Saturday, November 24, 2012

How Many Bathrooms?

Before we were granted a waiver for the grease interceptor that Megan wrote about in her last post, we had to attend a meeting of the Omaha Plumbing Board to ask for another waiver. 

On September 12, 2012, Megan, Barbi and I (and our team of professionals from Bahr Vermeer Haecker and Alvine Engineering) walked into a conference room on the third floor of the City/County Building prepared to request a waiver to allow a unisex bathroom. Upon entering the room, it occurred to me that this was where all the men in Omaha congregate. Five rows of men wearing heavy denim and Carhart, and suddenly I remembered the men of my past career. . . . as an environmental consultant! Oftentimes we would stand on sites in the center of construction and talk to the men who would be making the intangible tangible. I've always found this type of man comforting, quite like the teddy bear you can't give up.

Section 49-631 of the Omaha Plumbing Code details the requirements that must be in place for an ADA compliant unisex bathroom to be installed, rather than two ADA compliant restrooms. The space taken up for two large bathrooms would've reduced the space needed for our kitchen, and it's a tight fit to begin with. The part of the code that our situation did not satisfy, and thus would've disallowed us from having a unisex bathroom, was this:

Unisex bathrooms shall not be installed in the following facilities. . . . (4) Where food or drinks are prepared or served except in a business where the customer is served food and/or drink only from a drive up window and there are four or fewer employees and the gross area of the building is 600 square feet or less.

While we will have fewer than four people working on the premises, we will be serving food and our area is about 900 sq ft (greater than the allowable 600 sq ft). 

Similar to deciding to remove the bacon-maple muffin from the menu, we decided to remove the limited seating (four stools) we had originally planned for the bakery. This was an easy decision as the space didn't allow for much seating to begin with, and we plan on being a drop-in, rather than eat-in, bakery. 

Megan, Brian Hadfield (Alvine Engineering) and myself were summoned to sit at the table with the 7 folks representing the Board, and explain our case. Within less than 10 minutes, we'd explained our situation, answered questions, been ribbed about not bringing cupcakes, and were granted a waiver that allowed us to have one bathroom instead of two. Here are the Minutes of the Plumbing Board from that day. And, here's Omaha's Plumbing Code. It's a dense read and you can find great ingredients for poetry, like the word roughing-in for instance!

We hope you come and visit us and use our unisex bathroom; it will have a urinal!!

Thanksgiving was a couple of days ago, and here's a photo of my vegan pumpkin pies just before they went in the oven! Happy Holidays!

~ Trilety

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Grease Trap vs Bacon-Maple Muffin

Grease Interceptors, aka grease traps (this next blurb is taken from Wikipedia):
are plumbing devices designed to intercept most greases and solids before they enter a wastewater disposal system. Common wastewater contains small amounts of oils which enter intoseptic tanks and treatment facilities to form a floating scum layer. This scum layer is very slowly digested and broken down by microorganisms in the anaerobic digestion process. However, very large amounts of oil from food production in kitchens and restaurants can overwhelm the septic tank or treatment facility, causing a release of untreated sewage into the environment. Also, high viscosity fats and cooking greases such as lardsolidify when cooled, and can combine with other disposed solids to form blockages in drain pipes.
Grease traps have been used since the Victorian days, although Nathaniel Whiting obtained the first patent for a modern day grease trap in the late 1800s. They are used to reduce the amount of fats, oils and greases (FOGs) that enter the main sewers. Effectively they are boxes within the drain run that flows between the sinks in a kitchen to the sewer system. They only have kitchen waste water flowing through them and are not served by any other drainage system such as toilets. They can be made from a number of different materials; e.g. stainless steel, plastics, concrete & cast iron. They range from 35 litre capacity to 45,000 litres and above capacity. They can be located above ground, below ground, inside the kitchen or outside the building.

Well, it makes a lot of sense for food establishments that cook up a lot of grease. However, that is not us. The only product that would produce grease is our Two Strips and a Short Stack Muffin (bacon and maple). Even then, the grease from the cooked bacon is poured into the trash, not into drains. (I had been told that this is the best way to discard the grease from cooking meat and now I have a very thorough explanation as to why!) Anyway, the bacon-maple muffin is our only product that produced grease. So we asked ourselves if spending thousands upon thousands of dollars to install a grease intercepter was worth keeping the sweet and savory muffin on our menu. It would be a massive project that would involve ripping up an already existing patio, amongst other logistical challenges because of the location of the sewer system.

We know how much our customers and loved ones have enjoyed the bacon-maple muffin, and perhaps we will find some way to put it back on our menu in the future (options include purchasing pre-cooked bacon or using a vegan bacon substitute). But for now, we will be putting that recipe on the shelf. It was a bittersweet decision and we hope you'll understand. We feel confident that the remaining muffins and cookies that we will offer will more than make up for the absence of our Two Strips and a Short Stack muffin.

Call it progress, evolution, or just plain practicality! We are learning constantly through this process.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Metric of Life

Being approved for a loan requires a solid loan application, detailed business plan, successful financial projections, tax returns, and, as we recently found out, life insurance! Well, it's not required by the bank, but lenders look kindly on being given assurance that they will be paid back even if the lendee expires before the loan does.

Adam Musfeldt, a friend of Megan's from high school, helped us through the process of securing life insurance. Beyond paperwork and choosing the right policy, a physical exam and blood work was required for the policies to be issued.

Megan and I took the physical together, so now there are no secrets between these two birds! Though, we did use separate bathrooms to produce our urine samples.

The exam included a lengthy questionnaire about our health histories, as well as health metrics and blood work.

Megan and I sat side by side as we were mosquitoed by a skilled phlebotomist. My veins are hard to find, and Megan's easily collapse; they give up giving blood. Basically, these two birds are difficult blood draws!

Here's a peek into our metrics:

Megan is 5' 7" in height.

I am 5' 2" in height. (We're making sure to have a step stool in the bakery for the days that Megan and I work different hours)

Megan is a slim 140 pounds. (clothes on)

I'm a healthy 129 pounds. (clothes on)

Now for blood pressure.

Our blood pressure was measured three times in a row. Being curious about data, I decided to meditate during my last reading, and it was measured as lower than the first two. Anecdotal, but interesting nonetheless. While my readings weren't high, you'll see that Megan's blood is not a harbor of stress, rather it's pumped like slow, tranquil waves.

Megan's blood pressure readings were: 85/56, 90/56, 86/6

My blood pressure readings were: 100/66, 102/64, 92/66

We were granted life insurance! Now we're just waiting to hear back from the bank. . . but that's content for another post.

~ Trilety