It’s September 22 as I type this at the bar of Rooster & Moon Coffee Pub. Eight days from now, Rooster & Moon will close its doors and say goodbye to the community. I’ve written and podcasted about my love for this place before – notably here, here, and here, – so it’s with a heavy heart that I write this.
I just finished eating a Wrigley salad, my favorite item at Rooster & Moon, and one of my absolute favorite things to eat in Denver. It’s so good it’s unfair. I’m not sure what it is about the elements of this thing – mixed greens, candied walnuts, Craisins, feta cheese, grilled chicken, and an unbelievably silky and subtly sweet house made Strawberry Avocado Vinaigrette – that hit me right in the perfect spot, but it does. I would eat this for lunch literally everyday if my schedule permitted it. Remarkably, I didn’t think it could possibly taste any better, but then one of the baristas suggested I put Rooster & Moon’s Honey Jalapeno Vinaigrette on it, so I did. And then my face melted clean off. I’ve literally never tasted better dressings.
I share this, and I put it right up front, because I want to make explicit just what high quality product Rooster & Moon churns out. When I say I love Rooster & Moon, it’s not out of some misplaced sentimentality, or limp hagiography of a friend’s endeavor that just couldn’t hack it. I like to support my friend’s businesses, but Rooster & Moon objectively makes incredible products with delightful service. This place, whether I ordered anything off the lunch menu from my beloved Wrigley to any of a dozen sandwiches or a multitude of breakfast items, loose leaf hot tea, or a simple can of beer, served it to me with intent, care, style and quality. I will miss its craftsmanship.
But that’s not what makes me saddest. The attributes I ascribe to Rooster & Moon could have been modified slightly and applied to the Wok & Roll that used to be across the street from my old office, which I wrote about here. The reason my soul aches for Rooster & Moon is because of what it means in terms of my personal history of launching my own business.
April 7, 2015, 1 pm, some empty office inside a 25-story filing cabinet, me, the Vice President I report up to, and some HR lady I’ve never met – “As you know, the company has experienced some financial difficulties, and your position is no longer available.”
Tremendous. I take the severance package, turn in my badge and company credit card, and go home. I expected this, and although the physical experience of living through it is sort of surreal, I’m ready for it.
That’s all well and good, but what do I do now? I mean, I know I’ve got to start my consulting business in earnest, but that’s more a philosophical paradigm shift, than anything else, isn’t it? No one has equipped me to begin to tackle that monumental task from a practical standpoint. Where do I go? How do I structure my day? I’ve lived with the same-ish routine for four-and-a-half years now, and seriously, what the fuck do I do now?
Since I got laid off on a Tuesday, Wednesday I woke up lost and in a bit of a daze. I had already pre-loaded the press release and media list for my new company, so after firing that off, I suddenly had no real work to do. And now that I’m sitting here writing this, I’m struggling to remember those first few days. I don’t know what happened on Thursday. I don’t know what I did on Friday. I’m not even sure the precise moment the memories begin. I know I took a month off from the podcast. And I know within a month of getting laid off, I had signed two clients, and begun work in inking a third. But that first week, I have no idea what happened.
Here’s what I do remember. I needed to get some work done. And I needed to do it outside the house. Kristin had successfully navigated this untethered, Bohemian self-employment maze for years, and I was ready to try. Admittedly, and this feels kind of silly to admit now, I was scared about taking myself out to a coffee shop and plopping down to bang out to-dos. I mean, who the hell did I think I was? It felt very conspicuous not being inside an office in the middle of the day. I was suddenly tasking myself with working in a place where maybe others were working, maybe they were drinking, maybe they were just reading a novel in the middle of the day. And here I was figuring how to be one of them. Despite my trepidation, off I went, my little bag over my shoulder ready to be my best consultant self!
So, in I walk to Rooster & Moon. A familiar voice greets me – “Jon Eks! How are you, young man?” Despite not being more than 5 years older than me, Bird has always called me “young man” when he asks how I’m doing, which is impossibly charming for reasons that escape me. Immediately I feel better about deciding to work out of the house.
Then I look across the bar, and another familiar face awaits me. Brandi Shigley makes eye contact with me, and offers a friendly wave. I order my drink, walk over to her, give her a big hug as she’s just back from The Philippines, and invite her on my show again. I tell her I’m out of corporate and she enthusiastically congratulates me. I’m officially welcomed into the fraternity of the Day People.
I can recall this sequence with stunning clarity, and whenever I do, a whole wave of emotions rushes over me. Excitement about my unknown future. Fear that I’m total fucking fraud and I’m going to fall on my face and go crawling back to the slow, comfortable suicide of Corporate America. Resolve and determination to ensure that doesn’t happen. When I dwell in this memory too long, it overwhelms me and my heart swells until I think I’m either going to levitate right into the fucking sky or just explode on the spot.
When I think back on my early days of Deft Communications, my memories are linked inextricably with Rooster & Moon. I banged out proposals to clients. I wrote my first blog posts. I got comfortable with the new rhythms of self-employment. I ate Wrigley after Wrigley after Wrigley. I poured gallons of iced tea into my face. I got a $50 parking ticket from some parasite meter maid, which, of course, sucked, but it was also a stark reminder that I’m on my own now, and working for yourself means staying on top your game at all times.
And now that Rooster & Moon will no longer occupy a physical space in my world, its place in my memory becomes that much more important. I don’t want to forget those feelings of walking through the door the first time as an entrepreneur because the intensity of those memories help to motivate me whenever I revisit them. And whereas I could always mainline a bit of that feeling by walking through these doors again, no longer is that possible, and then I get sad all over.
So that’s why I write this. It’s important to remember the people and the places that have touched you, that have moved you, and that have propelled you to better yourself. The folks who work at Rooster & Moon (or whatever place you find yourself getting shit done) probably don’t know what they mean to you. They almost certainly don’t know that they help power the engine of American small business simply by providing you the fuel you need, working in the space where you become productive, and slinging vibe that puts a smile on your face day after day after day.
Thank you, Rooster & Moon. Thank you to everyone who’s ever brought me a salad, an iced tea, a bowl of yogurt, or a Dale’s Pale Ale. And a special thanks to Bird who was there more days than he wasn’t, introducing me to whoever was sitting next to me, telling me some esoteric story about a band he loves, and creating a place I always considered a 2nd home office where I’ve worked (and continued to work) to become the best professional version of myself possible.
You will always occupy a special space in my heart, and a vital space in my memories. I will miss sitting at your bar, and although you no longer exist in physical space, I am grateful I will be able to visit you inside a cherished place in my mind forever.