Fresh starts

It was one of those messages that make you gasp. They come through every now and then, when you’re trolling your e-mail program hoping that the spam filter’s been working and there’s not too much nonsense to be answered. This one stopped me in my tracks. Sent by a friend, the subject line read: “Pink Adobe’s closed!”

I didn’t even bother to read her message before I backspaced and accessed santa fenewmexican.com, which told me that although one of our favorite restaurants had, indeed, closed, its former owners were able to jump back in and rescue it from the pages of history. Whew. Or, rather, Whew!

By the skin of their teeth, descendents of the Pink’s founder wrested the legendary Santa Fe eatery back from the hands of corporate investors who had bought a significant interest in the business, changed the traditional menu, served fewer and fewer patrons, filed for bankruptcy and then declared they couldn’t qualify for Chapter 11 protection.

Hmmm … smacks of soap opera, I know. Someone sits in an office nearly 1,500 miles and a time zone away, and she’s distraught over the near-failure of a restaurant. And it’s been a while since I last visited. But, I was a loyal patron for years, and friends who are locals still call to include me in the fun whenever they nestle in near one of the kivas to enjoy an exquisitely simple meal. Residents and out-of-towners are rallying, and in a place like Santa Fe, where history and tradition are embraced as much as innovation, the Pink Adobe may well thrive for a few more generations.

Recently there was a similar flurry of e-mail and phone calls regarding Monrovia, as well as Carolina Nurseries. Before that, word came that Dan Hinkley had sold his beloved Heronswood. Before that, White Flower Farm purchased the holdings of Brent and Becky Heath’s family business. And before that, untold favorite independent garden centers closed their doors rather than compete in the Big Box challenge of a dozen years ago. Names change, management changes, businesses evolve, businesses close.

Businesses reopen. With renewed vigor and a keener eye on their core strengths as well as the bottom line, many of them reinvent themselves to be leaner, sleeker and more focused. Dan now is traveling the world in search of the next great plant find. The Heaths established Brent & Becky’s Bulbs. And one erstwhile garden center owner cashed it all in to live his dream in Hawai’i. Haven’t heard from him in years.

Memories don’t support a business. As much as we like to think about the good old days, when we’re really honest with ourselves we may find that the good old days may not have been that spectacular. Although the past is comforting and the future can be scary, we really don’t have a choice but to look ahead to what we can be. Do I sound like I’m trying to convince myself? You’re probably right. But, I’m not alone.

We work in an economy that continues to smack businesses like ours upside the head. Do everything right, and you still may face daunting challenges because someone, somewhere down the line, was unable to meet his or her challenge. Trickle down, trickle up; as other businesses go, so go our own.

Which is why I’m optimistic about fresh starts. It’s a new year, and I’m required to enter it with a positive outlook. Putting aside the rose-colored glasses, I can see very clearly that there are agonizing decisions for many of us to make. In this industry, though, where we rely so much on each other, the rallies are well underway. Not much goes unnoticed, and where one trips, another lends a hand.

I think a lot of us are ready for a fresh start. How about you?