shutterstock_102143884 One of the realities of owning a small business is the slew of salespeople always at your door, or calling, tying up the phone line. They want to sell you everything, from enzymes for the grease trap to computer systems to advertising. I am no professional marketer, everything that Bruce’s Burritos has done for advertising is random, more of an emotional way of advertising versus a calculated plan. We advertise in The Notes, because our salesman Mark LaBrie was the first person to welcome Bruce to Yarmouth and he impressed Bruce. His friendly advice about opening a business in town was very helpful. We advertise in the Bollard first because I have always appreciated Chris Busby as an editor, and second because it allows me to live out my dream of writing a column even if it is an advertorial.
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Bruce’s Habanero Hot Sauce

shutterstock_97622885 One of the most sought after sauces at Bruce’s Burritos is Bruce’s Homemade Habanero Hot Sauce; it is also the most feared. Habanero’s are hot, scorching hot little orange peppers; they look cute and even innocuous to the uninformed. Do not be fooled.

My first introduction to a habanero was about 11 years ago at the Bakehouse Café, Tor, one of the chefs, dared a dishwasher to eat one. It was a snowy night in Portland and no one was coming out to eat, we had to amuse ourselves somehow…we all offered up money for the challenge.… [read more]

The Dance

shutterstock_134090501 I am miserable on a dance floor. No rhythm, no moves, I can’t tell my left from my right. I was fine at the junior high slow dance, which involved swaying slowly in a circle with some sweaty kid. There is only one dance that I have ever excelled at and that is the dance of work.

My very first job was at a small ice-cream shop in my small home town, I was 13. Everyone I worked with was older, much older to me, though it was only a few years difference. I couldn’t figure our why they were always filling balloons with the nitrous gas that we used to make whipped cream, that realization would come much later. It was at this ice cream shop that I first felt graceful, maneuvering around 2 other employees, filling orders with speed and I thought panache. I even thought about writing a book about “the dance” the particular unplanned choreography that allows a rush to happen without anyone bumping into one another.
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When I was a child I would receive one gift certificate a year to a bookstore from my Grandmother. They were fancy and handwritten I loved them, and could easily spend an hour in the store trying to decide which books to buy with my $20. Now gift cards have become the norm for many people. It is definitely much easier to buy your 16 year-old niece a gift card than to pick out a sweater that she would actually wear.

If you are going to give a gift card, consider a gift card to any of the locally owned businesses in your area. These gift card sales really help a small business make it through the bleak months of January and February.
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Thanks ecomaine!

Bruce and I were really excited and honored to win an eco-Excellence Business Award for demonstrating that good ecological practices benefit business. Bruce is the true motivator and grunt worker that makes sure that recycling is a priority at Bruce’s Burritos.
Bruce has always been really conscientious of recycling, I think it is a byproduct of lots of camping trips as a kid and his days following the Grateful Dead. At home he always separates everything, constantly having to remind me what goes where and what can be recycled. When Portland first implemented the blue curbside recycling bins it was like he had won the lottery. Every Wednesday a thoroughly organized and clean blue bin was waiting at the curb, he fancied that the garbage men tipped their hats to him for his orderly practices.
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We are currently struggling, more than ever before, with food allergies among our customer base. On our very first day, before we even opened our doors, a mom came in to see if we had dairy free options. This wasn’t just a kid that would get a little gas from exposure to dairy he would go into anaphylactic shock. As any concerned mother of an allergic kid would, she even read the list of ingredients on the box of taco shells. To serve this kid, and many others over the years, we have to pull someone off the line to wash their hands, heat things up separately and prepare them on a separate surface. This was in the infancy of our restaurant and now we do 4 times that amount of business in a day.
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Our Location

Bruce’s Burritos is located at 438 US Route 1 in Yarmouth, Maine in the Yarmouth Marketplace, nestled in the corner by Sherwin Williams. We are open Monday thru Saturday 11am to 8pm serving tasty lunch and dinner options.

Our Burritos

Bruce’s Burritos is our twist on the California style burrito with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. Bruce is in the kitchen each morning making everything from scratch. You can find something for everyone in the family, from the toddler to grandmother and even the vegan teenager in between. We have 30 seats and are a counter-service establishment. Our Customer Appreciation Cards We appreciate all of our customers and one of the ways we show this is our Appreciation cards. Buy 12, Get one Free, limit 2 stamps per visit. When you get your free burrito name and phone number go on the back of the card and you are entered into a drawing for a $175 gift card. We draw five times a year. March 2nd, for our anniversary, May 5th for Cinco de Mayo, the middle of July for Clamfest, November 1st for the Day of the Dead, and December 24th for Christmas. Gift Cards are available in any denomination.

