HAPPY MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS
Updated: Sep 18
The flip flops and shorts that have enjoyed so much exposure this year are packed away to be replaced with what many might call more appropriate apparel. Only just, and only because there’s been a definite drop in temperature this past week or so. Plus the rain is dancing, in the way that it tends to. Watching from the window, it’s like a thousand dainty feet slamming off the ground in perfect time. Riverdance without legs. It’s been doing it a lot this year. And there’s our binman in amongst it now, on the Sabbath of all days, pulling at the bins, sliding them into place and waiting for the machinery to do its thing. All the time getting drenched but seemingly past caring. He’ll hop into his cab, drive a torrential river for 50 yards, get out, and do it all over again, and keep on doing it until the job is done two hours from now. Add to that a contrary wind and you begin to understand why no one believes his true age.
The retail world can be a fickle friend at the best of times without the additional challenges of the past three years, but I think we’re all good now. If I've learned anything from it, it is that I am precisely where I want to be.
This is the year I fell in love. Over and over and over again. The sheer lunacy of it has been intoxicating. The machair has never been sweeter, the sky bluer, the sea more satin, or the air fresher. My rose-tinted glasses are positively gleaming. Love is all around; it’s in the glint of an eye, the skip of a step, the beat of a heart and the warmth of a smile.
It's you, when you came in, maskless and free, smiling. Your chat, spilling from faces that I could see and lips that moved and spoke of what you were up to, where you had been or where you were headed. Polite, forgiving, patient you, forced to listen to me and my chatter. Me who was so pleased to see you, I didn’t consider that it wasn’t a two-way thing, you only wanted a coffee.
I was way too busy revelling in the glory of you – the actualness of you; there you were, right in front of me, entirely of your own volition. In some cases it had been two years. I had missed you.
It's the excitement of new things. It's been a year of fresh-starts, new ideas and exciting investments. All profits from Yellow Hare go straight back into the business and since we were fortunate enough to end last year on a high, even paying back our bounce-back loan, there was enough left over for some long-overdue minor improvements. Shiny new Shop Signage above the door; New display shelving – reclaimed scaffolding; a new storm-proof fence for the picnic area; new larger, more spacious picnic tables; a funky new till system; plus CCTV cameras for the picnic area, which are obligatory for the licence but also handy for seeing the ferry. It’s cost £10,000 so far, and it’s not over yet.
It's having great staff. Staffing has been an issue for hospitality everywhere. We didn’t have as many staff as we would have liked but – hey, quality over quantity every time. Will, Iona, Eilidh, Harvey, Louis – and even the fleeting Ollie and Jack saving the day on Tiree-Ultra leaving day… all top notch. What they demonstrated so well was how easy it is to do this – so DO PLEASE think about us next year if you’re coming up on holiday! We love happy, smiley people who like other people and are chilled and relaxed.
It's learning to shrug things off. I used to be pedantic in the extreme. Everything had to be just-so. This year has been a little different. We didn’t get our jewellery cabinet organised. Our coffee machine was playing up, big time, and took months to resolve, quite literally. We ran out of stock sooner than expected. The new fence took 8 months to be installed. We were short-staffed. We’ve been so much quieter than last year and this has been reflected in our income, but that’s okay. It’s been a great year in every other way.
It's new ideas. Coming up with new ideas is one of my favourite pastimes, if not THE favourite. I particularly enjoy quirky ideas and when I strike on one, it feels like Christmas. Over the past year we’ve added Cocktails, Charcuterie Boards, Bross Bagels, High-end wine, Linen Hire, Champagne, Gin-in-a-tin and updated Branding. Okay, so nothing that may have caught Einstein's eye but collectively they work.
It's seeing other businesses flourish. This is as important for Yellow Hare’s success as it is everyone else’s. Tiree has added around ten or twelve new businesses over the past year, and that is good for visitors, which in turn is good for business and good for Tiree. The more choices visitors are given, the more likely they are to go in search of them. And there's no greater compliment than someone coming to Yellow Hare because they’ve chosen to, and not because there’s nowhere else to go.
It's taking time. I have had THE best Me-time this year. Visitors, socials, dinners… Running every morning along Gott Bay before work is THE best thing EVER. Sometimes as little as a mile, sometimes five or six - it's always about about time constraints (my timekeeping at the café was rubbish this year) but no matter how late I knew I might be, running has become the most important part of the day and is always the priority. I took to paddleboarding regularly and dear Rosie and Justin made my summer with their patience and calmness and fun. Harvey and Robyn and Calum added to it. We were out virtually every week in high summer, often two or three times. Often on flat-calm seas. Bliss. Other days I swam, I surfed (at-the-edge sort of surfing for me), I floated. Despite the poor weather, what a fabulous summer it has been.
It's focussing on the here and now. And not what’s past or up ahead. People often make assumptions about how I might react to this business or that business, and they are generally way off course. I adore what I do; my creations, my ideas, my input, my outcomes – I have neither time nor care to make comparisons. We are all unique, although it would be fair to say some of us are more unique than others…
It's taking a leap. Every business involves some level of risk, and Yellow Hare is no exception. Having made the decision to move over to Tiree permanently, I'm opening all winter this year, for the first time since the pandemic, which may work and it may not. Back when we first opened in 2018 and 2019, we had regular staff to share the hours, such as they were, but those staff are off doing other things now, so it’s just me. During those first two years, it cost more to stay open over winter than close. It’ll be my first full-time winter on Tiree for years. But that’s okay. Winter is a quiet time and this winter I’ll be away travelling all of November and some of January, so it’s not as open as it might be during a normal year.
It's thinking big. Yellow Hare is expanding. Plans have been drawn up to provide a bit more space inside for tables and more comfy sofas, and a wall with a view of the sea rather than the garage (as lovely as Seumas and Marshall are to look in on now and then). Who knows if it will all be completed in time for Spring, but fingers crossed. And if not, that’s okay – we’re on Tiree time and I’m not going anywhere.
I said way back at the beginning of the season that I was looking forward to a happy year and I’ve had exactly that. I’ve realised that right now everything I could need and want is right here on Tiree, and the future is bright. The down-side of all this for you is that you see more of me in the cafe. The solution is obvious. Send over staff. Two weeks – three weeks – I’ll take anything. And you get to enjoy your coffee in peace. Win-win.