of those rare movies that every member of the family enjoyed. So in a sense, she made our night.

    I think it costs $2 more to rent a movie from Block Buster compared to Redbox, to which I say big whoopty-do. We  rent maybe one movie a week and so for $8 a month I get the newest releases, I get expert advice, I get treated like family and I get to help keep the Matrix nothing more than a great movie and not an approaching reality.

   I kept waiting to get all the facts surrounding the Scott Creach incident before I made a decision on what to make of it all but the facts keep trickling in and they do not add up. So we wait around for a week to find out which officer shot Scott and then we wait a while longer to find out he was vacationing in Montana and then Las Vegas and did not have time to set the record straight for the family and the entire community before he took off his long-planned vacation.
I do not see how  the officer could have one relaxing moment on his vacation knowing that he just shot a pillar of the community that he works for and that there is tempest brewing in that community over the fact that everyone is getting very impatient to hear your side of the story. Honestly, as I mull all of this over, I can see where the officer is suffering and surely wishes he had parked somewhere else that night. I can see where going to visit his mother in Montana might have been therapeutic after such a traumatic episode. But I wonder what he was thinking to be able to jet off to Vegas and come back to give his long-awaited side of the story.
And then we finally get his side of the story and it makes little sense. He is saying that he repeatedly told Scott to drop his weapon and that Scott came up to his police car and belligerently refused to drop his weapon. I am sorry but Scott Creach was not an idiot and I don’t think that anyone believes that he decided to commit “suicide-by-cop”  that evening. But as more and more trickled out, it seems as though Scott did set himself up to be gunned down though he could not imagine  that he would ever be fired upon.

   Scott’s actions were incomprehensible to me that fateful night. When a cop says “drop your weapon” that is just what you do. I have read it all and followed this whole thing from the beginning and I am sad to say that Scott Creach behaved in such a way that he put his life on the line and he lost the most precious thing we all have for no good reason. Sure the cop should not have escalated the episode by striking him with the baton but he is a cop and he acted like you better fear  a cop might act. Scott behaved strong-headed in a situation where he should have been as meek as a lamb to preserve his own existence. He should have put his gun on the ground and simply explained who he was with his hands raised in the air.

  I feel so badly for the family but if that were my dad, I would be pissed off that he did not react to the situation in such a way that he would still be amongst us instead of being buried in Oklahoma. Blame the cops all you want, but cops are cops and we have to understand that they are out there doing their job and they make mistakes at theirs just like we make mistakes on our jobs. But sometimes when they blow it, good citizens can wind up dead.

   Like the whole Valley and especially those who knew and loved him, I was shocked to hear that Scott Creach had been gunned down outside his home. While I only knew him from a distance, it was actually a short distance and started back in 1965 when he brought his young family to Spokane from Oklahoma and joined our church, Pines Baptist at 8th and Pines. I was 7 years old and he would have only been 29.

   While 29 seems so young to me now,  at 7 he was a full-grown man with 3 kids close to my age. There was Serena who was a little older and Edith who was my age and Alan who seemed like a little kid compared to me. It turned out he was only two years younger and really we were both little kids and now we’re both middle-aged men much older than our parents were then.

   I almost felt sorry for the Creach kids because Scott seemed so stern. Alan was a mischievous little fellow and would often have his high spirit and big smile abruptly curtailed by his father’s intense scowl and strong fingers tightly compressing one of his ears. Back then I found myself in a similar situation with, what I felt, was an even sterner dad, and so instead of feeling sorry for Alan, I took comfort in knowing that my misery had good company.

   The Creach’s left Pines in 1971, and so I lost that weekly contact I had with the kids in Sunday School and seeing the family sit in the same spot  during service 2 or 3 rows back next to the far right aisle. But Scott’s hands did far more than keep Alan in line, and I would see him for one reason or another over the years. I remember working with my dad putting in the foundation on one of Scott’s first greenhouses. Scott was there with his sleeves rolled up doing labor work while serving as his own general contractor.

