Tuesday, May 1, 2012

All About The Bread Business

Bread is returnable.

That is one of the many facts I never even thought of thinking about yet have learned over the past few months. Eddie and I took the Now Or Never Approach to attain one of his goals in owning a bread route, something he had done before when he was like 19 or 20. He'd told me stories about how he and his friend would pile up bread in the van and in one of their cars, drive around and deliver it like maniacs, buy some butter, have a snack, and then go out to the club.

My how things have changed in the bread business since then. Now, the bakery has more than three types of bread.

There are over 4000 types of bread. Guestimating based on what I've learned so far.

The bakery he bought the route from has an online system of inputting orders. Every day, some orders change. Every day, some orders stay the same. Every day, invoicing must happen prior to inputting orders. Every day, calls need to be made to some places, sometimes to simply remind them that they need to call back to place their order. All this needs to happen in a window of about two hours. There are over 45 stores involved. It's all very confusing.

Bread is yummy. Okay, that's more of an opinion, but I've never been a big bread-eater, and now, I'm telling Eddie to stop bringing home certain breads because I will devour them all in one sitting. On the list: croissants, pretzel croissants, cranberry pecan heros, wheat bread heros, and sweet rolls. Also: bagels of any kind.

There's always extra bread. Fact. We don't know where it comes from. We don't know how it happens. It just is. Maybe something magic happens in the box when no one is looking and the yeast just reproduces.

Eddie is a good samaritan. We've been giving the extra bread to my dad who volunteers at the church's pantry. The sisters there are very happy about the shelves being stocked with bread. We also distribute bread to the neighbors and to the people who work around the corner at the school my mom retired from last year. Everyone is very happy about the bread. On some Mondays, I bring bread to work. Sometimes people eat it. Sometimes they don't. It's a crap shoot.

Probably the most harrowing times thus far have involved vehicles. One night, I went into Brooklyn with Eddie to drop off invoices for a driver who drives the route for him once a week (when he collects, he drives the route all night and then goes straight to collecting during the day, so he's awake for over 24 hours straight, so finding someone to drive the next night is kind of helpful--also, when he collects money, he also collects the bread that the store is returning. Because bread? Is returnable). He was organizing the back of the truck. I climbed into the back and swept. He said, Hey this is our truck honey! Yeay. We own a massive truck filled with crumbs. Also? Kind of exciting.

Until the truck decided it did not want to cooperate. A truck with a flat tire at 2 AM is not a good situation. Even in New York, where everything is always open, he could not find someone to help with the flat for about an hour.

A few days later while collecting, his car got towed. He needs to collect from a restaurant where there's virtually no parking. He hopped out for a minute and the guy already had it up on the tow truck by the time Eddie came out. The woman at the restaurant followed Eddie out, screaming at the tow truck guy about how he was mean and needed to put Eddie's car down.

The next day, Eddie got a parking ticket while he was unloading bread at the super market.

And then, the truck stopped working. Transition kaput. Over and done. Thankfully, it happened right after he finished his deliveries for the day. He's now using a brand new truck, bakery-owned, that does not chug chug chug along but actually runs well and doesn't gulp gas. The first night the truck was used, it was by the other driver; during that run, all the racks the bakery had put into the new truck from the old collapsed. The driver told Eddie it was a good thing Eddie wasn't driving because, as a new comer, he probably would have panicked. Agreed. Eddie got his friend to install new racks and the truck is stylin and functional.

New trucks are better than old trucks.

The best part about the business is the stories. Eddie has encountered many new people, most of which are not the kind he would seek out. The stories are wonderful. In the first week of the route, he got a hug from a drunk homeless man who then tried to steal bread off of the truck. Since then, he's encountered a hooker who asks for bagels and then complains if the bagels aren't cinnamon raisin, many drunk people who shout out Yo Breadman!, a woman who screamed out "We should all be like Michael Fuckin' Jackson!" as she roamed the neighborhood, a guy running with a pipe, a guy running after the guy running with the pipe, and several people who ask, hey do you have any bread?

People like free bread.

We're getting into the groove of things. I've helped him figure out how to use Excel with my very limited knowledge of it. What used to take hours to complete now takes a little under one. We both know the bagel order by heart. He can tell the difference between two types of bread by their weight when they look exactly alike--and a lot of bread looks exactly alike. It's a niche business. It's an art.

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