Today we hear that he’s had to close his shop because of the backlash to his anti-gay-marriage stance. Even though I think that was a bone-headed move, I think we did small business owners a great disservice with the pile-on. The whole thing also makes me nervous, because it reminds me of the cakes I’ve ‘opted out’ of at Butter Lane. You get some pretty crazy, mostly pornographic requests for bachelor/bachelorette partes – and there have been a few I just didn’t feel comfortable asking our bakers to write. I know this is very different ball of wax than discriminating against a whole category or class… but my nervousness remains.
I think this is a good chance to talk about the business we CAN turn away. Let’s face it: that’s one of of the glorious things about being an SBO: control over your working environment. So, yes, I sometimes turn down porn cakes that gross me out, or requests from rude and/or difficult customers. (That means you, complaining UWS lady who never tips.) So here’s my vote: why don’t we focus on the discriminatory laws that matter, and that we do respect – and stop yelling at the pizza guy.
Six months ago, I would have said no. I think this is at the heart of the minimum wage debate. I felt, as many opponents felt, that a retail job in the food industry is a ‘stepping stone’ job. Meant for teenagers, or part-timers looking to supplement their income. Now that the economy is squeezed, and better-paying jobs are scarce, we’re trying to force these retail jobs into some sort of middle-class bracket they just don’t warrant. If you pay a burger-flipper $600 ($15/hr at 40 hours/week) or $31k per year….well you’re gonna get a highly-qualified burger-flipper, but do we all win from that? (I get to say that because I was a 15-yr-old burger flipper (well, technically at a fried chicken joint), who made $250/wk – a FORTUNE to me – for a place that got a 15-yr-old performance. I was nice but flaky, just learning how to interact with the world and people. That chicken joint – and the string of jobs after – are where I learned all of that stuff. But I digress.
Now I dunno. The managers in my shop – the ones that stay and keep us going – aren’t kids. They’re grown-ups managing a complex (some days chaotic) business, with critical problem-solving skills, customer-management savvy. They’re proactive and passionate about the business, worried about costs and sales along with me, and always more street savvy than I am. My gut tells me they should make at least $40k/yr, IMO, for a 50-hr week. (Let’s take the overtime debate off the table for now.) Could the bakery afford it? I don’t see how. What are other SBOs thinking these days?
We got a new sign and awning at Butter Lane East Village! This is the kind of thing that can make your whole day as an SBO. I wonder why. The old awning had some spilled paint on it that looked like bird poop (thanks upstairs neighbor!), which has made me blanch for months. Now if I could only do something our ugly a/c unit….