Two years ao I was living in a hostel for the homeless, my life before that was very different. I was a high functioning addict, holding down a full time job working with childeren who had additional needs, a family of 5 and two homes, but in the space of a just a few months, life spiralled into a chaotic and unmanageable place. i got clean and sober while living in the hostel.
When I was very early into my recovery (around 3 months) I was actively trying to find work and spotted a handwritten scrap of paper in athe window of a tiny burger bar.
"Till person needed. Apply inside"
I did, and started less than a week later. I became known as the competant one (they had had a series of unsuited staff)
I soon started working most days, but i was not confined to the till. I learnt each section of the kitchen and was cooking solo on the busiest nights, had keys to open and close the shop, often cashed up and helped with the ordering.
Around two years ago i was promoted to the Manager. By this point I loved Rios, there is somethings about it that is magic despite the many flaws and oddities. It was hard work, punishing in the summer when Rio's transforms into a sweat box with added grease (however, it also had the ability to drop the temperature significantly lower than outside, if you were out the back, you came with gloves, coats, jumpers, at least two pairs of socks) Rios is full of quirks, a lot of them drive me and the crew insane, for instance, one of the fridge doors will occasionally come off in your hand mid service. when it's put back it opens by itself, often into someones shins, when either of the other two doors are closed.
The people who have become my family are what makes Rios so special. Almost every member of the crew, which took a long time to build and nuture, have rung me in tears in the middle of the night, or wanted some advice (sometimes in the middle of the night) and just like if i rang one of them because i needed them, I am there for them all.
The current owner, was also the intial owner 27 years ago. He sold it to someone and opened a fish and chip shop on the Isle of Wight. When he returned Mark bought it back and it has become legendary and not just in Newbury, there are more than a few who cover some distance for a Rios once a week. Our regulars show huge loyalty, almost like extended family and if their order is always the same, the liklihood is that someone will know it, or part of it from memory. The downside to this is at, I see people as burgers, I am terrible with names, but in the doctors surgery the other day, recognised 6 people and spoke to them, but I only knew one name. their burger order was easy, so i have a cheat sheet with the names of them who i want to remember their names it has their burger of choice and anything that lets my head make the connection.
Mark is moving to the Isle of Wight this year, he will be selling Rios, he wants me to be that person, and i want to be her too. He loves it as much as me and wants it to be in the hands of someone who cares, is passionate but importantly understands and protects that something more, some undefinable, something extra that makes Rios, Rios. I love the place, I am proud of the crew we have become over time, very close now and very loyal. Mark gets that, and has been incredibly supportive and has put wheels in motion to make me a partner with 10% ownership with the option for me to buy as much, or as little when I am in a position to.
It really is an amazing place, people are emotionally attached to Rios, staff and customers. I really do love it, and somewhere that can hold such comfort for some, advice for others, it feels like home, safe and if you need a painkiller, or lip balm, or a plaster or even if you need a hearing aid battery, my "everything " is likely to have it.
I want to own all of Rios, and take the baton into the next decade. The support, loyalty, the secrets shared,, the advice and knowledge (and often the exchange of useless knowledge and dramtics, which has turned more than one shift into a musical, all communication was sung, dancing is frequent) are priceless and should be cherished, if i have the chance that is what I will do.