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Salt of the Earth

We talk with gritty, hilarious people who run successful small businesses.
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Salt of the Earth
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Now displaying: August, 2016
Aug 30, 2016

Robert Mermin is a clown who ran away from home and started his own circus, Circus Smirkus. It's an incredible story from pitching Dr. Seuss (yes, that Dr. Seuss), to juggling his way out of the USSR. 

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Aug 23, 2016

Jason Fried is the CEO of Basecamp.

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Aug 16, 2016

Almost any time you walk into Piccolo’s Restaurant in Hoboken for a cheesesteak, you can hear Patty lumbering around, coming out of the kitchen every once in a while to curse out his favorite customers. In his restaurant, his regulars call the 60-odd year old “Patty Boy”, a vestige of the time when his father ran the restaurant and Patty was the boy helping out in the back. Now the boy is very much a man, but keeps the 61 year old restaurant operating in a very similar fashion to the way his father used to do it. No menu, and the options for the cheesesteak are “with” or “without” onions. But the city around Piccolo’s is changing, and in Patty’s words, “the restaurant will die with me”. There is no succession plan.

Piccolo’s is situated in the south of Hoboken, where his father bought the plot of land where the restaurant sits for $1,000 in the 1950’s. It started out as a late-night spot serving the bar next door that used to host acts like The Temptations while they were still trying to make a name for themselves. In the 1960’s it became a daytime spot that became known for the cheesesteaks it still serves today.

Patty isn’t the most successful character we’ve had on the show. His marketing wisdom can be summed up in 3 or 4 words: “I don’t know”, with “f***ing” being the optional one. But if there is a paradigm of the old-school restaurant owner, who loves his customers as much as his restaurant, Patty is the guy. In a building that may one day be a Jamba Juice or a Chop’t, the foul-mouthed, unapologetic Patty is going down slinging cheesesteaks.

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Aug 9, 2016

Laurie Woolever is a writer and Anthony Bourdain's assistant. She and Anthony are releasing a cookbook called Appetites this fall. Pre-order it on Amazon.

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Aug 2, 2016

Paula Varsalona has designed and made over 60,000 dresses during her long career in New York City. Originally from Independence, Missouri, Paula arrived in the 70's and started out living with 5 girls in a one-bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side and finding work where she could. 

The bridal industry wasn't easy, and she was hired and fired a few times before venturing off on her own. In the 1980's, she opened her own shop with a partner and quickly lit up the NYC bridal scene. In an industry that was surprisingly male-dominated, she became one of the most popular designers in the country. "People threw money at me", she says, somewhat reminiscently. 

In this interview, I was struck by how demanding the design profession is. Paula is in her 60's now. She says she tries to get one day off per month. And design is literally the first step in a very long process to sell something. The outcome of a designers work is affected by so many other variables like seasonality, marketing, cheap imitations. And yet Paula gives the impression that the entire success of that dress is in her craftsmanship. Maybe it is. 

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