    Elaine’s parents went to his church and so we went there once and I watched him baptize my nephew after listening to his sermon. Beyond the occasional seeing him in the flesh or hearing his named mentioned in conversation, Scott kept popping back in my head with his radio spots on gardening. I always smiled because I knew the guy and I knew that each one summed him up so well. He was always dead serious in his lesson and you knew he knew very well what he was talking about as he spoke with an even pace in his Southern accent. Then at the end he would usually banter with the host for a few minutes and you were able to pick up his sense of humor and that he was comfortable with himself.

    Though I would only catch his spot by chance, I heard him dozens of times through the years. I greatly admired his marketing savvy with the use of the radio and figured it had something to do with the constant addition of more and more greenhouses at his place on 4th. But the thing that struck me most was how consistent he was through the years. The man was a lesson in staying the course and I will always appreciate people like him and my own parents who live honest hard-working lives and do what they can to make this a better world. Though I would never have guessed it at 7 years old, Alan was pretty lucky to have the dad he had.

   It had been 18 years since I last took the time to float down the Coeur D’ Alene River and as I laid there on my floatie in the warm sun gently bobbing along over the kiddie-sized rapids, I realized that I had missed out on one of the great free pastimes that this area has to offer. Though Elaine has taken the kids nearly every year, I gave it up because I did not like the idea of baking in the sun on an inner tube. Besides, they always went during the week to avoid the crowd and so I reasoned that I was too busy. This year was going to be the same. But then a job I was planning on got moved back and I did no reason not to go except my old negative opinion.

   I got up  and got ready to go to work with a strong sense that I was going to miss out on a opportunty to have fun with my family. My oldest boy, Jesse, is 22 and Eli is 20 and I wondered if there would be many more times they would be able to join Elaine and our two girls Crystal,17 and Jackie 15. I thought about how Eli was only 2 the last time I plunked him and Jesse in their own little raft and watched how much fun they had going over those monster rapids. I thought about how I had not gone with the girls and how quickly the summers had gone by and how few we have left with them at home. I was literally walking out to my van when I told my boss that he could take this work day and shove it, I was going to take the day off and go have fun with the family floating down that fool river. My boss told me that I was the fool and that it was about time. Of course I was talking to myself.

   Every one was in shock when they got up and I told them I was going. They had grown up thinking I would never float the river because of the sun. I hated to blow my cover after all those years but the last time I went the strongest sunscreen I could get was probably SPF 15, just this summer I got my hands on some SPF 85. The sun was no longer the problem, my work ethic and stupidity had been the real problem for quite a while. But the old man was changing his ways and so off to the river we went.

   It was so relaxing. One time I got stuck on some shallow rapids and I just laid there for about 10 minutes. I might still be there  if I had not heard another group coming. The kids still thought it was great fun even if the rapids had gotten smaller. In fact they said that if they had to choose between floating the river and Silverwood, they would choose the river.

   After years of going with her sister, who is a fanatical fan of floating, Elaine knows the ins and outs of floating the Coeur D’ Alene. She says the key is the floatie. They can be very hard to find at the end of the summer. This year she looked at several places and ended up finding the ones she wanted at Rosauers. Just about anything will do in a pinch, in fact we saw one guy at the end with only a small portion of his floatie in tact and he seemed to be having a jolly time. The one I used had a backrest and arms and I thought I was in heaven. Take a special floatie to carry a cooler and supplies like an extra floatie in case one goes down midway. Just tie the supply floatie to your floatie and you won’t even notice it’s there.

  The perfect run lasting about three hours is easy to find. Just head east on 90 and get off on the Kinston Exit and follow the river north past the Snake Pit at Enaville and go until the road goes over a bridge. Just on the far side of the bridge there is a dirt road that you take back down the river for about half a mile. Drop one car off by the big  jump-off rock and swimming hole and then load everyone up and head back up the river on the main road. After about ten minutes you’ll come to a convenience store that has a compressor which will take your quarters but it will also run without them.

