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Terces EngelhartTerces Engelhart is the Co-founder of Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre. She has co-authored three books with her husband, Matthew. Terces draws from over 35 years of recovery from 20 years of addiction and her intimate relationship with Christ, which led to her healing. She recently launched her podcast called Unreasonably Grateful, sharing life lessons she learned and how those lessons can help others.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Terces Engelhart’s inspiration for Cafe Gratitude
  • The role of Sacred Commerce in Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre
  • How the pandemic affected the restaurants
  • What is Gracias Madre and how did it get started?
  • Terces’s podcast, Unreasonably Grateful

In this episode…

In this episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen speaks with Terces Engelhart, Co-founder of Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre, about the restaurants’ unique approach of gratitude and both physical and spiritual self-healing. She and her husband created Cafe Gratitude, a plant-based gathering place for people to dive deeply into their own wellness and celebrate the people around them. Gracias Madre carries this same spirit, while providing extra focus on mothers, the people to whom we owe everything. Terces also discusses her new podcast, Unreasonably Grateful, a series of short narratives on recovery and the life skills that carry us through self-improvement and healing.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:04

Welcome to the The Top Business Leaders Show. Powered by Rise25 Media, we featured top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world.

Chad Franzen 0:20

Chad Franzen here co host for this show where we feature top restaurant tours, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called spot on restaurant, where they combine marketing software and payments all in one. They serve everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and Subway to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spot This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build a great relationship with clients referral partners and thought leaders in your space there’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to or email us at Terces Engelhart and her husband are co-founders of Cafe Gratitude, which has five Southern California locations and Gracias Madre with locations in San Francisco, West Hollywood and Newport Beach. They’re also authors of Sacred Commerce, a book about their company culture. Terces, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you?

Terces Engelhart 1:24

Good. I’m great. Thank you for having me.

Chad Franzen 1:27

My pleasure. So the name of the your hospitality company that runs Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre is Love, Serve, Remember? Can you tell me what brought that name about?

Terces Engelhart 1:37

Well, okay, so first of all, our business model is a little bit different than the average restaurant, you know, we would say people are our number one product. So it’s about creating an environment for people to grow and change. And love, serve, remember, is a core motto of that, which is, you know, love everyone serve everyone. And remember, you know, remember who you are.

Chad Franzen 2:01

When you started your first restaurant? Did you have that kind of business model as a foundation for people to grow in mind? Or did you start as a as an idea for it because we wanted to have a restaurant.

Terces Engelhart 2:14

And nope, we started it that way. So when my husband and I got together 20 years ago, we said we were just going to kind of trust our what we call our intuition or internal guidance. And the first kind of guidance we got was invent a board game, which is a unique, a unique message or assignment. Neither of us even play that many board games. So we took about a year of our life. And we invented a board game called The Abounding River, which is about keeping your attention on five qualities. Creation, responsibility, self worth, love, acceptance, gratitude, generosity, and abundance. And that grew out of both of us are committed to the transformation of people, Nothing excites us more than seeing people have a new freedom or a possibility in their life in an area where they didn’t before. So, you know, when we opened to Cafe Gratitude, at the time, we were vegetarians, and then I’d read about raw food or living food diet. And I was like, Hey, let’s try this. Because I come from a background of actually food abuse, sexual abuse, eating disorders, and then recovery. And so we did, we tried it, we loved it. We liked how we felt. I was in my 50s. He was in his 40s. And so we actually started making raw food and sharing it, sharing it with friends and asking people hey, would you ever go out for this? Would you, you know, tell other people about it. So when we opened to the first cafe, the board game was on every table and it was a raw food or living foods are now what we call plant-based, you know, 20 years later, and it’s popular. We’re a plant-based restaurant. So it started that way. Originally, we used we used a funny little program before we created our own sacred commerce, we use the program called fish out of pike street fish market, they had a kind of inspirational employee program. We use that initially, but it’s always been for us about the people, changing lives kind of one person at a time. And obviously, for us serving healthy food and creating healthy environment is paramount to accomplishing that.

Chad Franzen 4:24

Is the board game still there?

