Ever feel like time is on an out of control spiral of its own? Time is like a river that’s flowing and then rushing, ever quicker, ever faster. Years pass like months, months like days and somehow we’re already nearly halfway through 2012 but somehow I feel like just yesterday, we were celebrating the arrival of a new year. And then I remember back to my childhood when the lazy days of summer would stretch out to the horizon and time was on a slow moving train and one summer felt like a year, that’s how long vacation was. Time has a funny way of playing tricks. But as elusive as time feels, it’s also an important way to measure accomplishments. And the passing of time speaks volumes – without saying a word.
One year in business may have given us reason to celebrate but two years gave us cause to stop and think about what exactly that meant. When we first took over AlteArte in February 2010, Altea and Spain, in general, was still new to us, and taking over a business in a charming town was exhilarating. But over the past year, as we’ve seen bars open and close and as more and more of our customers and friends have opened their own bars, it not only seems like anybody can do it, but that everyone is doing it. And I realize now that the accomplishment didn’t come with just the simple act of opening a bar. No, that was the easy part. The real accomplishment didn’t come until we had withstood the test of time and had more water under our bridge. The real accomplishment required a bit more struggle, a bit more of a commitment.
Two years of time and two years of corresponding experience opened my eyes to this fact. In the U.S., it’s often said that half of all restaurants fail within the first two years. And I’m sure that the bars in Spain share a similar fate. So as we celebrated our second anniversary, it had a very different feel from the first. I look back at that first celebration, and it feels innocent and tame in comparison, complete with presents and a cake. This year, on February 25th, we partied to a packed house and a jamming DJ, and the energy that swept through AlteArte was explosive. And the anxiety that always precedes an event – will people come, will it mean as much to others as it does to us – rapidly dissolved as the people poured in. And David and I couldn’t work fast enough, we couldn’t serve the people coming at us from all sides of the bar quick enough, and we got so overwhelmed that, eventually, all we could do was laugh out loud because it was out of control – but in a good way. This time, the celebration was a lot more intense. And the milestone felt much greater.
And, best of all, were the faces that made up the crowd. Unlike our first year, when I couldn’t help but feel a bit dismayed that there were so unfamiliar faces, this year almost everyone who was present, were people that we had grown to know over two years of being in business – ranging from people who had been around from the very beginning to a couple that we had only just met less than a week before. And the support from other business owners – tapas bar Xef Pirata, beach bar Casa del Mar, and Rock bar RIP – touched us deep down for we knew that they had made a special effort to come and that they personally understood the accomplishment and were punctuating it with their presence.
Anyone can open a bar, especially in Spain where there’s a bar practically on every corner and especially in these times when there’s an abundance of bars for sale – 20 currently for sale in Altea alone according to our rum provider. Show the money and you can be opening the doors to your very own business a mere few days later.
But not everyone makes it to two years. For though the river of time moves quickly, two years is a significant milestone. Two years still leaves a lot of room for mistakes, challenges, upsets, and long hours. Successfully making it to two years requires perseverance, commitment, hard work and dedication. It’s not just a question of making enough money to stay in business, it’s also a question of personal endurance. Are you strong enough – physically and mentally – to see each day through to its end and be ready for the next? And are you passionate enough to to keep giving yourself, to keep breathing new ideas, new energy, new oxygen into your business? Two years does not come easily, so when it’s reached, the feeling is rewarding, especially when it’s celebrated in the company of supportive friends and customers.
For it’s only with time securely behind us that we can confidently say that we’ve beaten the odds and that we’re here to stay.