Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One Of The Stories I Have Been Waiting To Tell

If one were to ask me what the best part about owning a business in Venice was, I would hands down have to say it was the people who lived there. The folks here in Venice gave me years of happiness and entertainment while I was standing behind the counter of Stroh's. Often described as one of the only places around where it was acceptable to roll out of bed in the morning without brushing your teeth or changing into your clothes to grab a cup of coffee, Stroh's turned out to be a pretty interesting place frequented by some pretty strange birds and I have a lot of funny stories about them.
I would have to categorize the "customers" who made so many lasting impressions into three categories to make it easier on me to remember. Category number one were people that actually worked on a regular basis at a regular job, they always paid full price and never had a problem with it. Category two, were people who had worked in the past or just finished up a gig or were in between paintings and were waiting for more work and always paid but needed a little discount from time to time. Category three was reserved for those who had no desire to work, only mooch and beg. Category two and three made for the most interesting people. My version of interesting might be a little different from yours, but I am sure you would appreciate it.
One day, a man that would fit into category number three decided to pop in to Stroh's and check out what we had going on. I came to learn that his name was Frank (not Steak Salad Frank) and he had just finished serving a little bit of time in County and he was down on his luck. Go figure. Well, just like you never feed a stray cat....Frank started to make a pretty regular appearance during prime business hours and I just did'nt have the heart to turn him down. Ah well, nobody's perfect.  It didn't take too long and as you can imagine he started to become a nuisance, customers and employees alike started to grow tired of him.
Enter my Wife. My Wife has a no nonsence, take no prisoners approach to everything. That's why I love her. Ooooohhhhh she's so tough. Exactly what someone like me needs.
One day Frank made the fatal mistake of walking in to Stroh's while my wife was working and asked for a sandwich. My wife politely responded "no", and probably fully expected him to just walk away. By this time Frank had become pretty entitled to his free sandwiches and wasn't going to take no for an answer from an unfamiliar face without causing some sort of chaos. So, in a not so creative fashion he proceeded to cuss out my wife with no shame whatsoever and tell her that he was going to get his sandwich if it was the last thing he did. Now that he had alienated everyone in the store it was time for him to leave and go about the rest of his day.
Frank made good on his promise in a big way. To this day I am still impressed with his handy work and because of it, don't really harbor any ill feelings towards him. Two nights after he had his episode at Stroh's, I was jolted out of bed by my phone at about 3:00 a.m.. The caller ID showed that it was my alarm company calling me. I answered the phone and the operator on the other end told me that the motion sensors were going off at Stroh's and that the police were on their way. I put my clothes on to meet the police at the shop and survey the potential damage and missing items. We always kept our cash register with change for the next day, and I figured that this was the target, possibly also a broken window, smashed in door or some missing equipment. But when I arrived, there were no broken windows and the front and back doors were still locked and all of the stores equipment was right where it was supposed to be.
When the police officers said it was safe to go in, upon further inspection I noticed that the door to the six foot deli case which held the sandwiches was sitting wide open. This was strange to me not only because it was three o' clock in the morning and I thought that there was still the off chance I was dreaming, but also nothing else in the store whatsoever had been touched. The burglar had broken in and had only taken something from the deli case ! The officer that walked around the side of the building to do a perimeter check noticed that there was a trash can underneath our bathroom window, which was located a full 12 feet above the side walk and only about 24" wide by 12" tall. Beyond the trash can the officer said that "there was a trail of cheese and grilled vegetables leading around the corner". It did'nt take long to figure out that the person responsible for this used a trash can to climb through the bathroom window to steal the one last sandwich out of our deli case and then climb back through the very same window.
I recalled that when I closed the previous night, I left the one last sandwich that didn't sell in the case because I thought that someone would be along to buy it before we closed up for the night. But at the end of the night, the lights were turned off, the floor was mopped and the sandwich was forgotten. Left out as easy prey for a vengeful and ambitious sandwich thief.
It would be a while before I saw Frank in the neighborhood again, and by that time I didn't really care about it anymore anyway. I later received word that the police were looking for him because he was stealing peoples car keys off of their counters then later trying to offer them back saying that he "found them in the alley" and he was looking for a reward. Not the dumbest idea when you think about it, but also not the brightest.
Well, that's my story about "Frank the Sandwich Thief", not to be confused with "Steak Salad Frank". Join me again shortly for some of the tips and secrets to an amazing great breakfast burrito.