Terces Engelhart 4:27

The board games, not as obvious. So we have pieces of it. We have question of the day and we do the affirmations are still on the menu. In a board game itself. I just bought one off eBay, because I gave my last one away. So I bought one on eBay for more money than they ever were sold that they’re around. But we’ve talked about bringing back just the cards but it’s an amazing game. And like I said, you can find it through like third party sellers now but now it’s no longer on the tables.

Chad Franzen 4:59

So tell me A little bit more a bit then about Cafe Gratitude. What can a customer kind of expect when they go to one of your locations?

Terces Engelhart 5:05

Well, hopefully what you expect is to be kind of surprised. You can, hopefully, you feel welcome. And like you belong and like it’s something that you’ve been missing. They’re going to ask you what you’re grateful for, or some version of that. So we do those questions for guests as a way of helping them be present, like, actually right here right now. And then in this kind of busy, hectic world, with a lot of technology, it’s easy to be distracted. So it’s a vehicle for us to be able to look you eye to eye and acknowledge you and appreciate you what you can expect is, I think, some of the best plant-based food in the world and hopefully, customer service that has you feel seen and heard and acknowledged and appreciated.

Chad Franzen 5:55

You kind of alluded to this already. But what was the inspiration for specifically the Cafe Gratitude concept?

Terces Engelhart 6:03

Well, gratitude is one of the qualities in the board game. It’s also the quality that we say, “nows your mind”, which is not actually proper English, but it brings your mind into the here. And now this present moment, which we believe is where all the goodies in life live, where love is where appreciation is where connection is. It’s all right here, now. And, you know, we know, for ourselves, and for most other people, we spend a lot of time in the future in the past and less time in the present moment. So it’s a tool, it’s a training tool for helping us be present. And gratitude is access to everything else, you know, nothing ever really changes if you’re not gratitude, grateful for the way it is. Otherwise, you’re attempting to change something, but you’re probably making what is wrong, and then you’re carrying that forward. So it’s just part of our whole training and cultural ethos, which is it all starts with a grateful heart. grateful mind. Sure, gratitude. Gratitude is connected to grace, the same word grace, gratitude, gratefulness, appreciation, they’re all connected.

Chad Franzen 7:21

Yeah, on your website, you make no bones about the fact that you’re guided by seven core values. Sacred commerce, gratitude, acceptance, abundance, freshness, regenerative, regenerative, choice, and love. Yeah. Can you maybe expand on sacred commerce for me?

Terces Engelhart 7:38

Well, sacred commerce is a book that we wrote because other businesses were asking us about our cultural model. Now, interestingly enough, I was talking to my son who works in the business, he still oversees the restaurants. And I said, you know, it’s so interesting. 20 years ago, this was so weird. And now it’s not weird at all. Just like almond milk is a commercially made product and cold processed coffee or nitro nitro brew are everyday products for people but they weren’t back then. And neither was gratitude. Neither was being grateful and focusing on who you’re being versus all that you do in life. And so yeah, we’ve just always sacred commerce was the book that we wrote to share the business model with people. And we also use it as a textbook and a model for our training. So it goes through all of the tools that we use for healthy communication for bringing out the best and other people for listening, and, you know, sharing back with people what you’ve heard, so it’s our training tools that supports the culture of the model that Cafe Gratitude is

Chad Franzen 8:53

How, how does abundance play into your core values?

Terces Engelhart 9:00

Well, okay, so abundance in our view is being grateful for what you already have, like consider. I mean, you can relate to this I don’t know if you have children or grandchildren Chad, but when you have a child or grandchild that’s grateful for what they have the experiences you want to give them more will consider it’s the same in the in the flow in the unceasing flow of the unlimited resources that exist in life is the grateful person more comes to them. And so gratitude is actually access to the flow of abundance. So they’re very connected and abundance is the ability to give and receive freely, so it’s giving freely and receiving freely. And anytime you get caught in some version of a scarcity mindset, we say give because giving is like anteeing back in to that flow. Oh, and when you’re out of the flow, you experience scarcity for not enoughness. But when you’re in the flow, the allness of life is flowing through you. And, you know, most of us have blocks to that flow. And they’re necessary, because very few of us, if any of us could actually handle the unceasing flow of everything, it would be way too much. And so we have these blocks, and they come from, you know, childhood lessons. You know, what we were raised with all of those things, and they’re keeping that flow so that you can handle or manage it, the work that we do in sacred commerce is to help you identify those blocks. So the unconscious ones can actually be removed or not. And if you remove them, what you do is you loosen that sieve, and you allow more of the unceasing flow to flow into your life. And you’ve become a person who can take responsibility for that flow.

