Just One of Those Things: An Open Letter to The Staff of The Velvet Note
Just One of Those Things is a weekly blog and column about jazz, life and love,
although not necessarily in that order.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE STAFF OF THE VELVET NOTE
As summer 2017 races to a close, I realize that as a manager, I don’t always communicate as much as I should, especially when things are going well (smile). We’ve all worked very hard to put together the best team in the business, so I wanted to take a moment, catch my breath and remind you of a few of the “behind-the-scenes” encounters from the last several months that you probably didn’t see, but that underscore how much I appreciate what you do.
Saturday, June 3rd. One of my favorite customers is Deion Washington, and he came in to celebrate our Fifth Anniversary. As an overworked, underpaid civil servant, Corporal Washington doesn’t come into our establishment nearly enough, but when he does, I am always happy to see him. Earlier in his career, he was on the SWAT team, and even walked the homicide beat. He’s a true hero. Today, he is the Public Information Officer for the Gwinnett County Police Department. Consider the most heinous crimes you can think of that happen in our community. He’s the guy who courageously stands in front of the firing squad of television cameras and flash bulbs and reporters and microphones and questions and cynicism and tries to help us make sense of it all.
Anyway, after our celebration, he called to let me know that he was eagerly looking forward to coming back, hopefully as soon as our friend, multi-GRAMMY—winning Robert Glasper makes his return visit. “Sometimes I just need a mental escape and break. The Velvet Note is where I come to get it. You have no idea of the impact you have on people.” We are honored to provide a place that takes care of those who take care of…well…everyone else.
Saturday, July 1st. A guy walked into the club after insisting on meeting me in person. “You look nervous,” I said. “Should I be concerned?” “No, although I am really nervous. I have been with my girlfriend for twelve years and I’m finally going to propose to her, here at The Velvet Note. “ “Twelve years? Um….sir….what in the world have you been waiting for?!?” “I know, it sounds crazy. You see, I wasn’t the man then that I am now. I didn’t deserve her. But I’ve grown and learned and become a better person, and much of it is due to her. I am finally ready to pop the question, ”he beamed.
By show time, we had all worked hard to nail down every conceivable detail, and the groom-to-be had ME sweating bullets. He had bought out almost every seat in the house, and a stretch limousine delivered the love of his life to our doorstep, just before the music started. “Lawd”, I thought. “I hope she says ‘yes’.” And, as you recall, she did!
Saturday, August 4th. A gentleman came in with his family. He had called me a few nights before to make a reservation. He said that he had finally lost his decade-long battle with cancer, and he would be leaving in a week to live out the rest of his one-month life expectancy in a hospice back in his hometown. He had flown his children and his brothers in from different parts of the country to do the one thing he wanted to experience with them before he died— he wanted them to join him for one night at The Velvet Note. After the show, and without fanfare, he ushered his family out to the parking lot and the car. Then, he turned and stood in front of me and just looked into my eyes, his eyes filled with tears. It was all I could muster to just stay with him, moment by moment. The entire front of house stopped and you guys quietly gave him the space to say what he needed. The moments stretched into minutes. Finally, I whispered, “Did you do what you came here to do?” He knew that I wasn’t just referring to the show. He nodded his head and closed his eyes. “I love you,” he said. “Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s a truly great thing.” And then he turned around and walked into the night.
You are my staff. You are my team. You are my tribe. These encounters remind me of how much it means for us to work together. You are smart and productive and hard-working. Each of you has a job during the day that demands a great deal of you, and then you come here and give your very best work, long into the night. You are entrepreneurs and customer service experts and students and moms and dads. You are creative and articulate and committed to excellence. I know I’m not an easy boss to work for, and I know that I demand more than would typically be expected.
After conducting tons of research we think we know why people come here— for their weekly or monthly “date night”, or to celebrate a birthday, or an anniversary, or a wedding engagement. But the fact is, we don’t really know why they’re here. Sometimes it’s happy, sometimes it’s sad. Sometimes it’s something so unfathomable, we cannot possibly guess and they will never say. It is our job to be open to all of their life possibilities. It is our job to give them the dignity and space to let the music flow over them and lift them up and carry them away. Everything we do has the potential to impact every customer at the most meaningful time of their lives, in the most profound way. I want you to take pride and pleasure in knowing that you provide a place where people come for the most important times of their lives.
When Corporal Washington called me, he shared a Robert Glasper tune that he loves, and I have come to love it too. I often play it on the way to work. To listen, click HERE. The music is beautiful and the lyrics speak to our mission—to show our love through thoughtful service. Tonight, as with every night, we will strive to do no thoughtless thing. We are all connected, to each other, to our customers, to life.
“It’s one, big, small thing… like pollen in the spring. It’s all matter…it’s all matter…matter…matter…”