Alex is the General Manager of Austin Street Brewery, which has two busy locations in the foodie- and beer-haven city of Portland, Maine. A hospitality industry veteran, Alex has traveled all over New England in her career. From peeling shrimp at a summer shack to being a maître d’, she’s learned the ins and outs of the restaurant industry over the years. On her way, was introduced to supportive footwear by her mom, who recommended clogs when she complained about achy joints after a long shift. We met up with her recently to learn more about her busy days and how clogs work for her.
What’s a day in the life of a general manager of a brewery like?
My days start out early. I like to arrive when the brewers do so I can touch base on product for the week. From then on I am on my feet. It feels almost foreign to sit during my day. While I’m not full time behind the bar, I find myself gravitating towards it when I am there. I enjoy the constant movement this job allows.
What do you like best about your job?
I enjoy the education component at the brewery. Being able to share my knowledge and passion with our staff and guests is invigorating. Our owners give our management team the room to grow and thrive in our environment. They want to see us succeed as women in a male dominated field.
It feels almost foreign to sit during my day.
What do you think is an important personality trait/quality for a general manager in hospitality to have?
It’s important to have both a thick skin and an open mind. I am not always right because I am the boss. In fact, I am still learning and growing. You need to be able to be flexible: we deal with human error day in and out and being able to recognize that is key.
Why do you think clogs are popular with people in the server/bartender profession?
Within this profession you tend to beat up on the things you own. From aprons to knives to, of course, shoes. You’ll notice when you buy quality products that they last longer. A well-made clog that you can slip on eases tension in your joints and looks presentable – that can save you time and money all together.
What are the challenges on being on your feet for work all day long?
As I’ve gotten older circulation is something I’m always very conscious of. I wear athletic compression socks when I know I’ll be on my feet all day and I find between those and a good pair of shoes I hardly notice that I’ve been standing for 9+ hours.
If I’m worrying about my feet that's less time I have to focus on our guests and product.
Do your feet hurt at the end of the day?
Currently? No. I find my Sanita Vaika boots are light and forgiving, making longer shifts easier to work.
How did you train for your current job? Were you ever taught about proper attire/workwear for your chosen field?
I’ve been through your typical training, most of which consist of food handling and beverage pouring. Footwear has almost never been brought up in that kind of environment unless only to talk about non-slip soles. Trial and error early on helped me hone in the what not to do within this industry. Generally if it was cute, it was almost certain that it couldn't be maintained much more than a few hours. Now as a manager it's something I always address in a handbook. At ASB specifically we are required to be able to move 250 lbs and lift 65 lbs. The idea of dropping a keg on your toe while you’re wearing flats gives me chills. I ask the staff to wear well supporting shoes with a tough exterior.
Do you consider your own clothing/footwear a necessary tool in your profession?
Absolutely. This is a trade and proper attire is key. Generally my style is for utility. I need to look presentable but ready for whatever that shift will throw my way. If I’m worrying about my feet that's less time I have to focus on our guests and product.
How important is “fashion” for you in your profession?
I would say keeping up with fashion trends isn’t incredibly important. I do like to look like an individual and finding apparel that can be both unique and flexible is ideal. I generally will leave from work and head straight into my personal life such as dinner or meeting up with friends. I need my style to allow me to do so.
What was your first impression/feeling when you tried on your Sanitas?
Genuine delight. They were so light and comfortable, not to mention chic.
What has the experience of wearing Sanitas been like?
It's been nothing short of wonderful. They are great for what I need at the brewery. What I like most is that I am able to go from work to play much more easily. It took no time to break in which is always such a relief.
Do you consider your Sanitas only “workwear” or would you wear them in your free time?
I’ve been wearing them a lot in my free time. I think having the different style of clogs makes all the difference. The boot style has been a dream.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in hospitality as a bartender or server?
My advice would be to stay humble, even in your success. The more you recognize your ability to be open to growth, the greater success you will find. Find a mentor, ask questions, bring a notebook and write everything down.
Are you a beer connoisseur?
I think I know my way around beer. I hate the word connoisseur. It implies a specific expertise. I like to think I am well versed in flavor profiles.
For people outside of Portland, how would you describe the current brewery / food scene there?
Its current state is an adventure for both food and beer. There is something for everyone. We have food styles from all over the world and now with beer as well. While Portland can seem overwhelmed with restaurants and breweries, you’ll find they each serve their purpose and experience. It’s a traveler’s dream to visit here, that's how I fell in love with it. Just big enough to have culture but small enough to have a community.