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Winter reflections

PART 1:  Journey one: American Spoon,
Petoskey, Michigan

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A lesson in Grace

Everyone needs heroes.  American Spoon, as a company, is one of my greatest heroes.  They are about 20 years ahead of us in time and innovation.  What has always inspired me most about them is their dedication to their founding principles which seemed similar to mine.  They have a passion for preserving the local harvest and are community minded.  They have stayed small enough to maintain and integrity in their ingredients and therefore batch sizes and yet seem like a mature company.  Most people sell out, literally and figuratively and that is something that I never wanted to do.  I never wanted to compromise my core values or else why am I doing what I am doing?  I have always been amazed that American Spoon has been able to do this in remote Northern Michigan.  My great grandparents had a farm in Southern Michigan and growing up in Chicago, one always had the awareness that it is a large agricultural state.  I managed to fit in a quick visit to my heroes in Northern Michigan this past January while visiting family in Chicago.

My son and I set out in a rented Jeep with 4 wheel drive with warnings of a huge snow blizzard.  I knew I had to seize the moment and go for it and emailed American Spoon to let them know I was actually coming.  The founders son, Noah Rashid, texted me back saying he would be happy to give me a full tour and we should meet for dinner.  We had 6 hours of driving and a snow blizzard to contend with, but I had good company and good music.  It was the day after Obama gave his farewell address and so we listened carefully and wistfully to his words.

We made it in perfect time to meet for dinner.  I could not believe how incredibly cute the town of Petoskey was and I felt like I was in my beloved Vermont.  It might have helped that the snowflakes coming down were gigantic and the streets felt like Bedford Falls.  We met for dinner just around the corner from their flagship store and cafe.  The cafe shuts down for the winter and so we needed to eat elsewhere.  It was such a joy to sit down with Noah, who is the son of the founder of the company, with my own 14 year old son.  It kind of gave him a chance to look ahead 20 years and see how great life can be working with your parents!  

From the moment that we met I was completely BLOWN AWAY by Noah and Justin's grace.  What inspired me most about my time with them was how well they treated me.  Here I was, a business owner from the West coast coming in and asking for a tour of their business.  The following day, they literally took me around on a very complete tour and then treated me to lunch and gave me 8 jars of goodies to go home with.  I was treated so well.  They took me through every nook and cranny of their facilities, in every freezer, explained the assembly line in detail, took me in the test kitchen, in their shipping department.  Our time was filled with valuable information, incredible stories, humor and warmth.   The hospitality and generosity were unreal.  I walked away with deep respect for my heroes at American Spoon.  Visit your heroes, write to your heroes, it is essential to the human soul that we  inspire one another and challenge each other to be better.

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