Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bear steals trash, leaves treasure at Edelweiss

Posted By on Tue, Oct 22, 2013 at 5:23 PM

In certain Native American traditions, the bear symbolizes change and transformation, among other things. 

In the case of the bear that repeatedly raided the dumpsters behind Edelweiss in late July — captured on security cameras and turned into this viral YouTube video — a person looking for synchronicity or deeper meaning could certainly find it. 

That's because the Edelweiss bear unknowingly gifted the restaurant international press exposure, leading to the busiest months the eatery has experienced in 40 years, says manager Dieter Schnakenberg, whose mom Helga operates the establishment. 

"That bear really put us on the map. It went international. I had Japanese TV stations calling me ... tourists were taking pictures of my trash cans," he says. In August alone, his sales jumped 25 percent, "and September was crazy too.

"It's like we could do no wrong ... people thanked us for everything we did, there were no difficult customers, there was this infamous feel about the place and people were just here to be part of the bear story."

Crazy is good, but when the restaurant goes on an unprecedented long wait, the entirety of the dining rooms and patio full, and the kitchen struggles to keep up with the demand — well, then things really get crazy. 

Schnakenberg says the previous renovations in the last couple of decades mainly addressed the dining areas, that the family has known a day was coming soon that the kitchen would need to be overhauled too. With the new bear-inspired activity, that day came suddenly. 

"We need to keep quality up," he says. "To deal with the new volume, we need more people working and we already have 10 to 12 people in small kitchen — there's no flow, guys running into each other, it's not fun." 

And downstairs in the bakery, the pastry chef has been pushed to produce more cakes per day than should reasonably come out of a tiny two-oven setup: 30 to 40 weekly, on top of strudel and stollen. 

Result: the the inevitable expansion plan, bankrolled in-part on the gifted business from the bear's dumpster diving. 

Pending necessary city permitting and a timely buildout — to what was the original Ivywild School, a two-room schoolhouse built in 1901 — Schnakenberg aims to have nearly three times the amount of total kitchen space operational by Mother's Day. 

Back to the bear, the symbolic beauty of the expansion is that it will literally cover the site of the ursine theft, pushing out about 20 feet and taking over three parking spaces. It will also be dug out to create more bakery space underground. 

And for an even happier ending, Schnakenberg says he believes that the bear did escape back into nature unscathed. "The Department of Wildlife had told me they didn't have traps big enough, that they'd have had to put him down." 

With the expansion, the story continues, and next year, look for a National Geographic special related to the animal/urban interface. The channel filmed at Edelweiss for a five-minute spot in an upcoming program says Schnakenberg. 

So as for who'll return to the newly moved dumpsters — it's likely to be tourists, not the big guy with fur. 

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