Chad Franzen 11:05

How does choice play into your core values?

Terces Engelhart 11:09

Well, okay, so if you’re not choosing, you’re probably living as a victim, like I have to, or I should, you’ve probably got a lot of right and wrong, good and bad choices, the ability to freely choose this or that freely for no reason. So choice is huge, right? Most of us most when we teach people, whatever it is your experience, you’re the one that’s creating it. It’s upsetting. If you don’t like what you’ve created, if you like what you’ve created, you’re happy to say, oh, yeah, I created that. But if you’re not, then you don’t like that. But we’re saying whatever it is that you’re experienced, you’re the one that’s creating it. And when you can get that you get that you have choice to be able to continue to create that or not. So choice is freedom. Choices, absolutely the free to or free not to. And both are great.

Chad Franzen 12:09

You said that you guys opened Cafe gratitude, not really, you know, it was it was a restaurant, but it was a vehicle for other things. Did you have restaurant experience prior to cafe gratitude?

Terces Engelhart 12:19

I did, I had opened a Mexican restaurant in the 70s in Pennsylvania. Nothing like what opening a restaurant is today. And I’d worked in and around restaurants, mostly most of my life or in around hospitality to some degree. So yeah, I had experience. And part of that is, you know, as I shared with you, I, I had teenage sexual abuse, I was an athlete, and then I lived with an eating disorder. So restaurants are where you hang out. If you have an eating disorder, just like alcoholics hang out in bars, you know, drug addicts hang out in allies you, you when you’re living at a level of survival, you stay in the environment where you can get what you need. So a lot of my life, I’d been around food service, restaurants, hospital food service didn’t matter. So a lot of my life has been in hospitality, I now have 36 years of recovery. So Gr-, Cafe Gratitude was really my give back, it was full circle, it was like, here’s a way you can eat. And somebody can have a glass of wine and someone can have a green juice. And you can both celebrate life and love and accept one another. So it was really a part of my healing process 20 years ago, and also an offering to others, which is a part of the healing or recovery process as well.

Chad Franzen 13:41

Which one was the first location for Cafe Gratitude?

Terces Engelhart 13:44

We opened in San Francisco. So Harrison, we our first film was in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Chad Franzen 13:50

Yeah, okay.

Terces Engelhart 13:51

And you were just laughing about those days. Like, it was such a quirky concept. And we were so out there on the edge doing strange things. And that core group is still quite close. So you know, you just go through something together. Yeah.

Chad Franzen 14:07

Can you tell me a little bit about some of those early days? You know, I’m guessing it was a lot different than most, most other restaurants out there. There’s board games on every table. What were the early days, people react?

Terces Engelhart 14:19

Well, you know, the early days, we’d ring a bell and we give something away and people were playing the game and there’s a laughing square. And when somebody landed on the left things square, everybody laughed, and you’d go up to a table and people would be crying because motivated by the game. They’d be having a conversation that perhaps they’ve never had with a mother or a father. I can still remember when I went up to a table and the conversation was between the surgeon who had saved the life of the patient and they were they’re actually celebrating you know that person’s life and So you just never knew who was going to be at the table and the board game inspired, deeper conversations and most of us would think would happen in a public setting. And, you know, we had people who did massages and foot reflexology. I mean, it was quirky. And, you know, we had to explain to everyone, how do you get milk out of an almond, and you don’t ever have to do that anymore. And people, the menu was then as it is now affirmations and, you know, people were uncomfortable and resisted. So we it was a lot of teaching, you know, it was a lot of holding space for people and supporting people and you know, helping people see themselves in a better light. But to do that in a restaurant in a commercial setting. Now it was unique, was different.

