My Papa, my mother’s father, was Sam Hershorn. Among his many qualities was the ability to draw out a celebration as long as possible. He didn’t just have a birthday. He had a birthweek with a full seven days of parties. My Papa was the man who I credit with my deep love of delis. He was a women’s clothing manufacturer which means he was in ‘the shmata business’. Shmata is yiddish for ‘rag’. It’s a funny language. Anyway, my Papa used to pay me to help around the factory on Sunday’s and then he’d take me to Switzer’s for lunch. Corned beef, fries and cream sodas. Every time.
Anyhoo, the reason I mention my Papa is that our actual anniversary was last Sunday on September 5. Exactly one year ago, we opened the doors of Caplansky’s and if you’ve been reading this for any length of time you’ll have some idea about what happened. If not, a quick recap:
When the door swung open a maddening crush of people entered. I’m not complaining but it was very very difficult for the first three months. Soul destroying really because it was all so new and expectations were so high and I was frankly out of my league. It took me a good six months to develop the skills necessary to competently manage this place, replace the people who simply didn’t fit and build a great team.
Physically, the place has been an undeniable disaster. A mini heatwaze in September proved the air conditioning didn’t work. By the time it was fixed, the heat wave was gone. When it turned cold in November, we discovered that the furnace was broken too. Even the warmth of our smiles couldn’t make up for the discomfort of guests who came before the place filled up with other warm bodies. We had a gas explosion that shut us down for a day. A flood that did the same thing. A break-in too.
On the evening of September 5, I unloaded the car following a busy day selling sandwiches as Kvetchfest (Ashkenaz). I shouldn’t make fun – it was a wonderful day. We were warmly received and well loved. But after I unloaded I was exhausted after another 14 hour day on my feet. At the asme time I was thrilled to know we’d made it further than most restaurants: our 1st year was done. And despite the many people who contributed and helped make this a reality, I wanted to take myself out for a nice quiet late dinner to reflect on the year that was.
There I was, happily eating at the Hoof Cafe and minding my own business when Dan DeMatteis, noted chef and humanitarian, sends me a text from the deli alerting me to the fact that the building two doors over was aflame. Canada Computers was gone. I ordered another beer in their honour. 20 minutes later Dan texts me again to say that the staff were being evacuated and I should head back with or without marshmallows. I can’t even have a fucking night to relax and enjoy my success, eh God? You had to show me who’s boss, didn’t ya? Okay. You win.
This is the life I chose and this is the souris (yiddish for worry or stress) that goes along with it.
Tomorrow, Septemeber 12 at 4 pm Caplansky’s hosts Battle of the Bubbies Round One: The Matzo Ball Smackdown. Celebrity judges and over a dozen contestants will help us begin our 1st anniversary celebrations. Then, at 7 pm tomorrow evening the party begins with a sampling of some of the items from the new menu and some libations from Toronto’s best breweries. Just like my Papa, my life isn’t easy but the good times are worth celebrating for as long as possible.