January 9, 2009
Waitress finds second home at Community Restaurant
The following is the first in a Day in a Life series that will run two Fridays a month, taking a look at the lives of residents in a variety of jobs.
By KATIE HALL
Living and Leisure Editor
Patricia “Pat” Haynes has waitressed for over 33 years, but she doesn’t consider herself a head honcho among the girls at the Community Restaurant.
“We’re all equal. We all pull our weight, every girl here. There’s only one boss, Evan,” she said of Evan Souzas, who has owned the business, since 2000, after his uncle Tony and father, Bill, retired and moved back to Greece.
Haynes, who has waitressed at The Community Restaurant since 1975, finds job security at the 10 Main St. establishment, known for its American, Italian and Greek food.
“It’s something that I know and enjoy. It keeps me going. If I don’t waitress, what would I be doing at home? My kids are all gone. I feel needed when I waitress. My kids don’t need me but I am needed here, so it makes me feel good.
“It’s almost like a second home. I love the people that work here.They are all a great bunch of girls ... Evan is great as a boss, and Greg, the manager, and all the cooks, have been great through the years.”
Haynes has left the job at a couple of points, waitressing elsewhere, but always comes back.
“When I came to Cortland I got a job at The Shamrock,” she said. “I waitressed then, I worked for Bobby Biviano.” That was in 1969. The restaurant was located on Main Street, across from the old movie theater.
“It was a gorgeous restaurant. There were four rooms: the Starlight Room, the Leprechaun, the Ruby and Emerald.” Fine food was served there.
“A lot of our food came out flaming. The steaks and seafood were great,” she said.
Even before that, Haynes had waitressed in New Orleans and in California. At The Shamrock, Biviano told her: “You know Pat, this isn’t like any other restaurant. Every one of my customers feels like they own a piece of the restaurant. It’s such a small town. You really have to make them feel like home.”
That’s a lesson she’s kept with her.
“The Community — we have so many customers that have been coming here for years and years and years. We know most of them by first name.”
The restaurant was originally called El Dorado. The name was changed to the Community Grill in 1930 when Cy Costes and Anthony Nicholson took ownership. Tony Souzas became the owner in 1963 and changed the name to The Community Restaurant. Tony and his brother Bill, continued the tradition until 2000. Evan Souzas then took over when the pair retired.
Haynes was working at The Shamrock until it was sold in 1973, and Biviano moved to Albany.
“I met Tony Souzas at The Shamrock. He said, when you need a job, you come see me.”
So after The Shamrock closed, Haynes appeared at Souzas’ restaurant. “OK Tony, I’m here.”
Besides waitressing, she tends bar, works the cashier and acts as hostess seating people and assigning waitresses to certain tables. The Community has recently renovated a dining room where the waitresses are assigned tables as parties come in, and the original room, where waitresses have set tables they oversee.
Haynes generally works five to six days a week and considers herself full time if she puts in 30 to 32 hours a week.
Waitresses as a rule don’t work eight hours days, five days a week. “You just don’t. “
“(If) I come in at 7 a.m. I am done between 2 to 2:30 p.m. That’s one of my longer days. Now say I work Friday night. I come in at 4 o’clock and work to 10 p.m. That’s a shorter shift but that’s just doing the dinner. Then there’s lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“The advantage of working breakfast and lunch, you are home early and have the rest of the day to enjoy. The night, you have shorter shift. You get to sleep later. I like them both. It doesn’t really matter.
“I think you need to be outgoing,” she said. “My daughter was always shy growing up,” she said. “On the side, I used to sell lingerie, this was in the ’80s.”
Haynes would be talking to a room full of women with ease.
“My daughter said, ‘You know mom, I couldn’t do what you do.”
“What?” “Get up and speak.”
Haynes got her a job at the Community eight years ago.
“She’s outgoing. It really helped. That’s the personality you have to have.”
She likes to tend bar. “It’s fun.”
She enjoys it when the customer says, “Say, Pat, will you make my drink?’
“It’s a compliment.”
One of the tough parts of the job is cranky people.
“We are not perfect. It’s really, really difficult at times.”
And even when a waitress does everything in her power to please a customer, it still may not be enough. “You can’t make someone happy. you bite your tongue.”
Yet all the waitresses have customers who are their favorites and who want just them. “It’s different personalities,” she said.
“People don’t know how hard a job waitressing is,” she said.
“A waitress doesn’t get paid minimum wage,” she said. Their rate is below minimum wage and they rely on tips for their income. “We don’t get benefits. We have to work Christmas Eve, New Years, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Easter. Do customers that come in the restaurant really appreciate you because you are here that day? Not one waitress I know would say, ‘I love to work Mother’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s. But, it’s part of the job.”
The waitresses and the boss divvy up the workload for those holidays, so the person who may hate to work Christmas Eve will have that day off, but will work Christmas Day, which is more acceptable to her. Haynes is fortunate that her boss is flexible and works with his staff.
She also considers herself lucky, because her husband works for the State of New York.
“We have insurance. We have retirement. I do have Social Security.”’
Married to Michael, they have three grown children: John, JoAnn and Don, and four grandsons ages 16, 12, 10 and 4.
“The Community, it’s been here since 1930. What makes it successful? ... You can rely on good food here.”
Plus, people get quality at a reasonable price.
Haynes can’t choose which is the hottest item in the restaurant.
“Most of the dishes I would say are favorites ... the turkey’s the real thing, roasted in the oven, turkey sandwich, the same thing. The roast pork, the Greek food, the steaks, Del Monicos are so beautiful ...”
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