Lessons From Younkers

By Wini Moranville

The Younkers building fire has caused an outpouring of memories of the grand old department store. Allow me to add one myself.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, I was lucky enough to work in the Younkers restaurants—specifically, the Tea Room and Parkade Pantry (both downtown) and the Meadowlark (at Merle Hay Mall). Back then, the Younkers restaurant had—in addition to affordable food made from scratch—a commitment to customer service and teamwork that has served me well my entire working life.

I can remember our manager, Pat Bock, telling us that there were many things she would forgive; she understood that orders got mixed up, glasses got shattered, coffee got spilled. But she would never, ever forgive us for being rude to anyone who sat at our tables.

Pat taught graciousness through acts of graciousness herself. One day, in the middle of a lunch shift, she caught me standing in the back of the kitchen shoveling one of those famous rarebit burgers into my mouth.

She said, “For heaven’s sake—sit down and eat that thing, or you’ll get sick. I’ll cover your tables for a while.” When I got back on the floor, I thanked her; she said to me, “Well, I know what it’s like to try to serve food when you’re hungry.”

One holiday season, an old cook mentioned that we should all sing Christmas carols together. Some of us younger staff may have rolled our eyes at the idea, but Pat told us, “It’s the least you can do for a cook you work with all year.” So, at the end of our shift that day, we all sat in the dining room and sang together.

In these and so many other ways, Pat motivated us to be nice to the customers, not because it was our job, but because she showed us how nice it felt when someone was nice to us.

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