How the Sake Bar Satsko was born...

The year was 2001.  

“Noooo!”  I had to look for a new contract job again!  I was working as a computer contractor for 25 years and was already 52 years old.  That’s the fate of a ronin computer analyst but I was tired of chasing jobs in the corporate world that I hated.  It’s like being released from one golden neck shackle and then immediately finding another one to slip right in.  (Ronin was a samurai with no lord or master during the feudal period (1185–1868) of Japan.  A samurai who became master-less from the death or fallout of his master, or after the loss of his master's favor or privilege hired by a clan with no affiliation nor royalty.)

It was the year majority of the work in computer field left USA for India and HongKong thus the entire consultants in the company where I worked were let go.

“Screw it!”  “I’m too old to beg for an another employment. “  I had been wanting to be a stay-home-mom ever since my daughter was born but I couldn’t financially afford to as a single mother.   So, with the little money I had saved up, I have decided to stay home hoping that something new would turn up. 

I fussed over when my daughter Amy came home from school every day but she was 14 years old by then.  But then she told me, “It’s too late.  I wanted you home when I was little.  But now that I am fourteen, you don’t have to wait on me at home any more.”   Alah, the timing was off.   

By 2002 Amy had already gone through her hellish rebellious stage and became a trustworthy human being, it was time for me to try something new other than being a stay home mom.   I have decided to pursue what would make me happy. 

First, I wanted to try something creative for a change, like flower arrangement. I knocked on the door of an elegant flower shop in my neighborhood to offer my free labor in exchange for letting me learn about flower arrangement.  I started working: cleaning the flowers, changing the water, and sweeping the floor.  No one wanted to talk to me at first. I had just appeared one day at their workplace not knowing anything about the business.  I was more of a bother to them than a help.  But I persevered. 

As a peace offering, I started bringing big batches of home cooked meals for lunch every day to share with anyone who wanted.  I have been watching the Food Network on television day in and day out for a year by then while I was a stay home mom, experimenting with a different recipe every day.   Unlike my flower arrangements, my coworkers loved my food.   I worked there for about three months for free and the owner finally offered me a position.  He asked me to be a relief manager out of pity but never offered me the flower arrangement designer position.   

People gradually warmed up to me and we became good friend.   They thought I was not that good of a flower arrangement designer despite my own opinion but they raved about my food.  It might have had something to do with the food being free, too.  

The flower shop was hopping those days, especially on Valentine’s Day and Christmas Eve.  We all stayed past midnight to complete the orders on special occasions but the workers took it as a challenge and no one complained.  On those busy nights, I finally got to arrange flowers.   Once completed, we cracked open bottles of champagne to celebrate and of course, I prepared snacks for everyone to munch on.  The shop had such a harmonious vibe that I used to see flecks of lights fill the shop. I suppose it was my own imagination because no one else saw it. 

I could have stuck with the flower arrangement if I was really passionate about it.  But the only thing I was really enthusiastic about in life was eating and drinking. Yes, I am that basic.  So, I psyched myself up to opening a small café with a food menu based on the feedback I've got from the flower shop crew and with the vision of offering a haven to the lonely New Yorkers to casually drop in and feel a sense of belongings.  The café eventually evolved into a sake bar out of financial necessity but it did become the haven where the New Yorkers could feel a sense of belongings and where single girls felt comfortable hanging out alone.  One night I was walking past  by the sake bar and witnessed the flecks of light just like the ones I saw at the flower shop inside the sake bar.  It was pure joy and harmony emanated from people inside took my breath away.

Finally I had succeeded in escaping from the corporate world once and for all… Unlike the time once before. 


To be continued...

Amy Watanabe