A conversation with Alan Irvine, owner of Scott's Seafood on the River. Their business has been temporarily impacted by levee work by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, which Alan understands but will be happy when it concludes in the fall. See his op-ed below in the Sac Business Journal.
Being a Good Corporate Citizen Can Come at a Cost -- But Saving Lives Makes It Well Worth It
By Alan Irvine
(Irvine and his wife, Sigrid, own Scott's Seafood on the River)
At one time or another, most businesspersons have felt they were trapped between the famous rock and a hard place.
In my case, that rock is my family business for the past 15 years, Scott's Seafood on the River. The hard place is more of an eroding soft place -- the crumbling levee on the Sacramento River, whose location is the destination in my restaurant's name. The levee's renovation and restoration, which will help save lives and property, is being performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
While it certainly poses a financial hardship for Scott's since the project has seriously disrupted a significant segment of our business, events -- such as weddings and a variety of corporate gatherings, temporarily cutting those revenues by as much as 80 percent -- we remain proud to be part of the project.
When completed, citizens and property owners will enjoy a greater level of protection from flooding than they have in decades. The other good news is that the Corps informs us the wall currently cutting off views of the river is now scheduled to come down in mid-September, which is ahead of schedule. (Go, Army!)
"Corporate citizenship" is an expression bandied about as frivolously as "giving back." Many of us think that its practice requires not much more than supporting local causes by showing up at or sponsoring fundraising events for non-profits (which Scott's already does) or accepting seats on the boards of local charities.
Sometimes, though, we have to put our money where our lip service is -- especially when a greater good is at stake. Donating time and energy to help an organization is one thing; donating a substantial portion of one's income and goodwill exacts a higher price.
My wife Sigrid and I co-own Scott's Seafood on the River. Our sons, Iain and Tristan, and other members of our family work here in significant roles (in fact, Iain serves as our general manager). We have 130 full- and part-time employees, none of whom has been laid off during the multiple-month levee restoration project, which started around April of this year.
I thought it might be helpful to briefly talk about some of the things we've been doing to make this project, which is undeniably huge, a footnote in our history -- a humanitarian one, to be sure, but still a footnote.
For example, when the Corps of Engineers essentially annexed our wedding venue, all public parking and most of our outdoor spaces -- leaving us with that aforementioned wall, which blocked customers' view of the river, marina and Sacramento Yacht Club across the water -- we opted for beautification over brooding.
We commissioned the renowned Stephanie Taylor, who had designed and executed some wall art in the restaurant, to paint a large mural, with brightly colored impressionistic fish set against a cerulean blue backdrop. A number of our customers have told us that when they walk into the main dining room, the mural's cheerfully aquatic theme eases any disappointment they might have initially expected to have at not seeing the river.
Because customers not wishing to park in nearby neighborhoods -- the Westin, the hotel next door to us -- cut the price of it by 33 percent. If you're thinking, Well, why didn't they just make it free, I'm afraid you haven't penciled out the cost of providing valet parking recently.
We also looked forward -- as the late inventor Charles Kettering said, "My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there." That may be the most relevant advice I can give fellow business owners. If you have a challenge not of your making, don't dwell as much on how you got there; think, instead, of how you'll meet it and move on.
That's why we're continuing to book events in the near-term and much farther out, maintaining the quality of our food and service daily and feeling proud to be part of Sacramento's legacy of doing the right thing, even at a cost. Hope you can drop by.