“I Built a Restaurant Around My iPod”

For most of my life, I’ve known that the Northeast is the place for good pizza.  Chicago style, New York style and probably other “styles” that garner less press all fight it out for the right to be called the “best”.  So last night when my family found itself in the rare position of being in the Northeast (aka, The Colony), we were determined to see if the pizza was considerably better than what we’ve become used to in Fort Worth.  So we headed north another 10 or 11 miles to McKinney, Texas, home of Durkin’s Pizza.IMG_0602

Durkin’s Pizza, home of “Pizza, Beer, Wine and Rock & Roll” (www.durkinspizza.com) is located just north of Custer Road in a Target shopping center on 121.  Owned by the charismatic young restaurateur, Michael Durkin – and for the record, I only learned his first name after visiting the website, he introduced himself to us as simply, “Durkin”.  The Prince or the Cher of the pizza world, I suppose – the restaurant prides itself on serving delicious hand-tossed pizzas, signature salads and an impressive list of beers and wines.  The food is good, no doubt.  I began my meal with an arugula salad topped with toasted almonds, fresh mozzarella and sliced strawberries and followed that up with a pizza topped with just about everything all chased by an ice cold Shiner Bock.  IMG_0603

The Rock & Roll element to the restaurant was well executed – not heavy-handed.  The walls were covered with concert posters of the Ramones, and the Beetles, photos of Buddy Holly and Jimmy Hendrix and t-shirts of other Rock & Roll icons.  The music was loud enough to be noticed and enjoyed but it didn’t hinder conversation in any way.  At one point I heard “Durkin” explain to a customer, “I built a restaurant around my iPod”.

And this is where I originally thought my blog would end.  A restaurant review.  I took pictures expecting to let you all in on a secret – a good place to stop if you ever find yourself in the North Dallas area.  But then, as we were winding down our meal.  “Durkin” sat down at the table next to ours and began to talk.

Before I go any further, let me first tell you that “Durkin” is young.  I would have originally pegged him to be in his late 20’s but a comment he made about having been working in the industry for 17 years would place him more in his early 30’s.  Of course, his fast-talking, no listening style of conversation would lead me to assume that I could only believe about 40% of what he said, so maybe 17 is a relative number.   In a 15-minute conversation I learned about his net profit increase over the past year.  I learned that he has “the mental tenacity of Tiger Woods” and that “nothing can break” him.  I learned that he works about 118 hours a week.  For those of you who aren’t doing the math here, that leaves about 50 “other” hours over the course of a week for things like sleeping.  I learned that he hasn’t had a day off since early May and that today he was taking his girlfriend to Vegas.  I learned that, while in Vegas, they’ll be dining out at the finest restaurants and spending most of those net profits from the past year.

Now, trust me, I know the restaurant business is brutal.  I know it takes a commitment beyond measure.  I know Chefs who own restaurants and spend a great deal of time nurturing them, just as they would their own children.  But the most successful of these, have found a balance between work and life.

As I sat there listening, I was saddened by the realization that this young man has, in effect, all of his eggs in one basket.  And this made me wonder… at what age (and I’m mostly speaking to the men here) did you realize that there is more to life than what you DO?  When did you learn that the real value in life is your relationships with those you love and not the time you spend at work?  When did you think that at the end of your life, it won’t matter how much you worked, but how much effort you put into building a well-rounded life full of love and support and friendship?  When did you start to want more?

Yes, the pizza was good.  But on a Saturday night between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., Durkin had 4 customers.  The restaurant business is tough and chances are still good that 5 years from now, Durkin’s Pizza will be just another empty spot in a shopping center in North Dallas.  What then?

So… if you’re prone to the “all-work and no-play” mentality, take a few minutes today and invest in something really important.  Tell someone you love how much they mean to you.  Tend to a relationship that’s important to you.  Do something you love for yourself.  Life is so incredibly short and we don’t get a second chance.

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