The Rocket, Blasting Off Into the Unknown

As those closest to me already know, my life is taking some turns for the better. I am on an adventure, traveling into unexplored territory. I didn’t plan for this, or see something like this ever happening, but I would be a fool for not taking the opportunity presented. I am helping in the running of a business in the small town of Viking, AB. It is an ice cream shop and diner, that has a bowling alley and a small theatre within.

Bright red letters above the entrance that read The Rocket
The sign at the Rocket

Initially I was pretty skeptical about the whole thing, for one I didn’t know if we would be able to get the funding needed in order to purchase it. We actually didn’t know until practically the last minute, resulting in old jobs being abandoned— bridges being burned—once the funds were secured. So a lot is being invested into this endeavor, we really can’t let it fail, or at the very least we need to hold on until we can secure an escape route. It’s kind of good that it is this way though, it forces us to take it very seriously.

We are still in the process of moving, and should be finished in about a week. Given that we don’t want the move to be too physically exhausting, we took a few trips taken to both good-will donation centres and to the city dump. I’ve tried to be more lightweight in how much I own, as I always needed to be this way for when I was attending post-secondary, so I didn’t have too much to give away or get rid of. The process has been freeing both materially and psychologically, it feels like a fresh start.

There were some worries that The Rocket would not do as well as we would like. However we were given a test run during a town event called Vikings in the Streets While we were open for a limited time we made quiet a chunk of change, I was actually intimidated by how many customers were coming in at a time. It helps too that the weather has made people crave something cooler like a nice ice cream cone I suppose. We need to keep this up though just to keep up with the costs of the building and living expenses.

People have been very friendly in Viking, and as one would expect, everybody knows everybody here. We already have some regulars coming in everyday. While we have only been open two weekends so far, it is looking pretty promising. However it is not all sunshine and rainbows. The theatre is a little outdated, but because I am very technically minded I can see what—and in what order—we need to upgrade things. The only obstacle, I guess I will call it, is we will never be able to upgrade past the current projection system. Big commercial theatres don’t use 35mm film reels anymore, they are purely digital. To upgrade to such a system is prohibitively expensive, in the neighborhood of one-hundred grand.

The menu at the Rocket
The initial menu at the Rocket

The good news is that there isn’t much to do in Viking, i.e. there is not much for competition in such a small town. I think the volume of customers we’ve had point to this fact. The only issue is getting the word out, and none of us have had any experience in advertising or marketing before. We did manage to get into the local newspaper about us opening during Vikings in the Streets and having a grand opening on the third. However we decided to open a little earlier (we were open the last few days), but people were surprised everytime they came in, seemingly very surprised that we were open.

The great part about the building is there is on the second floor a living space which is nicer than my current abode. It is both nicer and more spacious, and obviously convenient if it is right above where we work. This might be an amazing move, at least at first, I’m not sure how long until the magic wears out. The building, and it’s history has some magic to it though. It was started as a theatre in 1954 and was called Brock’s Theatre (named after the original owner’s son). We’ve had at least one elderly couple explain to us their memories of sitting in the back of the theatre on their dates, decades ago!

We have oldies from the 1950s and 1960s that I obtained playing for our customers to help set the retro vibe. Which has been interesting because I never gave too much thought or listening to of such artists born before my time, but I haven’t minded at all having to listen to them…

I also built a website for our business, it isn’t perfect, but is pretty functional as it stands. It is a little nerve-wracking having built a site that may be getting a lot of traffic in the near future. I thought it was important to have though, not everyone has Facebook (we were told that no one in the town is on the site!).

This might be the adventure of a lifetime, or it could be—scary enough—a flop. It is up to us to ensure it isn’t, but there is a chance that this will be one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. There is nothing left to do except wait and see.

Modified: Lee Kierstead

by Lee Kierstead