Chad Franzen 15:55

Were you driven at all to make money? Or did you? Were you just confident that if you did things the way you believed in him that that would come?

Terces Engelhart 16:02

Well, I think, you know, for any business owner, you have to pay attention, if you don’t take care of the entity, the entity can’t take care of you. We were definitely less focused on it probably than you should be, or most people are. Because I think my husband and I, in a sense, were idealistic about, yeah, you take care of people, and you don’t really have to worry about the rest. And then, you know, like all businesses, I think you have to go through our all growth processes, you have to go through some version of betrayal. And, you know, we were one of the early restaurants that shared tips with the back of the house. And that’s a gray area, still kind of a gray area, it’s gone in and out of, it’s okay to do it. It’s not okay to do it. And so we ended up in a series of lawsuits, where, you know, a lawyer gets a hold of a couple of people and promises them significant amounts of money. And you know how that goes. So that’s actually what inspired the Los Angeles growth. And it inspired my husband and I moving out to the farm here in Northern California is, when that was happening, we hadn’t been responsible enough to have a savings fund to be able to defend ourselves. And so we ended up closing several restaurants laying off a lot of people selling the building that we lived in, which was our central centralized kitchen at the time, because we had seven or eight restaurants up here. And we were then had moved to a central kitchen model. So you know, you learned a lot of lessons in the process. And sometimes those hard lessons turned out to be, you know, miraculous futures for us. New partners, partners had shown up, and we ended up partnering with some people that had boots on the ground in LA and the bottom brights and us have been an extraordinary set of partners. And then as San Francisco was getting smaller and smaller, and we were getting out of the legal battles, LA was birthing. So, you know, you just never know. And it was a great lesson. And now we’re much more aware of our neat Well, we have a lawyer as part of one of our owners. So unfortunately, defending yourself is a line item for most businesses that have public interaction. Well, I’d love to think it was necessary in life wasn’t like that. I’m also not as idealistic as I once was. And so defending ourselves is a necessary part of doing business.

Chad Franzen 18:30

Sure, sure. So tell me about Gracias Madre. What can a customer expect when they go there?

Terces Engelhart 18:35

Okay, great. So Gracias Madre was born out of Cafe Gratitude. We had a few restaurants up here. And we noticed that our employees when they weren’t eating our food, they were going to a local taqueria and the mission and there was no organic taqueria. I don’t even know. I don’t even know if there still is. Anyway, it’s so we were met. My husband and I were always the interface between a lot of our employees and their families and communities in Mexico. So we were teaching sacred commerce in Mexico and we were traveling back and forth and doing a lot of work in the communities of our families that were employees here. And I was moved by the hospitality of the mothers, mothers who live without husbands, uncles, brothers sons who are working in the US and how they were willing to do everything for us when we were there even give up the family bed let us sleep in it while they sleep on the floor. And so we talked about opening an organic taqueria and I actually loved her tears and I love her to Maria’s in Mexico. It’s like my favorite thing. And I wanted to you know be making tortillas and selling them and kind of really get some of that Latino culture into, you know, the community. But what we ended up doing was Gracias Madre became a plant-based, Mexican food restaurant, and we had a wall with the pictures of the mothers, we still do. And it’s our way of acknowledging that unconditional maternal love that we see it in all cultures, but it’s particularly prevalent. It was very prevalent for us in the Latino culture. And so it was our way of saying, Thank you, thank you to the people who sacrifice so much that we here, particularly in California, but really in the United States have people who pick our food and clean our rooms and care for our kids. I mean, there’s a lot that you and I would have a difficult time living without due to the sacrifice that those women make. So what you can expect is really delicious plant based food that you suspect isn’t plant based, if it tastes, and is so delicious and fulfilling. And actually, you know, Mexican food, a lot of it is plant-based meat is expensive. And in the early days, the you know, Mexican diet was a lot of vegetables, and corn and corn and beans and squash. And so it’s very authentic. And we use recipes from some of the mothers still. And we also have an executive chef who helps a lot with recipes. Now we have a cookbook coming out this year. So hopefully what you experience is again, feeling seen and heard and accepted and that you belong. And all of these things are much more difficult to accomplish in this COVID environment that we’re all living in right now. And have a delicious meal that you but you don’t feel overfull, you don’t you know how you eat food sometimes and you’re like, oh, I shouldn’t have taken that last bite. You want to have that experience? Because it’s all organic. It’s all farm fresh. And yeah, it’s really delicious.

