So what happens when your 5,000-square-foot commercial kitchen floor gets ripped up and the city denies your permit for construction unless you come up with an additional $30,000? Besides freak out … I’ll tell ya, you call Wonder Woman.
The holiday season was upon us in no time and as we put a close to our best year yet, we reveled in excitement for what was to come next. And then it happened … We call it the great flood of 2015. Routine dish washing started to yield massive flooding along our kitchen floors and all efforts to maintain a clean space were redirected to cleaning up countless gallons of water. Had it finally happened? Had the old grease trap separated its last load of grease and water before sending grease-free water to … well wherever the heck it goes? A quick visit from our plumber would conclude our fears were true. Our grease trap had gurgled its last gallon of commercial dish water. It was time to finally send it on its way and upgrade to a new unit. Ugh! This was going to be expensive. Had the Grinch stolen our Christmas? Indeed he had, but such is life as a business owner. So, sadly, we signed the contract and the large plumbing project began.
Two days later we receive a rather panicked call from the plumbing company. “The permit we applied for was rejected, and worse yet the city is requiring an interceptor to be installed in order to approve the use of your grease trap.” Knowing little to nothing about plumbing, we asked, “Well, how much would that cost?” Expecting a rather nominal number, our hearts sank immediately with his response: “$20-$30,000 in addition to your current bill.” Needless to say, we were shocked, devastated, angry and confused. This was simply a replacement for a unit that had already been installed. How can this be? It had appeared the Grinch had stolen more than just Christmas. If this was the case, he had stolen our ability to operate, as by no means did we intend to invest $30,000, plus into a building we didn’t own. But wait …we just signed a five year lease …what choice did we have?! The Whos in Whoville were quite distraught and decided a town hall meeting of the elders was in order.
The meeting room was quite grim as nobody really had much to say … except the elder Who, Al Taylor (CEO/owner). “I am going to call Mary Ann Miller (Wonder Woman) of the Chamber and get her involved,” was all he had to say as he got up to make his phone call. I have to admit, my sister and I both thought the stress of the situation might have finally pushed him over the edge. That his marbles may have indeed been scattered beyond repair and this call was pointless. I mean, what in the world would the president of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce have to say about our permitting issue, especially two days before Christmas.
Wonder Woman took the call and started a very quick text message assault to various department heads within the City of Tempe. People we had no access to or even knew existed began to phone my father to discuss our situation and options. Within a few hours, we had people who were on vacation reaching out to us to try and offer help. The response was astounding, especially just after the news we had received a few days prior.
Christmas Eve morning I was greeted at our office by a department head I was told was on vacation. He explained that he had spoken to my father the night before and that he usually didn’t come out to do inspections, but wanted to see if he could help get the project back on track. He had been Christmas shopping down the street and figured he’d stop in. The look on my face must have been a little confused as he quickly handed me his card to confirm his identity. “Um, wow … OK … yeah I’d love you to take a look,” was really all I could come up with above my shock. Put yourself in my shoes: a department head who is on vacation stops into your office on Christmas Eve to offer help on a project that you didn’t even know he knew about …This NEVER happens.
To my surprise, he took a quick look or two at our dish area, made a few recommendations as to how it could be done legally and cost effectively, and announced he’d call the department and have them approve the permit immediately. Five days of overwhelming stress ended in five to ten minutes by this wonderful man who took his personal time to come over and offer a solution. We were called later that day by the City requesting someone come down and pick up the permit.
So how did these solutions and quick return phone calls happen? How is it that on Christmas Eve, the City approved a permit that had been denied by multiple departments? Wonder Woman and the Tempe Chamber of Commerce, that’s how. She and her staff stood up for us during some of the most inconvenient times. Mary Ann Miller knew who to call and that the information we were given was simply not accurate. It was astounding to see the response the City had once we got to the correct people. People who it would have taken us, on our own, weeks to get in touch with became quite accessible.
Remember this story the next time you need to renew your membership dues. Who knows, in the future you, too, might find yourself in need of a superhero.
Special thanks to the Tempe Chamber of Commerce team and especially Mary Ann Miller.
Brad Taylor is VP of Sales and Finance with Special Moments Catering
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