Greetings from Carrboro,
Hope is a fragile thing. As my father would say, “That and 25 cents will buy you a cup of coffee.” My dad liked to play the role of the familial pragmatist; it was his paternal armor. Whether explaining that every beer was exactly the same or the “scientific” fact that successful people slept only four hours a day, he wed a remarkably brazen conviction to his parental bravado. Even as a teenager I understood the fragile truth that he was, in fact, talking mostly to himself. He feared that there was a richer life than the one he had reached for, and hoped that if he could convince me that there wasn’t something more, he might believe it, too.
And when Acme began, I can now clearly see how hard I tried to play that same pragmatist role. I confidently professed to anyone who would listen that I had everything completely under control. Houston, we do not have a problem; nothing to see here. Lord, I told so many unflinching lies! But the carapace that I inherited hid my relentless fear of failure terribly well. It also hid the other side of that coin – a ferocious yet tenuous hope; I wanted so, so very deeply for Acme to be great. And there it was; the carrot and stick that would forge the restaurant.
So, here we are – 23 years to the day since Acme opened. And it’s been quite a year, our Jordan year. When Covid-19 turned the restaurant industry upside down eleven months ago, I found myself confronting the pandemic with that familiar cocktail – equal parts fear & hope – the gin & tonic of the anxiety set. Why not? I figured that Acme had weathered 9/11 and the Great Recession with me at the helm. And enumerable other, smaller detours along the way.
But this challenge was clearly different. It was like having trained for years to run marathons only to find out at the starting line that this race was actually a 26 mile swim. I wasn’t remotely prepared; everything in my toolkit was useless. I only knew how to run a restaurant. And that was just no longer possible; it wasn’t even legal. And with nowhere to turn on that Monday in March, I hid in the restaurant bathroom and cried. Fear and failure had finally won.
Then people showed up. This team, with all their confident hearts. Each of you, generously weaving your days into the fabric of Acme by supporting Acme To-Go and through heartfelt emails. Carrboro United was born and thrived. Life, in all its wonder, somehow flourished among the restaurant ruins. It didn’t rely on the old pillars of hope and fear for direction. And it certainly didn’t rely on me. There was a much more profoundly resonant assurance in all of this that I couldn’t name. It took several months for me to recognize that the actual experience of faith is very different from how I ever imagined. And unlike hope, it isn’t fragile at all.
So, Happy 23rd Birthday, Acme. Here’s to many more happy returns of the day.
And as I look forward to the coming year, there aren’t words to fully express the gratitude I feel for this team, each of you, and this community. But there is cake. And that is always a good thing. This evening, we are going to be tucking pieces of oh-so-delicious birthday cake into every order until we run out. Do the math: Friday + Mardi Gras Staycation + birthday cake = yes, please.
Well, that’s all the news from Carrboro. The staff at Acme look forward to serving you soon.
The Staff at Acme