On the Verge

We didn’t pass our health inspection yesterday and it was a great experience.

That dreaded inspection is the penultimate step toward opening and I had been led to believe that it would be a horrible experience.  Indeed, I didn’t sleep much the night before – I mean it.

But it was not a horrible experience.  It was a good one.

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Bruce Flippens is not well known in Washington but is famous in food service here.   He reviews plans for restaurants and food stores and he does the first inspection of newly constructed places before they open.   He is known to be quiet, even non-communicative, and very tough.

And so I waited for him to arrive as did our contractors and others.

We had cleaned our bakery meticulously starting at 6 am and had cleared out the foods we had been making to test our recipes.  There was a pile on the counter of large breads, English muffins and bagels but no other foods.

Mr. Flippens arrived before 10:30 am, asked to see my food handler’s license and our contracts for trash removal, oil disposal, and pest control. and then he began his inspection.

He’s a trim man, was simply dressed and wearing a DC government baseball cap.  He showed me his credentials as if I needed proof of his right to be there.  He was correct, not particularly warm but certainly not menacing as he started his methodical tour.

Followed by a small group of contractors, our manager, Perry, and me, he turned on hot water everywhere in the bakery to take its temperature and took temperature readings of our refrigeration.  He looked at tables and asked to see our two dishwashers in operation.  He examined every corner of the bakery, found a sponge in a hand sink.  (to my embarrassment as I know that sponges are unsanitary.)

It was a methodical inspection.

One of our disposals wasn’t functioning and we had installed in our guest bathroom the kind of faucet that is turned off and on with an electric eye and therefore delivers tepid water.  We had not connected our coffee dipper well yet and Mr. Flippens told us to correct these deficiencies before he confers his approval.

Besides, our marble countertops won’t arrive until tomorrow.

As he must see the store entirely as it will be, Mr. Flippens will return tomorrow.  And as he prepared to leave told us that we could move forward and could bring into the bakery ingredients we will need to begin our preparations.

Then as he left, he said sotto voce to me a little mischievously, “Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

I supposed he couldn’t miss my anxiety but he also didn’t fail to see the seriousness with which we have built this bakery.

We’re fond in this city of complaining about the operations of the District government and sometimes it does move at a slow pace and is not consistent.  We are fond in this country of demeaning government as an irritating necessity, inefficient and unresponsive.

But I am a man who believes in government and although we have faced lots of obstacles and slow processes as we open a small bakery, Mr. Flippens certainly hasn’t been one of them.   He appeared to like what he saw here.

I hope our customers will too because now we can hold opening parties and we will open Bread Furst next week.

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5 thoughts on “On the Verge

  1. Mark,

    We’ve enjoyed reading every one of your postings, none more than the nuanced, generous and candid portrait of the Bruce Flippins inspection. Your description of the District government, its failings and its many honest employees is right on. Looking forward to the beginning.

    Jackie and David Marlin

  2. A great post Mr. Furstenberg and I’m one of very many DC residents more than ready to taste some of Bread Furst’s creations! And…as much as federal, state and local govt. are so frequently bashed, glad you brought up your experience with DOH employee Mr. Flippens. Fact is, there are actually more than a few public servants out there that care about how they serve their customers, still it’s nice that you shared you’re experience with Bruce Flippens. As is often the case, a bad experience with a govt. official or retail establishment is often shared with hundreds–if it’s a nice, efficient experience, probably with one at most!

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