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Lunch Dates: Catching Up With Our Columnist Klecko

Usually when I haven’t seen our colorful columnist Klecko for a while, our first order of conversation is to catalog his latest tattoos. But this time it was his footwear that caught my attention.

Instead of his usual black combat boots laced haphazardly below baggy shorts, he was wearing black anklets and Dansko clogs, the traditional footwear of chefs, not bakers.

“I know, I know,” the fashion-forward baker exclaimed, explaining that his aching back was responsible for him choosing comfort over rocking his punk style.

This didn’t change my opinion of my boxing, poetry-slamming, book-reading friend.  I once had a comfortable pair of red Dansko clogs that I swore by even though as a desk jockey, I sat much more than I stood. Too bad Dansko doesn’t make work pants.  

Once the shoe business was taken care of, we were on to the back stories of his latest tattoos (none this time on his back). There’s one for his granddaughter; a tribute to his poetry partner, Mike Finley, and one of his heroes, writer Jack Kerouac; and on his upper chest, he now sports a large bison facing off with a goat with a funky horn. While most people pine for the mountains or ocean, “It’s all about the prairie for me,” he says. “I like to see things coming at me.”

Since bison are more about prairies than goats, he added that he identified with goats because they “like rules, but on their own terms.”

He’s gone from dogs to goats in the years that I’ve known him. The first time I interviewed Klecko, he compared himself to a Jack Russell terrier, a breed that can never get enough attention.

For our catch-up lunch in May, I met him at his workplace, where I also caught up with my former colleague, Mike Mitchelson, who’s now runs Saint Agnes Baking Co’s operations and marketing.  Because he likes to patronize customers’ businesses, Klecko then took me to two of his regular haunts. Like the Jack Russell he is, he likes to be greeted by the owners, managers and servers.

Lunch was at Brunson’s Pub. I had the Hoppin John Salad, a warm surprise, but a pleasant one (yes, the menu did give me a hint by saying it was served warm). I have to admit, it is nice to have friendly faces stop by your table to say hello.

As we strolled back to the car, we stopped at Caydence Records & Coffee, where one of the owners showed us the backroom that is being used as both an art gallery for local artists and a performance space. While we were waiting for our drinks, Klecko struck up a conversation with a young woman who was delivering a cake to the shop in an effort to drum up business for her fledgling pastry business.

As we returned to the car, Klecko said he was going to give me a marketing lesson. “What did that woman do wrong?” he asked me. “Well, if they weren’t into peanut butter/chocolate cake, they wouldn’t be impressed,” I suggested.

You should always bring samples of several different styles, he pointed out. While a pretty cake is alluring, a better sales tactic is to show your versatility.

I always learn something at lunch. We talked books (he’s into Scandinavian writers), life, food, politics, religion and baseball. He’s just about to finish his 25th year coaching baseball. “Teach a kid to hit a fast ball and he’ll change the world. That’s where confidence comes from,” he told me.

Klecko may be running out of real estate for tattoos, but he will never run out of back stories

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