~The .01%

I have been waitressing for 15 years. Servers who endeavor to serve food as quickly and efficiently as possible, always with a smile. They may have aching feet, humiliating uniforms, and 50+ pound trays, but they persevere to do the best for my customers. I have worked with many servers who take pride in what they do, not everyone can coordinate eight tables and 45 orders without making any mistakes. The world at large, however, doesn’t always feel that waitressing is important or even a viable career choice, though they will be quick to judge a shoddy waitress. I have often thought about this juxtaposition, there is value serving people yet that value and the person who is doing the job is not always appreciated and sometimes may even be considered…less than. It was while watching the new HBO mini-series, Mildred Peirce that this point was really brought home to me. It’s a depression era piece and the heroine, Mildred, an upper-middle class woman has to waitress after her husband leaves her. She is so ashamed of her job that she doesn’t tell anyone and even hides her uniforms from her children. When her daughter finds out she is horrified and Mildred quickly makes up a story that it is actually research so that she can open her own restaurant. I would have to say that in 15 years 99.9% of my customers have been appreciative, courteous, and generous in the tip department. I’ve had a few surly people along the way whom nothing will make happy. I’ve had a couple of cheeky male customers who assume that an apron is a license for sexual harassment, but for the most part I’ve loved them all. I’ve even endured finger snapping with good grace. Today, however, something happened that left me flabbergasted. A harried mother with two small children came in for lunch. I served them with a smile and then quickly swung into a rush of major proportions with a line nearly out the door by 11:30. I was grabbing brownies for another customer when the mother with her 3-year old in her arms caught my eye at the counter. “Can I help you?” “Yes, I was wondering if its ok if he blows his straw wrapper at you?” she asked gesturing at the straw cocked and ready in his mouth. To say that I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. “No, actually that would be incredibly rude,” I answered, much to my own surprise as I generally try to be as diplomatic as possible. You guessed it right, he did it anyway. I didn’t lose an eye or anything, and it may not seem like a big deal at all, but the lack of respect for what I do and for me as a person left me breathless. All day I tried to see it from the Mom’s perspective, she’s overtired, too acquiescent because she’s dealing with a new baby, she thinks it’s funny but I just couldn’t make it right in my head. There is never any excuse for such blatant rudeness and it just opens the door for more. What could possibly make such a thing ok? But that was just the .01%. Tip your servers, they are people too.

~A Culinary Journey, Part Four

Opening a restaurant is an exceeding difficult task. Operating one for four and a half years is a herculean task. We opened our doors to applause. Our local community in Yarmouth embraced us immediately, we did double the business in the first day that we had planned for in our very sketchy business plan, read non-existent. We are definitely not the kind of business that is outlined in every book about running a business. First of all we had no business plan, just a belief that we could do it. As far as market research went we just assumed that Yarmouth needed a burrito stand, and being situated between 2 high schools and two paint stores was a good marketing plan. High school kids love burritos, as do painters and people doing home renovations. Quite seriously our business was formed on a wing and a prayer. We opened with 3 employees, including Bruce and I. We quickly realized the folly in that plan. My little brother, Evan, was our 3rd employee and he had never worked in a kitchen before. I quickly called in recruits, my sister Leah, who had a full-time job, my best friend Sara, who was raising two small children, and her sister Aimee, who already had two other jobs. None of these employees, friends saving my life, worked out long term but they were all very appreciated. From there, in four and half years we have been through 33 employees. Some good, some bad, some horrifying, I believe that the hardest part of operating a restaurant is staffing it. The only original burrito employee that is still standing is Evan, my rock these days. I think the biggest employee problem is the management, in this I mean me. I am an awful manager. I hate to boss people around, I want them to just do what I expect. I don’t like to reprimand people I allow their slack by working even harder. I don’t get people trained properly because I can’t give them room to learn. I am so fast to take over the order taking and ringing up of customers that they never have a chance. I want it all to sound right, look right and feel right for my customers. But I also want some time off. In four and a half years I’ve never had more than three days off in a row. Since June I have worked 50-60 hours a week, and I’m feeling it. I say white or wheat, black or pinto in my sleep, I see my nine-year-old daughter for about an hour a day, the morning when neither of us are at our best. I’m getting burned out. But I am carrying on, I’m trying every day to keep a smile on my face and love in my heart. No wonder that there are so few mom and pop restaurants any more it’s truly grueling work. It is truly a fine line that I walk in writing these articles. On the one hand this is an advertisement for Bruce’s Burritos, on the other hand I feel that I’m developing a little readership and in true American blog form I want to divulge myself, put myself on the page for people to read. If I complain I’m driving people away, not so good for advertizing, but if I dress it all up I’m being dishonest, not so good for me. I think this may be the crux for a waitress/business owner/ frustrated writer. Maybe I’ll figure it all out in the next month, but meanwhile, our burritos do rock. If you want happiness wrapped in a white or wheat flour tortilla, I can set you up.