Sue and I had the opportunity to go see an old friend yesterday. She had announced back in August that after 33 years, she was hanging up her spatula and retiring. As usual she greeted us with the same warmth as we had felt over the past 25 years of dining with her. She was so special to us that we actually put her in a commercial for a local client of ours and thru some crazy happenstance, we lived in the same building for several years. She brought light through her smile every day even though she may not have felt the best from a childhood disease. Our girl suffered in silence because she is that special. She is simply known as; Ina.
Although nothing is simple about Ina Pinkney, she is an icon of what we all should look to when it comes to building a reputation. As Sue and I spoke with her about the 39 days left of her reign, we spoke of all the years of serving the community. Sure, Ina made a profit, but her restaurants were a home for us all as we grew up in Chicago. She once told me that she ran such a high class breakfast joint because when times were bad, her customers could come in and feel better for ten bucks. She started as an expensive breakfast restaurant and morphed into a fine dining value restaurant. Fresh orange juice and those “heavenly hots” that drove me to propose marriage to her on several occasions because she would never reveal that recipe… until now.
Ina has finally published her recipes; “Taste Memories: Recipes For Life And Breakfast.” You can get it here and yes, this is a shameless plug for a lady that got us through lots of troubling times with nothing more than a smile and a great breakfast. I wonder if she has any idea. Her grace will forever be an example for us all.
So, now why would I write about Ina in a reputation marketing article? This is one of the easiest entries I’ve ever made here. As she says in her book and we have overheard several times over the years, When a customer asks if she is Ina, her retort should tell you everything you need to know. She says: “Yes…and it’s good to be Ina!” She has never said who is asking. She has never screened a customer or anyone who wants to speak to her. Ina is always there and as she has sold the restaurant (with parking) to another famous family in Chicago; Lou Malnati’s, she answered our question as to why. She said that she didn’t want to sell her brand to come in three months later and see a dirty tablecloth or a sloppy restaurant. ”Ina” is her brand. It his hers and hers only and she was not going to trust anyone with her reputation. Way to go girl!
I think we can all learn a little from the “Breakfast Queen”. We are our own brand. We are in charge of it. Our reputation relies on our integrity and class and the girl from Bensonhurst has shown the way. Thanks, Ina. We’ll miss you but thankful for what you have given us and taught us throughout the years.