copyright 2012, Aaron Paul Lazar
left to right: Kathy, Rob, Aaron, and Papa Jay
When I headed out for my book signing yesterday, I didn't have high hopes for sales. After all, Papa Jay's is a small local restaurant that had just opened a year ago, and -- embarrassed as I am to admit it -- I hadn't really noticed it in my travels. I vaguely remembered an old collision shop used to sit on that lot. But I had met the owner, Papa Jay, himself, when I stopped by a few weeks earlier to drop off my book. It was Monday, and the restaurant was closed. But Jay, his wife Kathy, and his children were taking down the outdoor Christmas decorations on that cold and sunny day, and it seemed like they were having fun. We chatted for a few minutes, and I immediately liked Jay, whose warm persona sparkled from his eyes.
What I did have high hopes for was a good time. I'd be joining my long time family friend Rob Sells, who I really hadn't spent quality time with in years, but whose first book, a historical adventure entitled RETURN OF THE WHITE DEER, had just been released. Together, we'd sit and chat about the world or writing, meet a few nice folks, and hopefully sell a few books.
I'd envisioned the interior to be like a small diner. You know what I mean, right? I pictured booths and formica tables and a few waitresses bopping between the tables. What I hadn't expected was to be completely astonished by the transformation of this old garage into what I now will consider my local oasis for comfort food with a gourmet twist, at fast food prices!
When I entered with my books in hand yesterday morning, I was thrilled to see a beautiful table set up for Rob and me. Right up front - not set in the back corner. A red tablecloth and two potted mini rose plants adorned the table. Rob and his wife Dale (who has the same first name as my wife!) were already setting up when I got there. But I just stood and stared--totally unprepared for the scene. Behind our table nestled a comfy couch and chairs in front of a gas fireplace, all arranged around a coffee table, with plenty of end tables to set your coffee or brown sugar drenched corn cake on. (I can't wait to try that!)
To the left of the high-ceilinged room was the ice cream counter and ordering area. All ice cream is homemade, and I know where we'll be this summer! Behind a counter -- which happened to be laden with goodies like cookies the kids had just pulled out of the oven and that afore-mentioned corn cake -- stood a smiling young woman, taking orders.
The menu was scrawled on large blackboards that plastered the walls behind the counter - with an array of soups that made me salivate (try the spicy potato! Mmm...) and enough choices of what all the customers are calling "real food" that you couldn't possibly go away disappointed. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are offered, with homemade pies and mile high sandwiches.
Strategically placed about the space, which included the front room I've just described and a cavernous and beautifully done back room filled with nooks and tables for plenty of patrons, were large glass coolers of ice water, complete with tall stacks of glasses for customers to help themselves and quench their thirst. I'm a huge ice water fan, and loved the idea that I could fill my glass to my heart's content at any time without having to bother the servers.
The place was packed, Rob and I both sold a very respectable number of books, had wonderful converstations with friends old and new, and we were fortunate to sample some of the delicacies, like Jay's clam chowder, fresh baked cookies, and the truly delicious homemade poppy seed dressing. I felt so at home there that I could picture myself sitting by the fire with a nice cup of mint tea, writing my next chapter. I can't wait to go back and sample more. ;o)
So, once again I was humbled. I used to think I should focus on selling books at book stores, my winery niches, and vendor sales. I hadn't considered restaurants. Even after eight years of selling books, I'm still learning.
Many thanks to Dale Sells for setting this all up, to Rob for inviting me, and to Jay, Kathy, and their family for having us there yesterday.
If you're anywhere in the Geneseo, NY area, be sure to stop by and pay a visit to Papa Jay's!
Check out the video here.