There is no place like home. That saying applies to the feeling because physically my hometown changed much.
Readers of my previous writings have probably figured out that my wife and I visited Fenton after spending a month in Singapore and before heading back to Bogota. The changes are many. My mother now lives in an apartment on a street that existed as a field left over from a drive-in theater. It also seems that the city borders have significantly increased since my childhood. The closing of the main thoroughfare through the downtown obviously started the expansion of businesses in other directions before city council members recognized their error and re-opened the street. But from what I see, it was too little too late and catch-up is costing a whole lot of money.
A week seemed too short. In that time my wife and I met some wonderful people and ate at good restaurants. Following are a few remarks on our experience.
Citizens Bank – The bank holds special memories for me. My father helped found it with other leaders of the town back in the 1960’s. I was even one of the initial stockholders. I remember listening from another room as the adults initially discussed the concept and put plans into action. Back then it was the First National Bank of Fenton.
Entering the building that my father helped design, my wife and I were greeted almost immediately by people ready to help. After a short wait in comfortable chairs branch manager Kathleen Thompson represented the bank in a very friendly manner and handled all my strange account problems effectively, even making phone calls to enlist the aid of others when necessary. This all impressed my wife as banks in Bogota are not near as customer oriented.
As a side note for those traveling to Colombia or other third world countries, you should notify your bank and credit card company that you will be in that country and for what dates. If you do not, there is a good possibility that after one purchase your card will be blocked.
Crestmont Convalescent – Met some wonderful dedicated employees there. The facility was clean. But after watching the operation while visiting over the course of several days I could see they are understaffed.
Tim Hortons on Silver Lake Road – Honesty is always an attribute wanted by employers. An accidental overcharge by the cashier escaped my notice. I suppose the young lady could have just let it go and not expose her mistake to me or management. However upon discovery of her error the employee advised me of it and apologized. A few minutes later the supervisor brought me the overcharged amount. Oh yes; the sandwich tasted great.
Lizz’s Books and Fenton’s Open Book – Friendly helpful people and great well organized selection of books. All the authors on my reading list were easily found. Despite owning a Kindle, many books still made the trip back to Colombia with us. There is just nothing like the feel and smell of a real book.
Walmart – They have selection and prices. But the store gives me a feeling of not really fitting into Fenton. Designers for McDonald’s restaurants always try to decorate to fit into the community. Walmart should take a lesson from that. The workers inside were not as friendly as those encountered elsewhere in town. The impression was we are big, we offer low prices, we do not have to adjust to the community, the community must adjust to us.
Sagebrush Cantina – A 45 minute wait for a table on a Wednesday night pretty much attests to its food and atmosphere. It could use a larger waiting area though. Keeping to its name, the menu is a little different than what my wife is use to seeing, especially with English as her second language. However our server, Lauren, did an excellent job of explaining the dishes and helping my wife choose one that delighted the taste buds. In all that hustle and bustle Lauren took good care of us and our food arrived promptly.
Gatsby Grind – We checked out the coffee shop in the morning before the community meeting being held that evening. The owner and Fenton Patch blogger, Fady Elias, greeted us cordially. The large selection of cheesecakes drew my wife’s attention. After asking for a recommendation, Elias suggested one called turtle. He said it was one of their largest sellers; the taste told me why.
The free Wi-Fi and open design with easily moveable tables made Gatsby Grind the perfect venue for the community forum held that evening. My wife and I met many wonderful Fentonites. It was great seeing again and introducing my wife to old school friends Susan and Mike. City council member, Michael Piacentini, had spent three weeks in Bogota and we had a wonderful conversation with him about his experiences in our city. Of course everyone was invited to come and visit the capital of Colombia. My wife and I enjoy showing off our city.
Ruby Tuesday – It is difficult for me to keep the song by The Rolling Stones out of my head when seeing the name. For the restaurant, quality is the word that pops to the forefront of my head. The salad bar is not the largest we have ever seen (and trust me bigger does not always mean better) but the choices presented are excellent providing a sufficient variety. Every item looked and tasted fresh. The chilled salad plates are a definite plus and an example of the detail found throughout the restaurant.
My wife and I probably eat 50% of our meals in restaurants in many different countries. No matter where you are at there is a difference between amateur servers and professionals. The later pay attention and it seems are able to read the patron’s body language to know what they want and respond appropriately. Their manner is always friendly and helpful even when a customer is rude and/or over demanding.
Generally becoming a professional server takes time and a learning of the traits. But every now and then there is a natural. Our young server at Ruby Tuesday, Brianna, is one of those naturals. She helped make what would have been a very nice dining experience into an exceptional one.
Pier One - I can’t come to The United States without hitting Pier One. The store on Silver Parkway did not let my wife and I down. While any store can have great items well displayed, it is always the staff that makes the difference. Kudos to the genuinely friendly and helpful people working there.
Crust – My wife was raised and lives in a country of panaderias (bakeries). It takes much to impress her. But the Crust did just that. A wide selection of quality baked goods handled by knowledgeable employees ready to share information makes Curst the Cadillac of bakeries. Our purchases tasted delicious.
Rex Todd Rogers Design – I know that the store is not open yet. However we stopped in to see what was going on and had the opportunity to communicate with Rogers and discuss things. Currently he is busy gutting and remodeling the old house on Shiawassee across the street from Fenton’s Open Book. We discussed some about his design experience and what services and materials he will be offering in his studio. In my opinion his business offering both interior and exterior design along with quality products will be an asset to the city.
On the ride to the airport I asked my wife, “Well, what do you think of the town?”
“Friendly people like you told me and we found everything we were looking for and more,” she replied.
“Did you feel closer?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Mas cerca,” I said in Spanish as my wife and I sometimes have to do both languages for clarification.
“Closer to what?” came the reply.
“Anything or any feeling of closer,” I said.
She thought for a few seconds then said, “No, why do you ask?”
“Just curious,” I said then looked out the window thinking we will be back one day to find more in friendly Fenton.