By Ainsley Maloney
Photography by JPG Photography
Let's say you're walking down Main Street, and a young woman stops to ask you a question. "Excuse me," she says. "My husband and I just moved to Manayunk. Where would you recommend we go to eat?"
Oh boy. The pressure is on! This place will be the first impression of their brand new neighborhood! Okay. Think. You gotta take food out of the equation. (Food's too hard. Everywhere's great.) Instead, you picture the moment the couple walks in. Which place will make them feel the most at home? What servers will give them the warmest welcome? Your answer, then, comes easily. Even if it is a tie. "You can’t go wrong with Winnie's for brunch and mimosas," you say. "Then later, hit up Lucky's for some great burgers and beer."
Done and done. You've just created two Main Street regulars.
The staffs at Winnie’s LeBus and Lucky's Last Chance swept the Best Server and Best Bartender categories in this year’s Best of Manayunk competition. Both create a culture of customers and co-workers who feel like family.
"We make our customers feel like they're in our home," said Winnie Clowry, owner of Winnie’s LeBus. "We have one tagline that says, 'When a new customer walks in the door, you have one opportunity to turn them into a regular.' And that's how we work. That's what we do. We really care."
Marketing is minimal at both establishments, and that's because word of mouth keeps their places packed day in and day out. Regulars come in not only for the food, but for "their" server. Take Lisa Miller, voted Best Server, who's been with Winnie's LeBus for 15 years.
"If she goes on vacation, people ask, 'Where's Lisa?' She's awesome," Winnie said.
Lisa feels like she was meant for this job.
"I'm a natural server–both at home and at work. I like taking care of people," she said.
Lisa has been working the brunch shift every Monday through Friday to be home by 3:30 p.m. in time for her 15-year-old son, Oliver, to get home from school.
"Being a working mom, this has been great,” she said. “I have a lot of regulars, and I remember when people like special things. I go out of my way to make sure everything comes out just how every customer likes it."
Behind the bar is Winnie's kid sis, Tara Murphy, who won Honorable Mention for Best Bartender. A teacher at Archbishop Wood High School, Tara has worked nearly every Saturday and Sunday Brunch for four years (missing just three shifts ever).
"I have so many regulars, and seeing the same people come in, it's like family," Tara said. "I have the same great Saturday and Sunday crew that come in to see me. They all try to sit at the same place, in the same seats, week after week. It really has become a family thing here at Winnie's. You get to know people, the small things going on in their lives, like where they're going on vacation. It's just fun. Main Street's a great place."
You can already envision the couple's next move as they head a few blocks down to Lucky's Last Chance for dinner. And in your mind, you know the minute they walk through the door, every server and bartender will be looking in the same place. Up.
"I am anti-phone, and my staff knows it," said owner Chris Barnes. Rumor has it, the first time Chris caught a bartender texting at work was the last. The phone? Flushed down the toilet.
"I've had customers tell me at other places, ‘People ignore you when you walk in the door.’ That doesn't make any sense,” Chris said. “If you're too aloof, too cool–why? The key for us is that it's a simple process. You invite people in, say, ‘Hi,’ show them a memorable time, and say, ‘Thank you’ when they leave. That's it."
Ashley Tatam, who won Best Bartender, echoed Barnes' attitude exactly.
"I want customers to be entertained and having fun when they come here—and that goes above and beyond just having a good drink,” Ashley said. “It means not sitting on your phone, texting away, while you're right next to your friends. I'll jump in and try to involve customers in conversation—whatever it takes. Be friendly, have a good time!"
Ashley, who's been at Lucky's Last Chance since it opened, was a cocktail drinker for years before tending at one of the most popular craft beer bars on Main Street. It took one sip of a Unibroue La Fin du Monde a Abbey Tripel to turn her onto beer.
"It hooked me right away," Ashley said. "I learned everything about beer from “It hooked me right away,” Ashley said. “I learned everything about beer from managers Anthony Imperiale and Chris Pelusi. They took me under their wing. Now, I love explaining beers to customers. I went from Belgian styles to double IPAs, to now being a sour fan." (Lucky's bartenders taste 95% of the beer they serve; Beer Advocate ratings do not justify a draft space.)
"The great part about Ashley is how relatable she is to customers," Chris explained. "She can talk to someone who's getting a nicer beer for the first time. She's educated enough to know all the nuances and details, but she can still relate to people trying things for the first time."
The staff at Lucky's Last Chance are tight–—they have each others back, and they live and breathe what Lucky's is all about. Genevieve Newberry, who received Honorable Mention for Best Server, was a regular for a year before joining the staff five years ago.
"I strive to offer the best service I can—to just be friendly, natural—and I want you to have a good time,” Genevieve said. “I take pride in our food, our product and our beer."
"There has never been a day I've dreaded coming to work,” she added. “I love my coworkers, and that's what makes it worth it."
In December 2016, Lucky’s Last Chance branched out and opened a new location in Queen Village. Chris has been at that location, closing almost every night since. He can do that, he said, solely because of his team at the Manayunk spot.
"We ended up with some really great employees who really care about our customers, our business, and what we do," Chris said. "There are a ton of people on our staff who have been with us for a really long time. They are the only reason we're able to open a second location. They treat Lucky's like their own. And I'm grateful every day that we have them."
Visit the Manayunk Development Corporation Contact page for full contact information.
Office: 4312 Main Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127