  Once your’e all blown up get back on the road and bear left at the next intersection and soon you’ll come to another bridge. Just past the bridge there is a pinic area on the left and that is where you embark. It’s that simple. You drop off one rig at the first bridge and jump in at  the second. The river is just waiting to give anyone with the wisdom a ride for free. It has nothing better to do and I now know that I certainly had nothing better to do than to take it up on its generous offer.


The perfect passport to a pleasant pastime

    Another big parcel of vacant land on the outskirts of the Valley is about to spend the next hundred years or so with a huge apartment complex on top of it. It used to be one big farm field that ran from Belle Terre to 32nd along the east side of Highway 27. A while back they put in the Albertson’s store on the north end of it.

    I grew up down the road on 46th and so I have seen that whole area south of 32nd along the highway go from nothing to where it is at now. It’s kind of a wierd little spot in the Valley. First they put in a lame little subdivision between Belle Terre and 46th about 30 years ago. But that went in during the high-interest days of the early 80’s and so mortgage loans were like 18% and the area took years to build out.

   Then the Mormons came along and put in a tabernacle. Next came a cemetary and then the  Albertson’s store. Now another ill-timed subdivision called Elk Heights sits on the hill nearby impatiently waiting for good times to come back. The folks who move into the new apartments will have it made. They can walk across the street and go to church or walk to Albertson’s to get groceries and if they get ran over they can go across the road and get buried.

   It seems to me that there is a preponderance of prettily paid panhandlers in the Valley. Personally, I don’t pander to them since I pay taxes punctually whether it pleases me or not. I understand that there are many homeless people who have fallen on hard times and my heart goes out to them. But the point is that there are way too many of them to effectively relieve all of their suffering by giving handouts to the few with little pride and lots of nerve who stand beside the road with a cardboard signs.

    I don’t mind a portion of my tax dollars going to food and shelter foe the less fortunate amongst us. But I have never rolled down my window to give a beggar a buck because I don’t think it is fair of them to stand on the corner and try to make every one who drives by feel guilty and sorry for them. It makes the Valley less pleasant and reminds us continually not so much that there are homeless people but that there are people who have figured out that one out of about two hundred or so people who drive by are soft touches. It is a numbers game that they have nothing better to do than to stand around for a few hours and take advantage of .

   When you see the same person at the same corner for years, you know they must live somewhere in the area and that standing at that particular corner is their vocation. I was talking to a friend, Marc Green, about this last night and he told me a funny story about a friend of his in L.A. He said the guy built up a repore with a guy who panhandled on the same corner for years, giving him a little money or a sandwich from time to time. One time the beggar was gone for a few days and another one was in his place. So Marc’s friend stopped and asked the new guy if he knew what happened to the regular. The guy tells him that the regular is on vacation and that he is just holding the spot until his buddy got back. Marc said his friend was through with being a nice guy after hearing that.

   When Elaine worked at the Brass Faucet a few years ago, Hoppy, the one-legged Vietnam vet who works the northwest corner of Pines and Sprague, used to come in after his shift and play pull tabs with the money the soft touches gave him. He didn’t drink well whiskey, he had a more refined taste for Black Velvet.

   Besides pride, another thing most panhandlers lack is intelligence. Loose the dog or maybe the gut. Smoking on the job isn’t too bright nor is wearing expensive clothes even if they are dirty. And the “Have-to-be-honest-just-need-beer” sign isn’t funny any more. The one old gal that wears her coat over her backpack and makes you sweat just looking at her on hot days when she is bundled up in a down jacket and a winter cap is truly off her rocker. But so are the people who give her and the others a handout and keep them coming back for more.

   The only time I’ll give somebody money is when they come up to me in a parking lot and say they need a few bucks to get back to their hometown. I’ve heard it enough to know that it is most likely just another line, but I am always optimistic that I am helping a guy down on his luck and getting one more panhandler out of the Valley.

The thing I love about doing this blog is that it is a place that I can say what is on my mind and give my opinion. While I have a journalism degree and understand the rules of journalism, I don’t have to follow any of those rules here. I’d like to get the facts (and spelling) right, but honestly I don’t have time to do much research, it takes enough precious time just to write down what I am thinking. I bring this up because I recently received an unpleasant comment from a relative of Tina Bishop, the Luxury Box owner, and Elaine even got a phone call from another relative.

