The sign didn't skew a lot, but it skewed enough—maybe half a brick dip to the left or, if you prefer, half a brick rise to the right.
It was crooked.
Plus, of course, the old brackets that held the "My Pi" sign from the restaurant before, the pizzeria that came and went, and quickly too. That's what happens. You get one chance.
Nobody took those brackets down. A man on a ladder could have removed them with a screwdriver in 10 minutes.
But no one did.
Last year, months before the restaurant opened, I was walking down Shermer in the old leafy suburban paradise and saw that sign announcing the new place, "Agave Anejo Mexican Grill," and immediately had this thought:
They'll never make it.
Because to survive, a business needs to pay attention to detail. Especially a restaurant. Because you can eat at home. You need to master the details, to not scrimp and cut corners and do a slapdash job. To thrive, a restaurant has to sweat the small stuff. That's what customers expect, and are paying for.
This vaguely Star Trek "A" was obviously designed on the cheap, the name itself hard to read, and skewed to boot. Amateur hour. The restaurant was doomed.
I thought of writing that, a year ago, when I saw the sign. But why torment a small business owner, right out of the gate, some poor guy pursuing his dream? A Mexican restaurant of his own.
Maybe the food would be great. A culinary genius, oblivious to such non-food matters as signs and skewing.
Better to err on the side of kindness, if staying quiet was kindness.
Maybe I should have written my thoughts. Maybe it would have helped him. Maybe not doing so wasn't doing him any favors.
Nah, he wouldn't have taken the criticism and learned. People so seldom do.
So the restaurant opened, last August. The grand opening banner stayed up for a month after the grand opening. That, too, was a bad sign, literally. It advertised the grand opening that had come and gone, and didn't come down until one corner fell down, and even then it flapped around in front of the door. For a day or two.
Of course we ate there, my wife and younger son, we tried the food. And it wasn't bad. A little expensive. Basic Mexican food. I remember a serviceable ceviche. We almost went back for a second try—support the local business, a block from our house.
But inside, there was no art on the wall. Who starts a Mexican restaurant and has no art on the walls? Not a colorful paper-mache lizard. Not a sombrero. Not a metal cactus. Nothing.
So we didn't go back. The lack of art gave me almost a contempt. Really? And we were supposed to eat there why? The place never seemed that crowded. A few people in the bar. And then not even that. A week or so ago the restaurant went dark and the "FOR LEASE" sign went up. Too little capital, I would guess, and too little effort. A small dream poorly executed.
Still, someone's dream, not deferred, but vanished, so nothing to laugh about. Instead, a grim nod, a recognition of the risk that all who strive face, and should be aware of. That tilted sign was the tip-off, before the the first basket of tortilla chips hit the table. Don't be half-assed. If you're going to do something, do it well. Make sure your sign is straight.