It's noon on a Friday and the sun is brilliant and warm. We mill about waiting for everyone to arrive for a group photo.
Today, I am just a stranger bewitched by the vacant spaces and dreamy light. I am just doing my job, watching for natural frames and dramatic shadow. Trying to capture the thousand tales being told in every unlit corner, in these worn floorboards, in these old brick walls. Waiting for an honest and unexpected laugh.
Inside, sunlight spills across the empty floors mixing with soft, deep shadows. Before we get to the posed pictures, Jen Hidinger and Ryan Smith take us on a tour of the building, helping us envision the future barkeep, tabletops, and outdoor patio seating that will transform the space from dream to reality.
I'd heard of the Hidingers through Sweetwater's fundraising initiative, but until last week when I was invited to photograph recipients of a giant check for over $36,000 in proceeds from sales of Sweetwater's Second Helping IPA, I didn't really know their story.
Ryan Hidinger was 36 when he passed away this January after battling late-stage gall bladder cancer. Forbes called it a tragedy, but there's nothing tragic about Ryan's life or the legacy he leaves for the rest of us.
Soon now, Staplehouse will open its doors, a restaurant whose post-tax funds will go in their entirety to the non-profit The Giving Kitchen, which seeks to support hospitality workers faced with unanticipated hardship.
From The Giving Kitchen website:
"Combined with funds raised by TGK from charitable contributions, the profits of Staplehouse will help TGK fund grants to help pay excessive medical and other expenses for the people who anonymously and graciously nourish so many of us during our dining experiences and who may find themselves in a time of need."
In the moment Jen Hidinger and Ryan Smith are handed the check, everyone is visibly moved. I feel suddenly privy to a moment I did not earn. Humbled to bear witness to this unflinching love. I don't hesitate to call it that--love. You'd have to blind not to see it. This quiet, even, bottomless love.
I look forward to the day I can pay my respects at a Staplehouse table. Join me.
541 Edgewood Ave.