Sue Brauch entered the workforce 60 years ago, at 15, behind the counter of a Kress store soda fountain. At 76, she’s retiring this week after more than half a century tending bar.
“Customers come in and call me Mom,” Brauch said Monday while chatting at Patty’s Eggnest, the longtime Chuckwagon Inn, on Evergreen Way in Everett. A bartender there for 13 years, she’ll work her final shift Saturday night.
It wasn’t long after that first restaurant gig, at the Kress five-and-dime in Seattle’s Ballard area, that Brauch was serving drinks, first as a cocktail waitress in 3-inch heels, later tending bar. In an early snapshot from The Flame in Kirkland, she’s behind the bar looking like a dishy actress in a 1960s Elvis movie.
There was no bartender school for Brauch, whose father once ran the Vasa Sea Grill and Patio Room in Ballard.
”I learned on the job,” she said. Along with The Flame, she recalled working at Franco’s Hidden Harbor in Seattle, the Lion’s Paw in Redmond, Lake City Elks Lodge, Hong’s in Lynnwood, and Neal’s Nightcap and King’s III Chinese Restaurant &Lounge in Mountlake Terrace.
“I’ve done other things, but I keep going back to bartending,” said Brauch, who once did secretarial work for King County’s juvenile court. With bartending, she said, “you have to be a people person. And it’s amazing what they tell you.”
Insisting she doesn’t give her customers advice, Brauch said she learned long ago that “they don’t want to hear my story.” A widow who lives with her daughter in Everett, she’s a mother of three, with grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She may not counsel people at the bar, but Patty’s Eggnest manager Pam Gahan has heard Brauch tell down-on-their-luck customers that it’s all going to be OK.
“She’s a doll. She’s everybody’s mom. Bartenders are psychologists, and she’s a good bartender,” said Dwight Jeffries, 59, a loyal customer from Mukilteo. “We’re such a good family here. If somebody gets sick, we lift them up in prayer.”
Tuesdays are bingo nights at the restaurant, where Tricia Flood is taking over Brauch’s bartending job.
A portion of bingo proceeds are donated to local nonprofits. Gahan said recipients have included Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, Dawson Place Child Advocacy Center, and Little Red School House, now ChildStrive.
Customers become friends. Brauch said more than one couple married after meeting at the lounge. It’s not exactly a “Cheers” sitcom scene, but the bartender has seen familiar characters. There are the lonely divorced men, and women looking for husbands — “lots of those,” Brauch said.
She has stories she’ll share and tales she won’t tell. At Franco’s Hidden Harbor, Brauch was once serving a big tray of drinks to a group she at first thought might be linked to organized crime. “They were from the TV show ‘The Untouchables.’ They were partying there,” she said.
The job can be tricky, especially when customers shouldn’t have more to drink.
“I’ll say, ‘Thank you, come back when you’re sober.’ You give them coffee or water. You don’t embarrass them,” said Brauch, who has asked customers to call or text to let her know they’re safely home.
Knowing her regulars’ favorite beverages is a must. “I couldn’t tell you all their names, but I know what they drink,” she said.
Years ago, the place that was once Filibeck’s Chuckwagon Inn served pitchers of martinis at lunchtime, Gahan said. “Business deals were done in the bar,” Brauch recalled.
Those days are gone. Today, some customers have elaborate tastes in cocktails.
On Seahawks Sundays, the bar serves Touchdowns, made with Red Bull and Absolut Vodka. Shots of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky are popular.
And Brauch makes a concoction called a Duck Fart, a layered drink of Kahlua, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Crown Royal Canadian whisky.
Brauch’s favorite cocktail to make is a Lemon Drop, with vodka, triple sec, lemon juice and a sugar-rimmed glass. To drink, though, “I’m old-fashioned — Scotch and water,” she said.
She’s not sure how she’ll fill all her retirement hours, but Brauch will spend time with old friends.
“I have lots of emotions,” she said. “I will come back to play bingo.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue Brauch’s final shift at Patty’s Eggnest, the longtime Chuckwagon Inn, is Saturday night. A farewell party and potluck is scheduled for the evening of July 1 at the restaurant, 6720 Evergreen Way, Everett.