We closed Bad Wolf just before Christmas, completing our first season in Visby. Our first Christmas with Einar was pretty special, and I made Swedish pepparkaka (similar to gingerbread) cookies and we spent a lot of time discussing what to do about the business. Now with two restaurants and a baby in less than two years and still struggling to make the businesses profitable in the off season, we began earnestly trying to diversify our portfolio and put greater focus on the Tortilleria. We were invited in early January to attend a food distributor fair in Gothenburg to highlight our home-made nixtamalized corn tortillas in hopes we could get a larger scale audience and distributor for our product. We re-opened Bad Wolf on January 23rd, 2017, but with a lot of trepidation on how things would go.
I started going to work in the restaurant several times a week, Erik was taking parental leave to stay home and watch the baby, this helped immensely as the paid parental leave in Sweden helped to partially cover the cost of one of the employees. On the other days Erik and I spent up at the Cantina, with our son in his baby carrier during naps, nixtamalizing the local corn and hand grinding it, while waiting for the molino to arrive. We also sent product samples to several specialty food stores, social media influencers and restaurants to get the word out on our corn tortillas. This ended up not garnering us the impact we had hoped for, but we believed so strongly in our product that we felt it would happen, eventually.
However, things were not starting off well at the restaurant in Visby. Compared to the previous year’s sales we were down 50%!!! This was catastrophic for us because we had also taken the loan in the fall (in hindsight we should have anticipated this, since any new restaurant opening in Visby draws a lot of interest in the first months, only to be met with mediocre attendance later). In order to attempt to re-energize the business we planned some events that would hopefully draw more interest, like our Valentine’s Day fajitas. We also experimented with new menu ideas for the Cantina and presented them during our lunches at Bad Wolf to perfect the serving process and get guest feedback. One of these experiments ended up being the Baja fish tacos, since I was craving fish tacos from Rubio’s in San Diego. Since guest feedback was so positive, we decided to add this to the menu at the Cantina during the summer, this would ultimately be a game changer at the Cantina.
As march approached and the molino was scheduled to arrive in late May, we worked to perfect our nixtamal recipe and processes to be as efficient as possible. However, with an average quantity of 30,000 corn tortillas in the summer season, it would be a challenge as we could only produce about 300 per day 6 days per week just in pressing the tortillas. This pace would mean it would take us almost 4 months to make the quantity we would need for season, and hence we would need to be making tortillas in the middle of season, which we hadn't had to do since the first year. We would need to hire an extra person to just do the tortillas in the summer. It was going to be a tight race to ensure we had enough tortillas, but also stayed in budget since financially we were struggling so much.
In April we got a visit from one of my dearest friends, Jeanette, with her husband and step-daughter. We had been in ROTC together at Vanderbilt University and also roommates for two years and stayed pretty close throughout the years. It was nice to have a friend visit and took our minds off all the other things going on. At Bad Wolf, we got some much needed morale boosters from our loyal guests, which helped to re-assure us that our concept was still very much appreciated, but was just taking longer than hoped to catch on.
Then, in early May one of our fur babies, Gustav, started to experience issues and wasn’t able to stand and began to not eat or drink. Our veterinarian did several tests, but none that pointed to a specific medical condition, and he believed that at 13 years old he was nearing the end of his life. Our dogs, Gustav, Kalle and Charlie were all 11 when we arrived on Gotland in 2015, which is already quite old for a Labrador, so we were happy that they had so much extra time here. On May 27, 2017, Gustav passed away. It was a deep loss and we buried him behind our cottage on the property (Gustav is in the rear of the video with the ball).
Of course, as with year two we experienced the curse of May and we ended up going into June with just the right amount of people we needed. As I would also still need to be working every day and with Einar not old enough to go to daycare, we asked a good friend to help us with him during the day, and since I was close so would be able to check on him during slow times.
With summer quickly approaching now, it was a race to get everything ready in Gothem. The molino finally arrived in early June so we were finally ready to ramp up corn tortilla production. We also planned to open the Cantina on Midsommar Day, no more early openings this time. There was also a dramatic increase in tourism to the restaurant in Visby compared to the previous year, a positive sign for the summer season. Little did we know that our season would get a much needed boost from some critical social media influencers. To be continued...