Friday, December 22, 2006

I really don't mean to harp on this subject but I need to explain the fact that the health inspectors who are keeping us from opening are making a judgment call rather than abiding by any clear set regulations. The first health inspector I spoke to (let's call her "AJ") initially told me we would not need to build a washroom in the store. We went ahead and ordered espresso equipment. She later tells me that what she meant by you don't need a washroom is that we don't need a customer washroom since we will only be selling take-out, but, we do need to build a STAFF washroom. I tell AJ we already have a washroom conveniently located directly adjacent to the store in the very same building. She says that it is her supervisor making these demands, gives me a completely unrealistic scenario about us selling our business separate from our living quarters, and suggests talking to the town office. I do everything I'm told, none of it matters. I ask to speak to her supervisor (let's call her "Nina"). Nina and I have a very unpleasant conversation. She takes the "rules are rules" tone and basically says it was my responsibility to read the handbooks sent to me in the mail. But I did read them. Most of the rules are in regards to CUSTOMER washrooms, which we are still being told we don't need. This is all that it has to say about STAFF washrooms "public eating establishments are required to provide conveniently located washroom facilities for employees." Our washroom is very conveniently located. The only information given specifically in regards to a take-out facility is listed under "Washroom Requirements in Malls" where it says you must provide "any washroom, public or staff, located anywhere in the mall". So a mall can have a staff washroom ANYWHERE in the building but we are not allowed to have our staff washroom (for the staff of us, well, mostly me) located in the same building two steps from our work environment. Nina said that her primary issue is that in two years she imagines we'll have hired 5 or 6 staff and that we won't want them "traipsing through our home”. For one thing, this is rural Saskatchewan, we'll be extremely lucky if our business does well enough to allow Tyler to stay and work at home rather than have to drive to Saskatoon for supplemental income. Secondly, there will be no "traipsing” through our home since the washroom is two steps away from the back door of the shop. Thirdly, if the issue ever arose, which it won't, I would gladly allow any staff to use our home washroom - this is Bruno - I would let customers use our home washroom if they needed to. Fourthly and finally, I would very happily promise to inform the health inspector if I did hire staff and then we could revisit this whole matter! My conversation with Nina went nowhere. It ended with me hanging up the phone in tears. It is a documented fact that people are leaving rural Saskatchewan in record numbers. I now understand why our shop had been sitting empty for years. I totally recognize the need for health codes but this particular issue affects no-one's health in any way, except for my mental health that is.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Once again I've been saved by Bernadette the cowboy poet. When I met her last she asked a favour of me: she needed some metal rings for the decorative tatting she does. She asked that Tyler and I keep an eye out for them when we were next in the city. Tyler stopped by a craft store in Saskatoon and sure enough they were there so he bought some and today I gave her a call. I was in the depths of despair when she stopped by to pick them up. She came bearing a large bag of garden carrots! She then asked if I'd like to join her for coffee so we went next door to the café where we met up with two of her friends. These women are close in age to my grandmother , I was quite touched to be so warmly welcomed by them. Bernadette recited some of her poetry and had us all in stitches. Bruno is definitely a jewel of a town.

Folks, I fear that I am soon going to lose my mind completely. I finally received the official letter from the town office. It reads:

"This letter is to inform you that the property you purchased at 517
Main Street, (Lot 9, Block 04, Plan G4013) is 25' x 132'. Therefore it
can never be subdivided. This can only be sold as a whole property as
per resolution #424/06 passed at the December 18th council meeting.

This property is zoned as commercial so we do not have any problem
with you opening The All Citizens Shop. We wish you luck in your
future endeavors."

Nice letter right?

