I’ll never forget the smell of disappointment and buttered popcorn that day. I was 17 years old and I had enjoyed working in our town’s local movie theater for just over a year. We were in the peak of an indie movie boom with classics like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memento making their way into the mainstream.
In between slinging Junior Mints to our guests, my coworker, Trevor, and I always had a blast feeding off each other’s energy and being creative together. Some days, we’d solve for problems like the time we fashioned a noise dampening device for the famously loud soda machine. Other days, we’d focus on inventive marketing. For example, we’d write offers on dollar bills asking people to call to redeem and then distribute them through change - we heard back from someone all the way in Oregon once.
In perhaps our most ambitious marketing effort to date, we decided that we’d host a Hawaiian Theme Night on a Tuesday and invite our friends to come to enjoy the good vibes before a showing. We planned and promoted - hanging decorations, prepping island music, and ensuring there were enough coconuts from which to drink crisp Sprite. Even before social media, the night was a success with a significant bump in attendance from our friends who came to enjoy the festivities.
But the rush of marketing excitement was short-lived. I knew something wasn’t right when I got a call from the famously temperamental, but extremely distant theater owner the next day. He typically didn’t bother to check-in and barely knew my name, but for some reason, this stunt caught his ire. His simple words - “Doug, you don’t work here anymore” - still resonate with me. Without digging into why we did it or giving me any benefit of the doubt, my fate in the theater had been decided. I suppose in his perception, a couple of teenagers breaking from the script and filling his lobby with other teenagers was a fireable offense. No discussion, no second chances. Trevor suffered the same fate just a few hours later.
As a young teenager who happened to enjoy his job, the sting was brutal at first. I was ashamed and confused as I thought my heart was in the right place. But maybe I was wrong?
Fast forward to a few years later, after college I moved back to Boston and I joined on as a bartender at Kings to pay the bills for my graduate schooling. It was here that I met Josh Rossmeisl
, my general manager at the time. EVERYTHING. CHANGED.
After “the movie theater incident”, my instinct was now to suppress crazy ideas. After all, if you touch a hot stove and get burned, you’re not apt to do it again. But Josh was a different kind of manager. He was involved. He was encouraging. We would feed off each other’s energy, hit “the lab” and create inventive drinks together. We collaborated to produce our own theme nights that would excite our guests and team. He trusted me, gave me the leeway to be creative and actually encouraged me to “break the rules, just not the law”.
That trust led to consistent professional growth and over the course of 14 years the company grew to 11 locations in 5 states. By the end of my time at Kings, I was heading up sales and marketing for a company that hosted an average of 50 events a day company-wide including hundreds of theme parties, huge celebrity fundraisers and welcomed over a million guests through our doors every single year.
The spirit of creative collaboration fuels my fire to this day. Some of the biggest wins in my career have come from group sessions where we question norms and allow ourselves to think “what if”? As we embark on the launch of a concept - Kenekt
- which is built on innovation and straying from norms, I can’t help but look back and contrast to formative experience at that theater.
“It’s okay to break the rules, just not the law”
AMP Up1 Culture Values