Sometimes, the hardest thing about running a business is not enduring the long hours when we’re open but rather staving off the feelings of guilt when we’re closed.
Since we officially opened AlteArte on February 27th, we have closed a total of 10 days. Three of those days, we closed to supposedly rest before the Summer got underway. I rested, but David didn’t. Instead, he spent the time reorganizing the placement of the machines in an effort to make operations run more smoothly in July and August. Another two of those days were for mechanical problems when the machines that had so carefully been arranged simply decided to give out. We tried limping along one of those days while dealing with a leaking dishwasher, fridges that weren’t cold enough and our small grill to make quesadillas and montadios that suddenly decided to stop heating but decided to call it a day when we seemed to be making more of a mess of things by being open. We took one day off near the end of August partly to deal with additional problems behind the bar but also to enjoy one evening with David’s mom before she returned to Paris. And, at the beginning of the month, David locked himself inside once more to tackle the gargantuan task of moving the beer machine up to the stock room. All summer long, the beer machine had been keeping the beer on tap cool but, in the process, had been generating so much heat that it had nearly made us physically sick to be behind the bar. Two days and 15 meters of piping later, the beer machine was out of sight and, happily, out of mind. We closed our first Saturday two weekends ago to attend David’s cousin’s wedding in Cox. And Monday we closed to rest. On that day, for the first time ever, David spent most of the day outside of AlteArte.
As a business owner in Altea, taking a day off can be difficult, especially in August. Closing for a day during the high season is totally unheard of and practically feels sinful; especially, when, while seated at Tribus, one of our favorite restaurants in Altea’s old town, with David’s mom, we saw crowds of people walking by. Not only did the crowds make us feel like there was good business to be had so we really should be working but, to make matters worse, scattered among the crowd were many people we knew who were surprised that we weren’t open as well as some of our regulars who were actually on their way to AlteArte – until they saw us having dinner.
Or this past Sunday when we informed customers that we would be closed on Monday only to find out that one of them had intended to have her birthday celebration at AlteArte.
However, because many of our customers have now become our friends, closed does not always mean that we’re actually closed. On one of the days that David was tackling moving the beer machine at AlteArte, I was at home. David called me asking me if I could come because Warner and Annika had stopped by. I rushed over to find that David had set up one of our tables on the terrace and Warner, Annika, and Karl – one of our neigbhors – were having a drink. Once I arrived, David resumed his work inside while I hung out and served drinks. And when Nadia, Marianne, Christophe and two more friends arrived, we added two more tables. And when Danny, a guitar-playing nomad who stops by whenever he’s in Altea, came by with his friend, I ran inside to get two beers. And when Sarah and Dexter came by after closing their shop with two of their customers that they had invited out for drinks, our small, impromptu, private party got bigger. And then to make the night perfect, Danny pulled out his guitar and gave us a beautiful private concert. And at that moment, I realized that, even though we’re the owners, the decision to close is not always one for us to make. Sometimes, the customers have the final say. And that’s what makes Altea – and our rapport with those who come to AlteArte – so special.
As business owners, a day off means no revenue for that day, and it’s hard to not feel like we should be working. But in order to bring freshness and energy and foster a positive atmosphere, rest is needed. And that’s what we’ve been lacking. During the summer, I depended on our regulars to keep me revitalized and I was grateful to them for providing me the energy that I needed, but now it’s time to give back. And in order to be fulfilled and happy, we need to find balance and equilibrium and we need to live outside of just AlteArte’s four walls. But, in order to do so, we need to schedule in free time. And so we have. During the low season, we will close on Mondays.
So, this past Monday was our first official, scheduled day off. And I tried to disregard those nagging feelings of guilt that were still at the back of my mind and probably will be for Mondays to come. But I also know that anything in extreme doses is bad. And I must admit that it felt good to go out to lunch without feeling pressured for time, and it felt like a luxury to join the Spaniards in a one hour siesta after lunch and it was nice to go out at night down to one of the chiringuitos along the water and sit for a moment and listen to the waves just feet away.
As guilty as I feel, I consciously know that we need to have a life outside of AlteArte in order to continue bringing life to AlteArte. And that, even though being closed means lost sales, we’re making an important – and necessary – investment in ourselves. Perhaps, AlteArte needed the constant nurturing in the very beginning. But I think we’ve reached a point that we can let go a bit and concentrate on us.