Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Being a Boston Restaurateur

I’ve always enjoyed reading Bill Russell’s books, not just because of his exploits on hardwood playing for the Celtics. I find him to be a fascinating storyteller. He’s certainly lived an interesting life.

One of his best stories describes how he tried to cash in on his fame by opening a restaurant in Boston and putting his name on it. The first problem he ran into is that the local police expected to get free coffee at his establishment, and he wasn’t having any. Boston PD responded by zealously writing parking tickets for those parked illegally in the restaurant’s vicinity. This proved to be only a minor annoyance. Russell soon discovered his employees were legally blind. Despite making a habit of showing up in his restaurant and watching everyone like a hawk, he was not able to break even.
Shortly thereafter he got a visit from one of the local “wise guys.” Some organized crime figures told him that if he wanted to stay in business, they had a sure cure for his problem. This was coming from guys who’d owned multiple restaurants in Boston for many years. The solution, they informed him, was to catch someone stealing red-handed, and a few nights later, that thief would get jumped on the way home and receive a vicious beating calculated to put him in the hospital for a couple months with injuries that would never fully heal.

The key, this wise guy told him, was that they would suffer injuries severe enough that they would probably never be able to work the rest of their lifer and would have *visible* multiple injuries. The wise guys would then visit the thief’s hospital room, inform him there were no hard feelings, and they had a job guaranteed for life as the restaurant’s loss prevention manager. Nothing like hearing advice from a guy in a wheelchair with an eye patch and maybe a hook where his hand should be to deter future stealing. The boss even offered his services for free. Sadly, Bill Russell closed his restaurant rather than resorting to that measure.

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