Shift Drinks: Heidi Sukle

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Heidi Sukle is co-owner of birch in Providence, Rhode Island. She is pictured with a Negroni.

How did you end up with this drink? 

I picked this beverage because I think it is great. I don't know what made me started drinking Negronis, but they are super easy. Three ingredients and delicious.

And it does the trick. 

Definitely. I might make mine a little bigger than this, but…

[Everybody laughs]

But this is just fine for normal people. You know, if I had larger glassware, it would be bigger… But this is perfect.

How did you get into the hospitality industry. 

I started at a place called Eat and Park when I was 16-years-old. I started because my sister was serving at Bob's Big Boy, and she was coming home with cash. Eat and Park was kind of like a higher end Denny's. It's like the kind of place where you get your first server job if you have never served before. And I did it all the way through college and have always done it since, even though I got a teaching degree. I never got a teaching job and I just kept serving.

You do it for the money, but I don't do it for the money if that makes sense. It is what I do. I like taking care of people.

How quickly after you started working at Eat and Park did it become more about taking care of people than it was about the job itself? 

I think it has always been about that. People come to our house and I am super hospitable. I don't know why. It has just always been like that.

What is a recent experience that you have had where you felt you were taken care of with the same caliber of service you aspire to offer? 

There is a restaurant near Cambridge, Massachusetts called Hungry Mother. We are really well taken care of there and we keep going back because of that. The chef is from the South, so they named it after Hungry Mother State Park. They are just great. They do everything so well and I wanted to see how they do everything behind the scenes and so I did a stage there before we opened our place.

When people come into Birch, what do you want them to leave having experienced? 

I want everyone to feel like they are special, like they are the only people we are focusing on. It is kind of hard to do that when they are all sitting next to each other and sitting side-by-side. You probably don't get everybody, and some people probably don't even want that and we don't engage them in that way if that is not something they are looking for. But if people are in for a special occasion, they get a little sparking for a toast. Depending how they are throughout, if they are really cool I give them little stuff throughout and a drink to finish. I try to do things for them I tend to do for everybody else, but I also try to tailor things for them. Most people want to go somewhere and be recognized, and not in a pompous ass sort of way. I just want them to feel like it was a special experience where people know who they are.

So you mean recognized on a more fundamental level. 

Exactly.

What have you learned that you enjoy the most about people? 

I just like when people are really cool and happy to be there. I love that. When you do things for people and they are happy, excited and gracious, and it makes you want to do even more for people.

NOTE: This interview originally ran in April of 2014.