Monday, August 27, 2012

Don't Go There

Traditional Japanese traffic cone 

A friend asked me if I was afraid that some thief might steal my Cones of Nihon idea since the cat is out of the bag. Now I'm really worried about it. Not because it is such a winning idea but because it had happened to me once before.

The first time it happened, I was sitting next to my friend, Tommy Tango at the Westbury movie theater on Long Island waiting for the next showing of some 80's adventure flick to flash across the screen. Although, it could have been at the Syosset movie theater come to think of it. My friends and I used to go there for the sheer grandeur of the place. It boasted the biggest screen on the east coast of the US and you didn't get the pain in the neck you would wind up with after sitting in the Westbury for a couple of hours. 

The Westbury was an ancient movie house that was converted into a twin cinema. The owners had a wall installed along the center aisle that cut the theater exactly in half. The problem was that they never changed the original orientation of any of the seats so after the renovation they all faced the screen at an angle. Whenever you watched a movie at the Westbury you would have to keep your head turned to the side if you hoped to see what was happening on screen. If it happened to be a summer night when they had the air conditioning cranked up all the way, you would wind up with a crick in your neck by the time the show was over.

It was on one of those sultry summer evenings that I was enjoying the cool of the Westbury and regaling my friend Tommy with my latest entrepreneurial brainstorm. The idea was to have a bus outfitted with pizza ovens, a storehouse of popular movies on video tape, and a two-way radio. Pizza-craving, cinema-starved patrons could call our home base service center (I believe we were thinking that would be a perfect position for one of our mothers) which would relay the order to the bus. The next thing the customers knew, the Pizza Bus would arrive at their door step (we called it a front stoop) with a piping hot pie and video ready to pop into the VCR.

It was a solid gold idea and at the time the only thing stopping us was the lack of a driver's license that would legally enable us to captain our dream on wheels. While we were cooling our heels in wait for the day we would be able to sit behind the wheel of that big bus, somebody had run off with the idea. Six months later the Pizza Bus was on the road but neither of us was on board. My dream was stolen and I have a pretty good idea who the culprit was. I'm sure it was the guy in front of us at the Westbury, the dude with the big hair that partially obstructed our view of the screen. There's little doubt in my mind that underneath all that hair he had his antennas up and knew a good thing when he heard it.

This is how my bright idea will
 look at night with an LED light inside
Despite having given birth to the idea, it was with a healthy dash of schadenfreude  topped by sheer relief that I learned the business model was a miserable failure. Not only was the vehicle a major gas guzzler, the pizza ovens got so hot that they would melt the videos. Eventually the Pizza Bus operators installed a super expensive AC system that never really did the job. The pizzas would arrive cold and the videos a little too hot.

It turned out to be a half-baked idea that would have been best left sitting idle. So let that stand as a warning to anyone looking to make the Cones of Nihon idea their own. Just don't go there.

Post Script 

At around the same time the Westbury Cinema spawned a twin it was taken over by new management. We all thought they were a religious cult of some kind because everyone who worked there was so polite and were known to smile when a customer bought a box of Raisinettes or Nonpareils at the concession stand. Although it made us suspicious, it turned out that it was just some new business model. Unfortunately all that nice customer service was just too revolutionary for the time and place and wound up being a barrier to ticket sales, after a while we just didn't go there.

Related post: The Cone Zone

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