Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In Quieter Days

Here's a story about my reporting life--before all the events of last month. (Things have changed considerably since then, as you know.)

So I'm sitting in the Times office one Monday drinking one of my biggie lattes from Java Joint. In walks Wilbur. Yes, the one and only Mr. Hucks, who never misses an opportunity to show his scar to people. I assumed Wilbur was on a social call, but he wasted no time dropping a bombshell: Marty's, a popular little lunches-only restaurant between here and Spirit Lake, had suddenly closed, and no one knew why.

I jotted down what Wilbur knew, then hustled over to the site. The employees were standing in the parking lot, shaking their heads and looking quite upset and confused. They all wanted to talk to me at once. Eventually, I was able to sort out the tale. The locks on the doors had been changed, and a glance through the window revealed an empty shell of a store: no chairs or tables, no kitchen equipment, no inside signage--nothing!

I tracked down the only locksmith in town (Bobby Carter) and fired questions at him. Turns out he'd received a call from the owner the night before, offering double the usual fee to get the store's locks changed before morning.Believe me, I asked Bobby why he went along with such a request. Poor guy needed the money to pay for his daughter's wedding next year, so there was no way I'd paint him in a bad light in my article.

Took me two days to catch up with the owner, Marty Cochrane. My deadline loomed, and I had written half the story while I waited to hear the other side. I finally struck gold after a bazillion "I don't know where he is now" comments and blasted Marty with some hard-hitting queries.

Here's the sum-up, which I concluded after forty-five minutes of Cochrane talking around the issue. He'd been running low on money, but didn't want to say anything to his employees. He kept thinking he could pull through. But that fateful Saturday two things happened. A huge bill landed on his desk, and he knew he'd have to close immediately. Plus he got a phone call saying his mother had suffered a heart attack down in Pullman. Marty had to do numerous things at once. He managed to find someone in a hurry to buy all his equipment and arranged to have everything moved out on Sunday--the one day of the week the restaurant was usually closed. And he left for Pullman.

Well, okay, but really--to not tell your employees?

I wrote my story, not only telling all the hard news, but including the drama in the lives of the suddenly unemployed and the owner (whose mother recovered). My fellow Kanner Lake citizens talked about the story for days after that. Everyone still misses that little restaurant. But they're still mad at Marty for the way he handled things.

Trust me, people don't forget easily in a small town like Kanner Lake!

Posted by ~ Bailey Truitt @ 7:00 AM
It is easy to see how someone could get pretty desperate in a situation like that, but it's too bad that Marty didn't call on the area people for help. I've seen the people of Kanner Lake and the surrounding towns come through for each other many times. Some people would rather run away than ask for help. Good job on that story, Leslie. You're making me proud!
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 6:43 AM
I think what this man did was absolutely inexcusable.

The world these days. You just can't rely on people anymore.
Posted by Anonymous elizabeth monty : 10:17 AM
Well, here I am in Java Joint and commenting for the first time on your blog, Bailey. Right from the very computer you use to post. Thanks for showing me how to do this. I think it's wonderful to see what you all are doing.

I even got mentioned in a post, I see! Jared told the story about getting rid of my hornets. That poor man. I felt terrible for him that day.

Blessings to all you bloggers.

Vesta Johnson
Posted by Anonymous vesta johnson : 10:20 AM
We have a lot of little restaurants in my hometown, and some don't last long. Must be tough to make ends meet in such a competitive industry. I still really miss our KFC - for several years now, we've had to drive about 45 mins away just to have a good chicken sandwich. :(
Posted by Blogger Becca : 1:03 PM
Imiss Marty's restaurant. The man served a mean grilled chicken sandwich.

'Course there ain't nothin' wrong with your lunch fixings either, Bailey.
Posted by Anonymous burt laroy : 2:14 PM
Well I can see why he cut and run...but to leave his employees in the lurch like that... I can't blame everyone for still being mad at him.

Reminds me when a chain pulled the same thing around these parts. Crazy stuff.
Posted by Blogger Stuart : 6:23 PM
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