Wake Up and Smell the Garlic – A Local Reminder

Lisa Moore, Story{Teller}, gira{ph}by: Lisa Moore, Story{Teller}, gira{ph}

Growing up in Charleston, WV I didn’t have a colossal culinary selection for Friday night dinner with friends.  However, since moving to Richmond, VA, I have acquired more liberal options for just about any occasion. If I want to catch the WVU game, I head to Buffalo Wild Wings.  If my nephew is in town, I opt for a fun lunch at Dave & Busters. Don’t worry – this isn’t a restaurant review, I’ll get to my point momentarily.

Recently, my business partner, Kelley Parks, recommended a local place called “Mama Zu’s” to celebrate winning a new project.  She warned it was a local dive, in a scary neighborhood, the plates are chipped, the service is horrid, but the food is the best she’s ever eaten.

As promised, we pulled up to a run-down building in a part of Richmond I would never go without locked doors, and it had a sign that needed replacing years ago. As we entered a building the smell of garlic quickly filled my nose.  The inside décor was nothing to be impressed by.  Instead, I noticed a small space with no menus and a line of people waiting to be seated. While waiting for a table I decided to have a glass of wine at the bar and sat in a bar stool that I’m pretty sure came from my grandmother’s great grandmother’s kitchen.  My wine was served in a small glass similar to what you’d find in a cheap motel next to the bathroom sink.

After a while, I overheard someone at table behind me say “I didn’t know you didn’t accept cards, my wife will go to an ATM for cash”.  What restaurant in 2012 doesn’t accept plastic?  With no cash, I had to make the venture myself.  Kelley issued apology after apology for the torn seats, the cheesy candle on the table, the poor service, the ATM roadtrip – it just couldn’t get much worse.

Then, it happened.

Our food was delivered, and I will admit it was the most amazing I’d ever put in my mouth. I quickly forgave the sight of the place, the inconvenience, and the service.  None of that mattered anymore.

Mama Zu’s is extraordinarily successful – so much so they have turned down Food Network star, Guy Fietti, who wanted to feature them on the hit show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” because they can’t handle any more business.  On weekends, their line to eat is out the door and down the street.  They don’t advertise, offer flashy decor, or even accept credit cards.  If you want to eat there, you have to go out of your way.

What makes them so successful? Mama Zu’s has never strayed or forgotten its purpose.  Instead of trying to keep up with competition by upgrading furniture, adding flat screen televisions, or even offering menus or a credit card machine, they have put all of their focus and effort into one thing – the food.

As credit unions, we are the local dive.  We don’t always have the flash or convenience, but we can still focus on what we do best. Just do one something great and amplify that better than anyone.  People will appreciate it and forgive you for the rest.

Wake up and smell the garlic.  You don’t need to be the good at everything, just be extraordinary at something.

Oh, and if you are ever in Richmond, VA – pay a visit to Mama Zu’s.  And bring cash.

Lisa Moore formerly served as Marketing Manager for Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union before becoming a partner at gira{ph}.  At her previous post with Pioneer, she helped spearhead an effort to completely differentiate her credit union from the inside out with new visuals, website, innovative marketing tactics and most importantly a new internal culture. She’s won numerous awards in her career including CUNA’s Best Practices. www.giraphcu.com

Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore

Lisa formerly served as Marketing Manager for Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union before becoming a partner at gira{ph}. At her previous post with Pioneer, she helped spearhead an ... Web: www.giraphcu.com Details