How Quickly We Forget
By Caitlin Hawke
I miss freekah. I miss bringing my own bottle of vino and hanging out in relative quiet with a date or a close friend. I miss the salmon. The flaky guava puff lagniappe at the end. The bold Cuban art. I miss Fidel's edge and conversation and his blunt opinions, and I miss Glenn's gentleness and scrumptious food.
I miss Buster's.
Fidel, owner and front-of-the house doer of all things at Buster's, was also legendary for flame wars on social media with tourists and locals who gave negative feedback. I had sympathy given how tight the margins were and how tiny the space was. His pushback was fearless in an age when a business can live or die on social media.
Just making a go of such a tiny business is an act of bravery. But engaging full-frontally with your clientele, that's rare. And possibly kamikaze. The insta-critic thing wears small business owners down quickly. They don't have a whole placating back office of customer service reps. The owners are on the front line, defending their reputations and walking through the minefields of anonymous, public feedback.
It's like getting a report card every day of your life! Worse is that customers tend to put up harsher criticism via social media than they'll put up "love."
Crabbing about bad products that aren't to one's taste or about one-time mishaps is just so easy in this era of iPublishing. Words live on for ever.
I'd like to see some of the commenters walk a mile in an owner's shoes. Prior to ranting, some margin of maneuver needs to be factored in: did you ever have a bad day at work? Or deliver a substandard job to your boss? Imagine your boss's rant on Yelp that day and then looking for another boss, the next. Ouchy.
I suspect that dealing nobly with customers whose expectations are unreasonably high is one of the hardest things a Mom & Pop can face.
I have sympathy, I really do. Fidel's flames, I will admit, were not for the faint of heart -- and yet there was some bold-faced honesty in them.
For Busterfans, rumor has it Fidel is serving it up from a truck at the Jersey City side of the ferry. I don't think the critics are the reason the shop pushed on. I think it was the razor-thin margin of making a micro-restaurant go 'round without alcohol and with human-scale hours. Apparently that formula is DOA in NYC, and I'd venture the guess that it's one reason some of the smaller spaces aren't snapped up by new entrepreneurs.
I hope Fidel and Glenn know they are missed. At least by some. I hope their hours are saner. I hope their critics are gentler. And I hope someone is gobbling up a guava petit four right this very second and feeling their love.
Buster's. Closed two years ago but not forgotten.