Chad Franzen 22:02

You also serve a diffuser free Agave spirits. Can you kind of explain those to me and what sets those apart? The other ones?

Terces Engelhart 22:10

Well, I’m not a specialist in the beverage thing. But we do a we do tequila and mezcal. And we don’t. So we don’t serve a full hard liquor bar. But we do serve tequila and mezcal, because there’s such a vital part of kind of the whole Latino Food/Beverage experience. And we use agave as our our sweetener. And also, the agave plant is infused in a lot of those cocktails. So I’m not the person to ask about the specifics of the bar, but we have some amazing mixologist who create some phenomenal drinks. And again, they’re actually good for you, you know, now, you know, okay, great. So people argue, but they’re actually in the realm of having a cocktail. There’s some of the best cocktails you could have, because they’re all fresh juices, non processed sweeteners, no artificial colors. They’re all really beautiful, natural, plant based beverages.

Chad Franzen 23:16

How has COVID impacted or changed maybe the operations of Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre?

Terces Engelhart 23:23

Oh, it’s changed a lot. And I think I have a good friend who’s the CEO of Lettuce Entertain You, which is a large restaurant company out of Chicago, and he says hospitality was ground zero for COVID. Because it you know, the whole notion of people gathering close together, celebrating life, having fun. You know, that whole notion got kind of blown up with this, the fear of you have to wear masks and social distance and only do take out and only do pick up. And so it’s massive, it’s impacted us, we’ve layed off 700 people hired back what we could laid off again, hired back what we could, we went to mostly terminal ordering. So we decreased a lot of our face to face interactions. Because people were afraid didn’t want that. And now we’re in the process of actually bringing that back because people are kind of over that and ready to have more human contact. And I think so we’re in the process of that. But I’d say for me personally, it took a lot of fun out of it for a long time because the part of it that we love the most is the people business. And that was tough because our people suffered a lot. The people we serve suffered a lot. And I’d say it’s just beginning now to kind of rebuild itself and we’re we’re are hopeful and optimistic that the human spirit will always move towards gathering and celebrating and embracing one another. And that that will that will come back. So, yeah, it was, it’s been a tough couple of years.

Chad Franzen 25:16

We talked a little bit about your book, Sacred Commerce and you said you were down in Mexico teaching Sacred Commerce. What are some concepts maybe that we haven’t discussed? The people might learn from that book if they were to read it?

