“Better get under cover, there’s a storm blowin’ up- a whopper, to speak in the vernacular of the peasantry…”—Professor Marvel The Wizard of Oz

Lettuce Unite was located in the skyway in the 1st Ave Food Court. At a glance, the food court looked like a cafeteria for Mayo Clinic employees, dull, black, and white. Many of you may have just walked by. This was something I personally worked hard to change. I added color, fun branded content, and vibrant, happy music. Lettuce Unite and Guerita’s Window were right up front at the entrance of the Food Court. Maybe it felt like Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I don’t know. But, we added color.   

It’s hard to put your heart, brains, courage, and soul into something you love and watch it deteriorate so quickly at the end. COVID, the true Wicked Witch of the East, took a significant toll and will continue to wreak havoc with the food industry for months to come. Like COVID, the construction landed right on the heart of downtown like a house tossed about in a cyclone right in Kansas.

Before the wickedness could wither away, we found out several departments of Mayo are not returning to downtown. I’ve heard different numbers. I’m not sure what it is but, there will be many who used to lunch and shop, maybe even sing and dance, who will no longer be working from downtown. 

In the end, the decision was to wake up from poppy dreams of “maybe if we do this, this will work…”  we realized we needed to close Lettuce Unite for the greater good of our company as a whole. The efforts and the checkbook have to focus on the ones that are more likely to survive. 

So surrender, we did, and as we skip the final steps of our yellow brick road, I’d like a chance to publicly thank each of my staff who worked so hard. They were the reason I tried, the reason I worked to beat The Wicked Witch of COVID and Construction.  

Ross came in whenever we needed an extra set of hands. Once we oiled his hinges, he worked his butt off. Ross never once complained. He was always happy and upbeat; he has a heart of gold; he was our Tin Man. Ross also works at Hot Chip, and they are so glad to open up more hours for him.

Gabby is the hardest worker I’ve ever met. She started at ZZest, helped at Porch, and would fill in at Hot Chip as needed. She skipped down whatever path we set out for her to follow. Lettuce Unite was spick and span thanks to her, and she was one of the fastest learners I have ever come across. She was our Dorthy that got us to the end of the yellow brick road. I’m glad it’s not the end of the path for her, Mr. Pizza has a new home for her as long as she needs it. She doesn’t have to look farther than her own back yard. 

Dyanna is a spark of craziness mixed with joy, combined with intelligence. Yes, the Cowardly Lion, to the T. She just needed the courage to bloom, and I hope we gave it to her here at Lettuce. There wasn’t a task she could not do from programing our tills, making pretty signs, to hauling equipment. She was the face of tacos, and I am grateful for her never-ending cheerleading. She gathered her real courage and is heading to South Dakota to help family with their restaurant business. We will miss her terribly, but she knows there is always something here for her to return to.  There’s no place like home. 

Behind the curtain was the great and powerful Lindsay Zubay, who would fix our endless array of Doordash and online ordering issues, our tills when they were off, and then create beautiful photos of all our salads, tacos, and sandwiches. She’s flying off  back where she belongs as owner-operator of Porch Fried Chicken and Hot Chip, merged with Vegan Hot Chip, her personal “baby.” 

Finally, the Scarecrow, I will miss you most of all. Stef Crowson has been my right hand through all of this. Arm in arm, we went down this road and created something we are both so proud of. It was not only a sincere pleasure but a hell of a lot of fun to work on this concept together. We could have just bought one of the many franchises we researched. But we started from the ground up, we did it ourselves. Together we created amazing flavors, an in your face manifesto, to endless ideas of how to survive this crazy road. I’m sure there were times she felt she wasn’t quite up for the job, but she was always more than capable. Her “diploma” says it all as she will move into the General Manager role of all our restaurants. 

So that makes me feel good. I made a decision based on the greater good for the company and for my staff. What or who am I in the end? I don’t know, maybe Auntie Em claiming it was all a dream and there’s no place like home or maybe Elvira Gulch pedaling along on her bike determined to find some other food-related idea to devour. I do really love Halloween, so the later is more likely. If you are interested, I’ll just morph Lettuce Unite (which was Lunch Counter, which was Amuse a bite of ZZest which was ZZest Market and Cafe), into something else via Facebook and Instagram, stay tuned. 

Finally as the credits come to an end, thank you our dedicated followers and customers for supporting our small and local business. 

“There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you re afraid, and that kind of courage you have a plenty.” — The Wizard of Oz.