Personal Investment

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.

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15 responses to “Personal Investment

  1. We are so happy that you finally have come to your senses and given yourselves some time off! You need to look more after yourselves and you deserve it! Congrats!!!
    Now can we look forward to more frequent blogs?!!

    • More frequent blogs should be the result, but somehow it seems that when you have more free time, it’s harder to get things done!

  2. What an important realisation and understanding. Live outside of AlteArte to bring life to it! I know that rest is much needed and well earned! And I am very glad that you are taking a little eansy weansy bit of time for yourself! I don’t know how you’ve done it until now. But those impromtu private parties sound like the most fun of all!

  3. aaaaahhhhhh……felt sooo goood to do a siesta…

  4. I soooo glad to hear it, you both deserve a respite. And I agree, it will help, not only AlteArte but you guys be revitalized and happy! “Me time” really is a necessity (sound familiar??) and over time I bet your guilt will fade more and more each Monday! Enjoy! Looking forward to hearing of your adventures. =0)

    • Thanks, Amy. Now that we’ve had several Mondays off, the guilt is indeed beginning to fade. It feels wonderful! 🙂

  5. Glad that you realize you need an outside life, but I think you really express some valid concerns over being business owners and young ones at that, especially since the bar is only recently opened (with you guys as owners). I think it comes down to balance and one day you will find that. Enjoy your day off.

    Around here people closes business for a month to travel and just put a sign on the door.

    • Yes, the challenge is definitely finding the right balance. But one day off a week is certainly helping to tip the scale a bit.

  6. Excellent. I can’t wait until you make enough to higher an employee and then you can have two whole days off per week. That’s my personal plan for you.

    • Jess, I’m glad that you finally revealed your plans for our future at AlteArte! But two whole days off per week?! I can’t even imagine that! 🙂

  7. What a beautiful post! Thank you for once again reminding me of the important things in life: balance and the chance to spend time with the ones you love. This weekend, as I rushed here and there, trying to cram in all the chores I had left over from the week, squeezing in laundry, and always, always, studying, studying, studying, I suddenly realized this evening, tucked into bed with a History book, that I hadn’t been outside all day! I’ve been so busy studying, that I’d never taken even a moment to breathe the fresh air, to look at the sky, to admire the family of squirrels who hop happily across my backyard. We are truly in this world for such a short time, that I sometimes forget to just…live. Thanks again for the reminder that every moment is precious…especially when shared with those you love. Cherish those Mondays! They will likely bring you delightful memories for years to come…

    • Sarah, I think your comments are as beautiful as my posts. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Already, we have created some wonderful memories. I hope that you, too, are finding the balance that you need. I know that you’re moving mountains!

  8. Hi Sarah,

    I hope you’re having a wonderful month of in the US!! I’ve been reading your blog for some time, I found it through our linkedin connection. I LOVE reading your blog and have been a happy follower to learn of your adventures and misadventures of pursuing your dream. Amazing.

    My best to your family. I hope every one is happy and healthy.

    Nirmala

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