Yes but before I had a chance to forward it to the health inspector I received an email from her stating that it doesn't matter what the town says. We are going to be forced to build a new washroom due to building codes. Building codes? But the BUILDING has a washroom! It's right next door to the only spot where a new washroom would go if we had scads of money to blow, which we don't. We have negative money. We have bills and loans and I have no job since the job I am trying very hard to create for myself is being blocked at every turn. We have an espresso machine on the way, one that we are now not allowed to use! The only reason we ordered said espresso machine is because when I first called the health inspector and asked if we would need a washroom in the store she said NO. I was clearly told that as long as we have only one table for customer seating we need no customer washroom. Now I’m being told that when I go to work in the front room of my home I am not allowed to use the washroom directly adjacent to my work space, instead I have to build a whole second washroom right next door! I apologize if I am repeating myself; my mind is fragile. I am going to lie down now and weep.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pictured above is the floor plan for our shop (you can click to enlarge it). We had to send it to a health inspector for approval. It was not approved. But why? First off, we've now been informed that we need three sinks instead of two. Secondly, and this is where my blood really begins to boil, we are now being told we need a staff washroom in the store (we don't need a customer washroom because we'll only be serving coffee to go and will have limited seating). The floor plan on the previous page shows where our current washroom is located. It’s a foot away (if that) from the only place where we could build one (the sink room). Building a new washroom is not something we can afford to do, not to mention the fact that if we did build one there I'm sure the health inspector would then make us move our double sink since I can't imagine them allowing us to wash our coffee equipment in the same room as our toilet. I’ve been told that the problem lies in the fact that we might one day sell our business separate from our home and that without a washroom it can't function as a business. First off, why not let whoever is crazy enough to buy it worry about that (as long as they're informed). Secondly forget the first thought since I can't imagine how the two could ever function separately. The store is essentially the front room of our home, which happens to be on Main Street. There is possibly one tiny loophole. I was told that if I can get the town office to back up my claims of business and home being inseparable then MAYBE we would be allowed to use our existing washroom. I went to the office and told the nice lady working there the scenario. She was very understanding and said she would bring it up at the town meeting tonight and ask that a motion be passed stating that 517 Main Street can only be sold as one unit and not as a separate business and home. An official letter will then be drafted. What planet am I on? I feel like I'm a character in a zany sitcom - one of those shows you roll your eyes at because they're so outlandish and unrealistic.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Just to clarify, due to unforeseen circumstances involving a broken espresso machine and a sink, the shop is not yet open. The craft sale was a one day event I organized because we couldn't actually open but I wanted to somehow take advantage of the Christmas season. It was also a way to introduce myself to local crafters. In that regard it was a success! The espresso machine pictured above is on order and our opening is now slated for the beginning of January. I must admit I'm incredibly disappointed that we weren't able to open in December but we are new at this and everything has taken twice as long as we thought it would!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

We've decided to name the stray cat Rupert because he's a survivor (if you've never watched the TV show Survivor, season 7 in particular, the correlation will be lost on you). Thankfully the weather has warmed up. He still won't come near us.

Items for our store have been making their way to Bruno from across Canada. Yesterday I received a package from Joanne at Joma Design in Toronto. Inside was a beautiful picasso stone necklace and a pair of black pearl and hematite earrings. Thanks Joanne!

The Bruno Times offered us space to introduce the community to our soon to be opening shop (typo note: in the last sentence "your" should be "you're"). We went to the bank yesterday and managed to get a loan in order to buy a new espresso machine. Now it's just a matter of ordering it and getting the necessary plumbing done. Can we still open before Christmas? I hope so.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The second-hand espresso machine we were counting on has fallen through. In lieu of actually opening I decided to organize a one day Christmas craft sale last Saturday. I invited local crafters to participate along with members of the Carlton Trail Agricultural Society (who sold delicious cherry products). Tyler, my father (visiting from Alberta)and I stayed up late on Friday making sure the shop was ready for the public. On Saturday I woke up at 5am to bake lemon loaf and apple cinnamon muffins (and cookies which I burnt in sleep deprived fog). Luckily my father made sure that there was hot coffee available throughout the day. The morning of the sale was a little slow but things livened up in the afternoon when Bernadette the cowboy poet showed up and brought her friends! Thanks to Monique, Bergit, Laurel, Marjorie, Kevin and Edie. As far as the espresso machine goes it looks like we'll have to invest in a new one, which will require a loan, so it's off to the bank.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tyler and I have discovered a stray cat living in the neighborhood. We're amazed it can survive in this weather. Tyler’s tried unsuccessfully to lure it inside. The poor thing is tremendously afraid of people. Instead we’ve built it a little outdoor shelter that right now consists of wood, cardboard, a cat carrier and a down vest we bought at value village. We've seen the cat go inside and we keep refilling the food dish, hopefully we’re helping the hapless little fellow!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Roadblocks. Delays. We had originally planned to open our little shop today. Here are a of couple reasons why we're not:

1) We managed to find a used Wega Atlas espresso machine, which will save us a lot of money, something of which we are extremely grateful, BUT actually getting the machine here has become a bit of a challenge (it's presently in Edmonton).

2) We found out that in order to serve espresso drinks, even if we are only providing coffee to go, we must install a two-compartment sink in the store. There's currently a sink about two feet from where we will be installing one but since it's technically in our living quarters and not in the store it doesn't count. This is difficult because there's no plumber in Bruno and the one living nearest is apparently very busy, so we'll just have to wait!

I'm expecting, no, I'm desperately hoping that these issues will resolve themselves within a week or two.