Terces Engelhart 25:29

Okay, so I would say I’ll just share with you some of the top three. Okay, so, apology is a great tool. And that’s recognizing that mostly in our culture, we think of apology as an assignment of blame. Okay, okay, you’re right, I’m wrong, I’m sorry. But apology for us is actually taking responsibility for my impact. So recognizing that in all relationships, I have an impact. And whatever I did, or said or didn’t do or didn’t say, impacted someone, and if it impacted somebody in a harmful or hurtful way, I can apologize, I can say, well, Chad, I apologize, that wasn’t my intention. And I apologize that I impacted you in that way. So apology is powerful. This is how we these are the tools that we teach people to utilize to resolve any kind of conflict. So you know what it feels like when there’s some distance between you and someone you care for. So it’s a great set of tools. So apology, and that’s a version of taking responsibility. And then making requests. And the way that we teach making requests is let the person know you’re going to make a request, hey, Chad, I have a request of you. And even set them up by saying, listen, of course, I want you to say yes, but I’ll be okay. If you say no, or maybe you even have a better idea. And then I make the request of you. And that kind of frees you up to be able to say yes, no, or a counteroffer. And the reason that’s so important is that what we’ve discovered is, most people don’t make requests, and they live in some kind of subtle form of expectation, hoping something will happen, and then maybe pleased if it does, but disappointed if it doesn’t. And kind of takes the power out of a situation where we train people make requests all the time, and be okay with whatever response you get, and stop trying to avoid getting no, by not making the requests at all. And we say the most powerful people in the world are the ones that aren’t afraid to make requests, because they’re not afraid to hear no, they just use it as it’s a guy to Okay, whatever’s next or come back later, make the request again. And we all know that sometimes timing is everything. So apology, making requests, and then acknowledgement. So this tool can be used independently of itself, anytime, anywhere, and it’s probably one of the most powerful, because what the tool of acknowledgement does is it brings out the best in the other person. So for example, chat, I could acknowledge you for being kind. Now the truth is, I only saw your face for the first time when we logged on. I’ve never met you. But I believe that these qualities kindness, generosity, love acceptance, you know, are we all have them, and whether they’re developed and expressed or not. And oftentimes, what determines how developed and expressed they are is how often they’ve been acknowledged. Just like, you know, when we went to grade school, when grade school used to be a thing, when we went to grade school, and people called took roll call, and they called your name you said here, you raised your hand and said, Here I am. Those qualities do exactly the same thing. When I say you’re kind or you’re thoughtful, those qualities in you perk up, and they’re like, Yeah, I’m here. And it may not have ever been acknowledged or ever been expressed. But the more you acknowledge it, the more it expresses. So you can actually determine the people that you live work around by how you acknowledge them, and how you develop those qualities. And, you know, fortunately or unfortunately, we live in a world where mostly what gets acknowledged is what we do rather than who we are. And we say, it’s who we are, that actually accomplishes and determines what we do. So if we spent more time on developing the beam, the doing they’ll take care of itself. So we’re big on acknowledgment, acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge nobody ever died from too much acknowledgement. And plenty of people have suffered from too much criticism. So ramp up the acknowledgement. So those three tools for example, if we have people that are in conflict, we say Sit down.

If your mouth is moving, you’re either apologizing, making a request or acknowledging and that’s it. No story. No, he said she said they did this and it in a very short period of time people are usually restored to a workable compassionate relationship.

Chad Franzen 30:42

Okay, those are those are great thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing those with me. I have one more question for you. But first, tell me how people can find more information about how to get your book and about Gracias Madre and cafe gratitude.

Terces Engelhart 30:56

Well, cafe Is that website Gracias Madre. There’s one in San Francisco. And there’s one in Los Angeles. So they have different websites. San Francisco is the original ones. Los Angeles is that more modern bigger beautified? Why? So Gracias Madre gracias stache. madres San Francisco Pierre Gracias Madre, we whoa is the West Hollywood version. And our books available on Amazon. And we also live on Biela farm. And we host our workshops up here now we used to do all of our corporate trainings here. So we live on Biela farm. So you feel have farmed out calm. And we still do our workshops and our trainings and all here. And we have a hospitality center here as well. So yeah, those are the best ways to reach us. And yeah,

Chad Franzen 31:50

great, great. My final question for you, your, your sound equipment and your recording equipment is a little bit more advanced than most of the people I have interviewed on this podcast. I know you posted or you do host the Unreasonably Grateful podcast. Can you tell me what why you started that and a little bit about it and your goal for it? Sure.

Terces Engelhart 32:11

Sure. Well, I, I started Unreasonably Grateful early COVID, when there was just so much disconnection between people. It’s when we opened up the farm and created a lot more hospitality here. And it’s a short, you know, five 710 minute narrative, sharing the tools of both how I recovered and also just life skills, skills from Sacred commerce and kindred spirit, the work that we do, and it’s just something that I felt like I could kind of drop into the ethers and people would be able to grasp a hold of something that would inspire, encourage, motivate them, help them make a little more sense out of their day to day living. And I’m in my 70s now, so it’s kind of again, it’s another version of my give back to. Yeah, lessons from life and, yeah, things that may be helpful for people.

Chad Franzen 33:06

Okay. Hey, Terces, It’s been fantastic to be able to speak with you. I thank you so much for your time today.

Terces Engelhart 33:13

You’re welcome, Chad. Thanks for the invitation.

Chad Franzen 33:15

So long, everybody.

Outro 33:16

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