Arbitrary Story #5: Chicken Liver Spaghetti
Time to journey back to my work at Target (TAAAAR-JAAAY). To this day, I wake up at 3 am every morning, no matter what. WHY? Simple, because that’s what time I had to rise and shine to get to work at Target. I worked there 3 years.
It all started when I left the linen store (well, honestly, I was fired. I could NOT figure out how the fuck to fold a towel), and applied for a job at Target. He Who Shall Not Be Named hated me to work evenings, or weekends, or holidays — and he wouldn’t speak to me for days on end if I did — so I was looking for a job in retail where I worked weekday mornings. Yeah, right, lots of those exist.
So, it was with excitement that I saw the job posting outside the trailer that would become the Salisbury, MD Target store. I took their standard test, interviewed with Cynthia (who I later replaced), and was introduced to Dave, the Store Team Leader (Who I mentioned in my Ground Zero stories). The same Dave I later said, “if you weren’t such an ass hole, you wouldn’t need me.” That Dave. But, he didn’t KNOW me yet. It was our first meeting. Little did he know. I clean up well.
“I’d really like an early shift, if that’s possible. I’m not much of a night person,” I said to Dave.
He smiled, slyly. “How early of a shift?”
“I don’t know. Early.”
“Well, how about 4 am – 12:30 pm, Monday thru Friday?”
I considered. That WAS early. But, no weekends?
“You would be our PPTL, Price and Presentation Team Leader. Every once in a while, you’d do an overnight to change the store displays out for a holiday transition.”
That’s not bad, I thought. Not bad at all.
I started a bit later, after training. I rose at 3 am. It’s dark at 3 am. It’s quiet at 3 am. Especially when you live in a shack on a swamp. Even the bugs are snoozing.
Still, I rose, got ready, and made the drive in.
I went past the diner, opening for morning truckers.
“Chicken Liver Spaghetti, $5.00” said a blinking arrowed sign sitting on the highway.
For some reason, bile rose in my throat. I pictured big fat overcooked spaghetti noodles in my head, covered in Ragu, and little fried pieces of chicken livers instead of meat balls. I couldn’t get the image out of my head, and my stomach rolled and lurched the rest of the way to Target.
We did the store huddle, where we discussed the business of the day.
When we were all done, Dave asked if there were any questions.
“Yes,” I said, “Can someone please tell me what Chicken Liver Spaghetti is?”
Hope answered. “It’s spaghetti with chicken livers as meat balls.” She looked at me like I was crazy. Apparently, like Nutria Goulash, this was a local specialty.
But here’s the thing. I’d go past that diner every morning at the ass crack of dawn. And, every morning, the parking lot was packed. All those diners, all eating chicken liver spaghetti. Or so I imagined. And, a few weeks later, the Metropolitan Magazine came out with the best places to eat on Delmarva. My CLS diner was runner up. Zias Restaurant, which specialized in cheesy garlic bread, swept the cateogory. Dunkin Donuts grabbed both best coffee and best pastries. And, the Ramada Hotel was best hotel.
Why this has stuck with me 20 plus years is a mystery. Except, I learned one thing: the successful business tailors what they serve to their clients. Here’s a clue: I’d never set foot in the restaurant serving CLS. It wouldn’t even enter my mind. But this diner wasn’t catering to ME; rather to their base. And, their clients craved the stuff. So, as a result, that diner is still in business — while others have come and gone. All because they became famous for serving something that still makes my stomach churn, but that fulfilled a niche in their market.
Zias, by the way — gone. I drove by just the other day, and it’s been torn down. I’m thinking competition in the cheesy garlic bread market was just too fierce. When Applebees opened across the street, they stole both the coveted title of “Best Restaurant” and Zia’s base client. (The wait at Applebees on a Friday night? 2 HOURS.)
So, you see? In business you have a choice. You can either be the CLS restaurant or something more specialized than Applebees. But if you try to be everything to everyone, like Applebees, be prepared to get cored.