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Giving thanks ... to a remarkable dad
NORWAY — You know you got it right when your grown children say "thank you."
Chris Farrar got it right.
Amanda and Jordan Farrar came to the Advertiser Democrat with a simple request ... to pay tribute to their dad. Farrar, owner of Ari's Pizza, is celebrating his 25th anniversary in business here in Norway.
Timing is everything and Ari's turns 25 this week and, as we all sit down to give thanks for the good things in our lives, Amanda and Jordan want to give thanks to their dad.
Amanda, too, celebrated her 25th birthday this year. Which brings us to the beginning.
Twenty-five years ago, a 19-year-old kid with a baby on the way buys a pizza business. He has a family now and needs to provide a good life for them.
Buying a new business isn't easy, less so when you are only 19. However, Farrar put his heart and soul into making it a success.
Long hours were required to succeed. And those hours came at great personal sacrifice ... less time with family.
Farrar bought the business in November of 1987. He began working roughly 100 hours a week to support a wife and baby and, then, a second soon on the way.
According to his kids, he "undoubtedly could feel the weight of the world on his shoulders, choosing to almost entirely run the restaurant by himself riding on the philosophy 'I can do it faster and better on my own than I could with help that would just be getting in my way.'”
Jordan, 21, is currently a business student at Eastern Maine Community College. He wrote a paper for one of his classes last year, choosing his father as his focus. Not only is Jordan's business acumen on target, but so is his understanding of what his dad had to do to make Ari's a success.
"Nearly one quarter of all small businesses fail within the first year. ... people believe that owning a small business means you get to choose your own hours and choose who works for you, but those who think that, will often fall into the 25 percent failure [rate]. Growing up in a restaurant has shown me first-hand that you are at the mercy of both your employees as well as your customers."
"... persistence, self motivation, the drive to succeed, patience, and arguably most important, the ability to deal with [difficult] customers ...," writes Jordan, describing the skills an entrepreneur needs.
Jordan notes that Farrar's childhood well-prepared him for the grueling task of running his own business. "... [his] chores consisted of splitting and stacking fire wood, cleaning out pig, horse and chicken stalls and many other things that are necessary to keep a farm running properly. It is most likely that, although he often complains about it, it is a large reason why he is the hardworking, successful man he is today."
"The hard work of maintaining a farm, the ability to do things that need to be done because they need to be done and not just because he wanted to do them, the pride to do things yourself and not need others' help, are all necessary when running a small business."
Farrar did not go into the business a total rookie, according to Jordan. Having worked at the South Paris House of Pizza for a few years, he had a good idea of what was involved. Or so he thought.
"Watching and possibly even slightly idolizing a man by the name of Sparrous (from whom he later bought Ari’s) he saw Sparrous come and go as he pleased while driving a Mercedes and wearing new fancy clothes.
"[This] may have put [Farrar] under the false impression that he could do the very same owning his own business. As the years progressed [Farrar] slowly started to put together the pieces to the puzzle. In fact, Sparrous’ parents were the ones working a large majority of the time.
"Luckily [Farrar’s] childhood equipped him with the stubborn pride to push through the hard times in hope of creating a business that could support his family financially ... ."
With only a high school diploma, a few years of experience and sheer determination, Farrar was able to "turn an old run-down grocery store into what is now, arguably, the most popular restaurant in Oxford Hills," said Jordan.
According to Jordan and Amanda, Farrar says his goal has always been "to create a business that will benefit my family for years to come."
"It took a lot of hard work, motivation and persistence to push through the hard times to get to the good ones," Farrar told his son. "Be prepared to work a good part of your life away, be prepared to miss things such as your children’s sports games and family get-togethers. Make sure you really love what you're doing because if you don’t, you won't last long."
"When we were younger he didn't get to be around," said Amanda, "and it always bothered him."
"But we had everything," she continued, "and we learned about hard work ... that things were not always easy ... that sometimes you had to tough it out. Since I had a child," she said, "I have a lot of understanding about what he has taught us."
"I think he felt guilty that other parents were home on the weekends ... but when employees call in sick and stuff ... and he feels the pull to make everything right for his customers ... ."
"He is probably more hard on himself about that, than anyone else [is]," said Jordan.
But, Amanda noted, "he was our coach when we were kids, he coached high school freshman basketball, helped with summer camp, the JV team ... ."
"Not only is he my father," said Jordan, "but he is also the successful business man and I am currently in school to try to become one [too]."
"I may not have shown it or believed it at times," said Jordan, "but I am truly thankful to have a father who has helped sponsor and coach numerous youth sports teams even now, although both my sister and I are too old to take part in these teams. And I believe his love for both sports and the community will keep him motivated to help the youth sports programs of Oxford Hills for years to come."
In addition to this, Farrar also prepares large food orders for the Norway National Guard base on a monthly basis.
"Although sometimes he may act stressed about doing this," notes Jordan, "I can tell he truly loves doing it because it gives him a chance to not only prepare foods that he does not usually cook at Ari's, but also because he understands how much the men and woman preparing to protect our country enjoy having a great meal in between sessions of grueling physical and emotional training."
Farrar gives back to the community in many ways, said his kids, never saying "no" to donation requests.
Faced with his first true calamity when a fire in the rooming house next door in 2011 threatened to burn down Ari's, Farrar quietly repaired the damage, and went a step further buying the land where the rooming house was.
He made sure he restored and repaired with the history of the building in mind, earning a certificate of gratitude from Norway Downtown for fixing up the building and keeping it historic.
He has persevered through economic downturns and survived through self-sacrifice and grueling hours of hard work.
A quiet and humble man, Farrar will be embarrassed to see this story, according to both Amanda and Jordan.
"But," they continue, "he is a hardworking, loving and great person whose sole motivation was to provide a better childhood and life than he himself had."
"It makes me so truly proud," said Jordan, "to have a father that almost anyone I run into in Oxford Hills has something good to say about him. I honestly just hope in the future I have kids that are as proud of me and my accomplishments as both my sister and I are of him."
And what does Farrar's three-year-old grandson, Keegan, have to say about him?
"Grandpa makes dough."