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10.14.2009

Satch Sanders: Basketball Player & Business Man

Part 6

The gray Buick Skylark with the "Celtics 16" license plate taped inside the back window - the five previous plates, mounted on the bumper where they belong, have been stolen - is parked on Stanhope Street from early morning to late evening. If Sanders is loaning his name to this place, is hanging around to greet a few fans, is hoping for a glimmer of the past, then he is putting in long hours for it.

Tom Sanders makes it clear that he runs the place. Though sixteen partners - the number is a lucky one - shared the initial expenses, Sanders points out that he still owns 54 percent of Satch's and is investing still more to increase his share. It is not so much that he wants to. A rotten inflation rate, an economy that keeps people in their offices at lunchtime and dining rooms at dinnertime, has hurt profits, Sanders says. After thirteen months in business, patronage hasn't grown nearly as much as he'd hoped. Recently he has changed the menu, cutting prices to what he says are "1978 prices" to attract more customers.

And, too, the reviews have been mixed. Sanders complains that it is because reviewers persist in seeing his restaurant as a purveyor of soul food, not a place to be taken seriously, not a major restaurant. But, too, a string of different chefs has hurt, and now, he says, with the hiring of a new chef two and a half months ago, he hopes that problem is solved.-

One Saturday night just after Christmas, a seasonably slow time in the restaurant business, he makes a point of greeting virtually every customer who steps through the door, complains quietly to a visitor when his maitre d' takes too long noticing that someone is waiting to be seated - "The man has no peripheral vision at all," he says, half joking. "Would have made a terrible athlete" - and jokes more easily as a photographer poses him with a rack of the ribs that he hopes will make his restaurant, if not him, famous.

"Well, I suppose you're wondering what makes a man like me look soooo good, soooo healthy," he says in an imaginary conversation with those who will see the picture. "Well, it's these ribs. No question about it. You eat some of these ribs and you can look this good, too. "But when eating these ribs," he continues, "you must remember not to pull the rib away from the teeth but to pull the teeth away from the rib when eating that nice lean meat. Otherwise, you'll splatter this delicious barbecue sauce all over your white shirt."

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