I have a strong resume that should allow me to get a job in the restaurant field. Unknown to me, the man upstairs had a different line of work for me, so now I help many achieve their dreams of being self employed and successful.
I once owed a small coffee/ lunch business called Lucy’s Corner. It was my third baby and I miss it. One day, I had a woman approach me to write a article on the business and myself. I was absolutely floored and honored at the same time. So on this Sunday, I give you a look into my past. Big thanks to my brother Manny, who found the article for me
Hospital lunch stand making the day a bit more special
Author(s): HATTIE BERNSTEIN
Telegraph Staff Date: August 30, 2006 Section: Amherst
A year after taking over Lucy's Corner - a lunch stand in the lobby at 10 Prospect St. in Nashua, part of Southern New Hampshire Medical Center - Lisa Ballard has come to the conclusion that the business was misnamed. "I should have named the business 'My Usual' because everyone has their usual," Ballard says.
Among the usual lunch cart patrons are patients undergoing chemotherapy in the offices upstairs, directly over Lucy's. But Ballard says she rarely learns their names, even though many are regular visitors to the hospital for weeks at a time.
It's different with the doctors, nurses and other hospital employees,
Ballard's largest customer base, which makes up about 75 percent of her business. Among them is Joe Blake, a 77-year-old housekeeper. His regular is a bagel with cream cheese and an iced coffee with cream and three packs of Splenda that he orders every day around noon. Another is Cindy Tonseth, an obstetrics and gynecology nurse on the fourth floor whose daily breakfast is a cocoa and hazelnut coffee made with sugar-free syrup.
"If I come here and tell her, 'Denise wants her usual,' she knows
exactly what I mean," Tonseth says, referring to the doctor she works for upstairs.
For both patients and hospital employees, the lunch cart is a respite
from the daily grind, a quick stop for tasty, homemade nourishment
served with a friendly word.That Ballard understands when a customer says, "my usual," means a lot. "Your job is to make their moment just a little bit special, and you try to cater to whatever needs they have," Ballard says during a short break this week.
The 40-year-old restaurateur says she learned from her former boss,
Lucille Chin, that serving customers in a hospital lobby requires
sensitivity and kindness, including a willingness to help patients find
the place where they are headed, from a doctor's office to the rest
Ballard, a Lowell, Mass., native, studied culinary arts at Greater
Lowell Technical High School and Newbury College in Brookline, Mass. She says her first teacher was her mother, "We didn't have a lot of money, but my mom made it interesting," Ballard says of childhood meals. "It was always homemade, with flavors."
Ballard says in addition to her mother, both of her grandmothers were accomplished cooks, so talented that the highest compliment in her family is to compare someone's cooking with that of the family matriarchs. "When someone says, 'It tastes like Mom's,' it's the ultimate compliment," Ballard says, adding that her daily specials include the
family recipes like "Mom's Veggie Soup."
Ballard says running the business depends on mastering the art of
multi-tasking, a skill she developed in previous restaurant jobs. She
was district manager for Shoney's in Arizona, overseeing six Shoney's restaurants, and she has also worked as kitchen manager and general manager at restaurants in Florida and Arizona. She aspires to bigger and better things.
"My goal is to have many of these and drive around on Mondays in a Lexus saying, "What's the sales?' " she says.
Meanwhile, Ballard keeps her nose to the grindstone.
A wife and the mother of two teenagers, Ashlee, 16, and Wayne, 15, she leaves her New Ipswich home by 4:30 a.m. every to arrive at the hospital by 5:45 to start the soup of the day, always made from scratch.
She says she rarely learns her customers' names, but still feels a bond. And she realizes every day, that like her mother and grandmothers, feeding people is a way to show she cares.
But she also demonstrates her philosophy at the cash register, when someone is short a dime or a quarter. "The most rewarding thing is when a customer comes in and doesn't have the correct change," she says. "I always tell them, 'Pay it forward.' "
Copyright, 2006, The Telegraph, Nashua, N.H. All Rights Reserved.