Seems they were quite bent out of shape that I had brought up the subject of Pat Kroetch getting the boot and The Luxury Box taking over. I was not being critical in the piece but still I took out all mention of that part of the story to be nice. I guess being a nice guy bothers me because I’ve decided to take a closer look at the situation and talk about it openly and fairly.The truth is a lot of people are talking about it and most of them are not being as fair and open minded about it as I am.

The person who called Elaine said she was sick and tired of hearing the name Pat Kroetch and she just wished the whole thing would go away. She also said I should go down and get Tina’s side of the story. Well, it might take a while for this sentiment to go away and furthermore, I had already heard Tina’s side of the story from Tina herself.

I have a unique perspective on all this because Elaine and I went through a very similar ordeal when we were forced out of our building and had to shut down the business we had invested four years of our lives and all our money into. Debbie, who owns Goodtymes, told our landlord she would remodel the place and make it a country bar if he gave us the boot. Turns out she was bluffing, but she helped get rid of a competitor (I really only know Debbie as a rival nightclub owner and I can tell you that you are fortunate not to know that side of her). Ken Ripley also wanted our place and he was not bluffing. He lasted six months and lost more $225,000 according to him, $250,000 according to his wife.

The whole thing left a very bitter taste in our mouth, but the truth is we could have paid the higher rent and stayed. I thought the landlord wanted too much and the three owners who came and went since found out I knew what I was talking about. The point is that we were in the driver’s seat and we made the decision to pack up and leave. The landlord told us he would rather we stayed as long as we paid the higher rent.

In an article in the paper last August, Pat claimed that she was blindsided because the lease had always been taken care of by her husband Greg, who had died recently. But they had been going month to month for a year and half, and so it seems they were having problems making a decision to commit to a long-term lease even before Greg passed away. It must have been even harder for Pat afterward’s. But like us, Pat was in the driver’s seat and she could have signed a long-term lease.

Pat was recently widowed and at retirement age and I have heard that none of her children wanted to take over the business. It is understandable that she was not wanting to sign a long-term lease. In a perfect world she should have been allowed to go month to month for as long as she wanted. After all, her father opened the place  when U-City burst on the scene in 1965 and the Kroetch’s took the helm in 1984 and so that family had paid the rent at that location for more than forty years. Seems to me that is a situation where month to month is not a big deal.

Jim Magnuson, however, is a fairly new landlord of that property and has not been there for forty years. He is obviously a successful business man with a lot going on and  much on the line. In the article he states that he needed a long-term lease (and more money) and that Pat knew the rules of tenancy. In other words, he wasn’t in a frame of mind to worry about where Pat was at in life or the goodwill she and her father had established there.  University City is an investment property, a big investment property, and it needs to be run like a business. Magnusen was  following good bussines practice, who are we to judge that he should have been a nice guy and let Pat go month to month. We are not the ones with millions on the line, he is.  I am sure Magnusen would have preferred Pat stayed, but more than that he needed a secure tenant with a long-term lease. I guess that is just the way it is, I wouldn’t really know since I’ve never had to worry about managing a multi-million dollar property.

So Magnusen apparently put out the word that the facility was available and along comes Tina who is out looking for a place. Tina told me that she was told that Pat wanted to retire. She said that she was shocked when she finally talked to Pat and found out Pat did not want to retire. So Tina was mislead and drawn into what looked like the perfect opportunity before learning the truth. She told me Pat said that if she gave her $125,000 for the business she would leave with no hard feelings (there probably should have been some negotiation right there). Tina felt she could not afford the name and passed. The landlord wanted Tina signed to a ten-year lease more than he wanted Pat on a month to month. Tina told Pat that she would sign the lease if she did not. As far as I can tell, it was Pat’s call, Magnusen’s building and Tina’s dream.

