It occurred to me in one of my many thoughts that on October 17th, 2012, On the Square will turn 10 years old.
Not 10 years old in actual years, but 10 years old as in Stephen and I being immersed in its existence.
Because I thought it might be cool to recollect on a broad scale, I decided to blog about the 10 years in some detail week by week.
We have approximately 10 weeks until the decade anniversary, so I better begin now on year one.
Stephen and I decided to leave New York and come to Tarboro for a summer of rest and relaxation before our trip to Burgundy to work the harvest at Domaine Dujac.
We knew we couldn’t be in Manhattan at that time. We were exhausted and sad, and getting back into the swing of things just wasn’t working the way we had planned. We already knew we were going to France for grape picking so why not make our time away begin a little bit faster by going to Tarboro to vacate before the European adventure. With the constant nudging of my parents, we finally packed up a U-Haul and drove south to get the heck out of dodge and enjoy some small town living.
I will be the first to admit that coming back to Tarboro, even for the short period of three months, was not in my plan, but Stephen said it would be a nice break and we could figure out our next steps without the complications and the chaos of a big city. Of course, he was right, and at the time, I also was aware of the fact I needed to get on the ball with our wedding planning. We had already been engaged for five months with no date set for the actual nuptials.
All of my family welcomed both of us with open arms, and we spent our time in Tarboro looking for consulting opportunities and any quick way to make a dollar to help with our travels abroad.
Stephen spent most of his time in Mary Ann and Dad’s kitchen, creating all sorts of dishes from scratch. There was Grand Marnier Cheesecake baked in an orange peel that made my family swoon and then there was the huitlacoche from the July corn that Stephen sauteed in butter making my family swoon in another way.
He relished in his time spent in the kitchen with no obligations or responsibilities while I struggled with the realization that Tarboro might end up being my home for life, an idea I had tried to fight since I first left at the young age of eighteen.
As I slept and ate and played and, of course, drank, Stephen continued to tell me all of the great things about my hometown and the people who lived here.
And then there was the phone call. The phone call that changed everything.
We were sitting in the side yard of Cotton Valley when Mary Ann and Dad’s telephone rang. I rushed inside to answer it, and a voice that sounded almost identical to mine asked for Inie.
“This is she,” I responded.
“Hi, Inie, my name is Frances Liverman, and I own On the Square. I heard that you and your fiance are moving to Tarboro, and I wanted to know if you were interested in buying my place.”
Utter confusion swept across me. Who in the world had told her we were moving back to Tarboro? What could be further from the truth? What is going on? Oh, of course, just like I already knew. Small town, big mouths. People are making up stories. I cannot believe this. Nothing could be less likely.
I cleared my throat and answered.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Stephen and I don’t have two dimes to rub together, much less enough money to buy a restaurant. I wish we could, but we aren’t in a position to do so. I’ll be sure to keep my ears open in case I hear of anyone who may be able to.”
We both hung up the phone, and I walked out into the yard.
If you know my father, you would understand that about 43 questions followed the phone call.
I gave a recap of the conversation expecting everyone to share my sentiments I had given to the sweet Frances Liverman on the phone, but instead, the opposite occurred.
“What is she asking?” my dad inquired.
“Where is the location?” Stephen asked.
“Why does she want to sell? said Mary Ann.
Need I say more.
Without going into every detail imaginable, in the next six weeks, we were set to buy On the Square with a closing date of October 14th, 2002.
We left for France in August promising to return in October and be ready to run a restaurant. What were we doing, I kept asking myself.
Stephen assured me he had given my father an 18-month commitment.
“It’ll never work,” Stephen told me, “The demographics are against us. We won’t be able to make it, but we’re going to try for your dad, and then we’ll move back up north or wherever we want to look for jobs.”
“You promise,” I asked.
“Yes, I promise.”
In mid-October, Stephen and I finished our cellar work at Domaine de Triennes so we could fly back to the states to start work at On the Square, our new, temporary restaurant.
For those of you who are great at remembering events, you may recall this was the season of the sniper. In fact, I vividly remember my mother fretting over Stephen and me driving a rental car home from New York because we were travelling through the DC area while the crazed sniper was still on the loose.
If you know my mother, you know this is not at all strange. If you don’t know her, you may be shaking your head right now thinking the sniper was not the only one who was crazy.
Needless to say, we arrived in Tarboro safely, and on Monday, October 14th, Stephen and I went into On the Square to try to make our first living in the South.
The early players were my father, a wonderful doctor, the doctor’s girlfriend, Stephen, myself, Frances and Teresa. Frances is still to this day probably laughing about our conversation that had occurred three months prior with me telling her there was no way we could buy the restaurant.
Regardless, we started work on a Monday morning with not much more than a makeshift kitchen and some tables, chairs, barstools and electricity.
It was exactly what we needed, and when you have what you need, you make it work.
To be continued….