Change everybody is talking about change, the times sure are a changin’ as well they should. But from what to what? Could be good but what does it mean? Isn’t change the only constant in the universe? Isn’t change inevitable? Unstoppable?
1978 was a year of dramatic change. A year in which my immature choices would forever affect the trajectory of my life in ways I could not have predicted.
I’d spent the previous year in an immature party mode, oblivious to how so many of my actions might have taken me down very wrong roads indeed. By spring, that immaturity had already cost me my job at 6-D East. A job that offered great opportunities for a future career in the solid and successful organization called The Mayo Clinic. And the job I got to replace it, was yet another exercise in immature decision making.
But it was interesting.
In my interview, the manager of “Tinkler’s Restaurant” explained that I would be joining a team challenged with the implementation of “an exciting and ground-breaking experiment in the restaurant business”. This was actually true. In many ways, Tinkler’s was ahead of it’s time. An early example of a style of eating and drinking establishment quite common today, but in 1978, in Rochester, Minnesota… this was a first. Whomever was making the big decisions (I never met them) had certainly started out right by purchasing and renovating the old Olmsted County Bank and Trust building.
Built in 1918, the building was just the thing for some cool and creative interior designing. The high ceilings, large exposed air vents, and ornate moldings added exactly the right kind of classy air these energetic young restaurateurs were looking to create.
My adult self now however, can also see that a major aspect of what happened those first few months following the opening of Tinkler’s, was yet another example of immature decision making. Only not by me.
Oh it was an innovative place. The best part was that the staff they hired were very cool people, who were also very, very good at what they did. My favorite was Ted, the head chef. We came to call him “Teddy Tinkler” and he was so very cool. I really liked Ted.
One innovation was the menu. A departure from the standard (especially in Roachville) meat and potatoes entree fair, the main dishes people saw on the big colorful Tinkler’s menu was big colorful and creative sandwiches. Along with big colorful salads and savory soups, it was actually quite a simple menu, but made to look much more elaborate and interesting.
Presentation was everything at Tinkler’s.
It truly was a new thing for Rochester to have a place like this. A place that called itself a restaurant, but also had a prominent bar. A place that looked really high end and classy but had a clearly relaxed and fun atmosphere. There were fun and creative aspects to the food at Tinkler’s that became very popular indeed. Like the “skin-on home-fries”. Another first for the Roachville crowd. The ice-cream drinks were exquisite but the biggest blockbuster bar order was the way they did a Bloody Mary.
The Tinkler’s Bloody Mary came in a tall ice cream sundae glass, with a big pickle instead of a celery stick (although you could have the celery if you wanted it) the drink also came with an accompanying tray of Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce, and an eight ounce beer chaser. It was surprisingly low-priced too so it sold like crazy!
But the most innovative thing the Tinkler’s management did with this “exciting and ground-breaking experiment in the restaurant business” was the way they opened the place. Apparently, someone had made the decision to use whatever part of the advertising budget allocated for the opening week, to simply buy a big bunch of food and alcohol.
And give it all away for free!
I was there on opening day and on that day, we were all told that for as long as the food and booze lasted, we were not to charge anyone for anything. We were also told that we were not to tell customers that their meal and drinks were free until they were getting read to leave. That way, people would order what they would normally order and be so happily surprised that they would come back as soon as they could and bring friends.
And they did.
It was a great idea to quickly build a large and very loyal crowd of regulars and it was a great success. But it was also a way to quickly give the staff some ideas that led to an attitude about working at Tinkler’s that would be far more difficult to deal with in the future.
Especially staff like Teddy Tinkler.
Teddy was tickled.
More to come…