Bear in mind that Tina was not acting alone, she had 3 other woman as business partners. This was a group decision. Should they have walked away?  That might have been a good idea. But on the other hand, Magnusen would have kept shopping the place until he found somebody else and so in that regard, if it weren’t Tina and company it would have been someone else. It is understandable that Tina felt this was too good to pass up, after all she had been looking and knew the market. There are no other places like it in the Valley, especially with that kind of location.

To be completely honest, I think it was a game that Pat was tired of playing and wanted out of. If she really felt her business was worth a lot then she should have signed the  lease and then sold the business. Businesses like that are hard sell. You have to find someone with enough money to buy it outright or carry a contract. Banks historically have shied away from financing restaurants and I am sure it would be a joke to try in this economic climate. When Percy Howell tried to sell the Golden Hour back around 1983, he carried a contract and got the whole place back within a few months. Pat and Greg came in after that and probably got easier terms. Had Tina bought the business from Pat, she could never have remodelled and the kitchen and bar  really needed remodelling. Besides, Tina already had a business and her own vision for expanding it.

I would hate to see Tina fail. Magnusen will win either way and Tina should not lose everything because he used her to get what is best for him. I think Tina and her partners were a little naive and did not understand the depth of sentiment this Valley has for the Golden Hour/Percy’s Americana. The main reason for this blog post is because I am amazed how often people mention , out of the blue, what a raw deal they think Pat got. Both of my parents have mentioned it,  Elaine was painting someone’s house the other day and they brought it up. Then there are people who are very bitter about it like most of the former employees and, I would guess, other people who are close to Pat. I say let’s get over it. Things happen in life. Move on. Forget and forgive. Pat and her family had a long and profitable run, now it is somebody else’s turn.

Is Magnusen a bad guy? He could have done things differently but it is his business and he has the right to run it the way he believes he should. Are Tina and her partners to be blamed and not supported? I guess if people want to be petty they can hold a grudge but I don’t think that is the right thing to do. Tina is a sweetheart. Some people may think she made an error in judgement, but I have done business with her at the Rock and have gotten to know her a little better at the new place and I know she is not at all a bad person. She is a very sincere and likeable person. The reality now is that she has laid thousands on the line and I think she is doing a lot of things right. We are lucky to have her establishment available to us.

Like everyone, I wish Pat’s long and admirable career hadn’t ended the way it did. But this is life and not the movies. People of the Valley need to embrace and support these people at the Luxury Box who have invested so much to give us a nice place to go and celebrate the events in our lives. I hope people will follow Pat’s lead when she said at the end of the article,  “I do think things happen for the best reason. I don’t wish bad things for anybody.” So get over it and get in there, the Valley will be a lesser place if another decent woman loses her dream.

   Why are we so lucky here in the Valley to get two new buildings right across the street from each other that look exactly the same and sell exactly the same stuff? I hear all this hullabaloo about the city council wanting to make Sprague into some attractive boulevard with tasteful store fronts and then they let Rite Aid build a mirror image of Walgreen at Pines and Sprague. I guess that is letting commerce take its course and we are probably to blame for being a spread out community with not enough numbers to support something more interesting and perhaps quaint.

Wasn’t that row of old buildings perfect for renovation and then house a Rocket Bakery and other nice shops? The Northside has it’s Rocket Bakery on Garland, the Southhill has one, downtown has two and even Millwood gets one. But the Valley’s one shot at a Rocket Bakery is torn down and turned into a monument to corporate thoughtlessness.

I understand that no one wanted to risk the venture of preserving what used to be the heart of Opportunity. The buildings probably were too far gone and the owners can’t be blamed for landing a big tenant willing to build an expensive building. But I remember going to Beulow’s 5 and Dime and Marty’s Toyland as a kid and probably five or six generations did their commerce at even older businesses than those.  So I lament the fact that the oldest section of our business community is gone forever and that I will have to wonder if I’m seeing double every time I head south on Pines.

But I was lucky enough to preserve, in a small way, a part of the memory when I interviewed Harold Beulow last year before he past away. I’m just glad he did not have to see his old place of business torn down and replaced by what now passes for progress in the Valley.   (You can read his invaluable story here.)