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Feature Story

Restaurant Family/ Peterson

On a busy Saturday morning, customers wait in a restaurant doorway for an open table. A busser in a green t-shirt and brown ponytail rushes to clear dirty dishes and wipe tables clean. Waitresses nearly collide with each other and customers in their hurry to bring steaming plates of eggs and pancakes. The sound of laughter mixes with the clank of the dishes being washed in the back.
"Mom, table 33 is clean and ready," said the young busser. "Do you want me to menu them for you?"
The older waitress with a matching ponytail smiles gratefully and nods, then rushes back to the kitchen for another order.
Sheri Fisher, age 17, works nearly every Saturday morning with her mother Diane. She also shares this shift with her brother, Mark, who works in the dish room, and her grandmother Joann Kent who is also a waitress.
Because of the limited availability of jobs in their small town, it's not uncommon that they choose to work in this friendly, busy restaurant.
"They're all good workers," said Sean Steiben. "We'd hire more of 'em if there were any!"
Diane's husband commutes to work every morning and Joann's husband has retired several years earlier. Joann says that she can't stand to sit at home and loves chatting with her neighbors who she sees often at work.
"I've been working here for over 30 years," said Joann later on. "I taught my daughter everything she knows about waiting tables."
She enjoys a cigarette and flips through an old magazine at the scarred break table at the back of the restaurant. She is wearing black sneakers and complains about her aching feet.
Back in the restaurant, the breakfast rush has died down. Diane and Sheri are at work, carrying dishes, restocking napkins and re-arranging tables in preparation for the lunch crowd. Diane smooths a few dollar bills before putting them into her black apron.
She chose to come back to work five years ago after being a homemaker. Just like Sheri, she started her career here cleaning tables.
"I like the money," Diane says. "The hours aren't the greatest, but we're going to need the extra cash to help with college."
Just like the other waitresses, Diane has to share a portion of her daily tips with the bussers.
"My mom tips me fairly just like everyone else," said Sheri. She hopes to save this money to put towards college at the U of M next year. She's interested in possibly becoming a grade-school teacher.
In the back parking lot, two young teenage boys wait for their afternoon shift to start. As Joann exits the backdoor, carrying her purse and waitressing apron, she spots them and stops by for a quick chat.
"Hi Grandma, did your shift go well?" said Mark. She pressed a handful of dollars into his hand and told him to "spend it wisely."
"My Grandma is so cool to work with," he said after she left. "She always brings me money or candy."
Mark just started at the restaurant as a dishwasher this past year, and hopes to work his way up to fry cook by next year.
"The brother and sister don't get along so well some days," said Darlene Hart, a fellow coworker, with a laugh. "But other than that, they're all a fun bunch to work with."

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