Respectability never comes easy. One has to engage in things like haircuts and schmoozing. It’s the sacrifice you make for having people listen when you speak. No-one takes seriously the long-haired shut-in that wildly claims he knows how to improve the lot of most businesses in literally just a few minutes. No, they prefer to hear from the amiable and well-groomed cat that has his own digital marketing company. In my experience the shut-in is usually more trustworthy.
Nevertheless, here I am sopping in respectability -thanks to Spence over at Papa Dinks -as I stroll down Adams Avenue toward Ponce’s Mexican Restaurant, a well-to-do Mexican themed bar and restaurant just the other side of the 15 freeway. I technically consider that Kensington, but the Adams Avenue Business Association, the entity hosting the breakfast toward which I head includes restaurants and storefronts all up and down Adams Avenue, not just the ones in Normal Heights.
The breakfast is an annual event and from what I could make of the AABA calendar, an important one for the Association. It’s not as stuffy as your quarterly budget meeting, but not an event of scale like the Adams Avenue Street Fair, or Taste of Adams, two excellent community promotions which Normal Heights has the AABA to thank for. No, this early morning soíré is a PR campaign for the Association itself: the gladhanding meeting where members, all of whom are businesses along Adams Avenue, or dues-paying members just off of Adams Avenue, are reminded exactly what the AABA does each year, and why those things are relevant and important. To be fair, by the time it was over, I certainly came away with that impression, as well.
Incidentally the business I’m promoting (myself) is not technically located on Adams Avenue either, but for $10 I get a full breakfast from Ponce’s Kitchen, and the opportunity to introduce myself to a huge and important section of the business community in Normal Heights all at once. For me attending is literally a no-brainer.
But you’ve got to come correct to a function like this. No long haired foolishness or spilling salsa on your shirt while you’re scarfing down Ponce’s machaca. Those are the kind of rookie moves that make for a long morning let me tell you. I’ve opted for the “California-casual” look, as I call it. Essentially I’m dressed like Tony Hawk. Business-types might tell you that such attire is unprofessional and in most places they’d be right. Professionalism, however is not the look I’m after.
What I want to project is assured-ness and success. Those two qualities, here in San Diego, are not tied to a business suit. In fact, the primary reason dress here is so casual, is not over the fear of appearing “overdressed.” It’s because suits give the appearance of service. The be-suited help the un-suited. The un-suited are already successful, on one level or another. You see I wouldn’t just look overdressed by wearing a suit to the AABA breakfast. I would appear desirous, a far-less forgivable sin, especially given the line of work I’m in.
Approaching Ponce’s I see a short line outside the restaurant. The day is fair and standing in line couldn’t be more pleasant. For a while I have the uncanny feeling that I know or have seen the polite blonde woman standing behind me, then I realize I’ve come across her picture in a magazine. She is Meredith the owner of Heights Optometry. Heights has the most intriguing optometrists window-front I’ve ever seen. Think “elegant steam-punk.” I compliment her on it and we chat for a while before signing in.
The breakfast is fantastic of course, Ponce’s Mikey Knab is the President of the AABA and the effort that went into the food and space must have been great. At one point all of the attendees introduced themselves by announcing their names and respective businesses. The business owners are an unpretentious group. They’re all engaged, earnest, and interested. The type of people you like to imagine owning businesses, not the 1%’s so often besmirched these days. Leaving Ponce’s afterward, I’m struck how much I liked them all, and frankly how lucky the community at large is to have such an endearing collection of shopkeepers.
The AABA too came off quite well. I was most struck by one of its lesser known activities: providing funding for businesses that want to put murals on their exterior walls. The many murals painted along Adams Avenue are a defining characteristic of Normal Heights. For me, this revelation instantly put the Adams Avenue Business Association, into a light far beyond just favorable. I not embarrassed to say, I actually downloaded their app. You know, what that’s good too. Maybe it’s just the after-effect of Ponce’s breakfast but I’ll tell you what, I felt quite proud of my community after attending that breakfast. And perhaps I’m even beginning to relearn my appreciation for the benefits to this “respectability” thing.