Part 3 - The visit to Gothem
Updated: Nov 24, 2021
After just a few weeks of planning our restaurant concept and working out the estimated budget including rennovations, sales, etc...we decided to plan our trip to see the property. Both of us had full time jobs at the time and in the true American model, although we had the vacation time on the books we actually couldn't take additional time off so we would need to combine the time with a long holiday, this turned out to be Thanksgiving Day 2014. Notoriously the highest traveled holiday in the US. With a travel time of 10 hours from the US nearly a full day would be eaten up by travel to and from, leaving us just 1 or 2 days to evaluate the property and make it back to work. We decided to leave the day before Thanksgiving giving us at least two days on Gotland.
With just a few days to plan, it was a herculean feat to find the cheapest flight, arrange dog sitting for our 3 dogs (on a holiday nonetheless), and make the connecting flights and hotel arrangements on Gotland. So on Thanksgiving day evening we drive from our house in West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale to catch the flight only to be held up trying to find the long term parking, which was completely full. We were re-routed to the almost full annex parking (nearly 5 miles from the airport), which neither of us had been too and hope there was a bus to take US to the terminal. Fortunately there was a bus a few minutes after we arrived and we got to the terminal just in the nick of time to check-in and stand through security. It was an overnight flight so we were able to get a little rest on the flight and would arrive in the early afternoon of Thanksgiving day. Logistically getting to and trying to the leave the island is a nightmare, especially in the off season. With very few flight/ferry options and limited time this was going to be a test of our will.
After arriving in Stockholm it was another long wait to catch the last flight to Gotland and we arrived around 1600, so it was already pitch black outside. Having only seen Sweden in May, when the sun rises so early and reasonably sets to see the darkest month of the year was bit of a shock when it still didn't get dark in Florida until 1800. We had the appointment to see the property on monday, however we were so curious to see how the restaurant functioned on a weekend night that we drove directly out to Gothem. We got to the restaurant at 1800 and waited in the car to see what kind of foot traffic there was and oh boy did we have a shock! We waited for a full hour (classic dinner time 1800-1900) and there was only 1 customer the entire time!!
In our original budget we had counted on at least 50 people per day throughout the year. Oh how naïve we were. We really didn't understand the complete seasonality of the island. This would cause us to have to re-evaluate the entire idea even before we had seen the property. We decided to then drive up to Slite and see what kind of restaurant traffic was there in the 5th largest city on Gotland. We went for pizza and it was just as dismal. Now we were pissing our pants. We spent the next few days visiting some of the tourist draws near the restaurant, planning for the wedding and enjoying our first Julbord. And of course waiting to see the property and discussing how this would even function year round. Could this even function as our livelihood? To be continued...