Last weekend in the Blennerhassett Hotel restaurant, I saw a guest's dinner check that made me smile. The dining guests had ordered appetizers, cheeseburgers and a nice bottle of wine. When I say "nice," I really mean that the table ordered a $270 bottle of one of our best California cabernets.
The fact that one of our servers sold an expensive bottle of wine is great, but better yet is the fact that these guests appreciated and were willing to pay for a quality dining experience. I consider this food and wine combination a generous compliment to the quality of the Blennerhassett's cheeseburgers. I once heard a chef say that "gourmet" is more about quality than epicurean delicacy.
My point here is that while quality can be found in ordinary things and places, it's almost never found in things considered unimportant. Have you ever heard anyone say they just had one of the best meals of their lives at a fast food place? I'm guessing not. Generally speaking, fast food is a "food is fuel" mentality that is more about price and branding than dining experience. Fast food is largely an afterthought.
The same analogy can be made about fast buildings. We slap together structures without any consideration to what they will represent 20 or 30 years from now. We know they won't last longer than that and we assume they are (and possibly should be) disposable.
On the other hand, come sit on the Blennerhassett Hotel's patio and study the county courthouse. Now there's a building worthy of being studied and it's largely because of its quality. It's clear that those involved in building it were constructing more than a courthouse; they were building a legacy. There was a long-range plan that was collectively developed and executed with effort and money. Quality often comes at a higher price.
Actually, quality isn't about price as much as it is about an experience. It's where the product meets the human factor. It generates emotion and feeling for both the producer and consumer. It creates smiles, contentment, comfort, wellbeing, satisfaction, and sometimes awe.
When we left downtowns for suburbia, we thought we were improving our lives by adding efficiency, cost savings and convenience. And we did get some of that. But we also got homogamy. Additionally, we lost diversity, interconnectivity, culture identity and a sense of place. I'm pretty sure we didn't mean to, but we lost some of our heritage, too.
I'm afraid we also lost some of our sense of community responsibility. When getting our children into the right school became more important than developing them into good citizens, we really lost something. When we decided that our children needed an aptitude for sports and social advancement before an aptitude for compassion toward others, and sense of community, we have lost even more.
When we did that, we didn't just lose a vibrant downtown. What we really lost was an understanding of quality of life.
Come see me. I'll be in the lounge.
Cecil Childress is General Manager of the Blennerhassett Hotel and Chairman of Downtown PKB.