Still going strong: Montrose waitress slings coffee and good cheer for 44 years
Wanda Bergstrom, with a pot of coffee that she says is an extension of her arm, at City Hall Coffee Shop in Montrose where Bergstrom has worked for more than four decades, pictured on Monday, January 6, 2014. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / January 6, 2014)
Quick to laugh and radiating with energy at 74, traces of Bergstrom’s mark can be seen in all corners of the shop, from the sports and college banners lining the walls — a tradition she started nearly four decades ago with the Dodgers — to the loyal customers who arrive in the early morning hours.
Peter Hultine, who has had breakfast at the shop every day for the past 12 years, says Bergstrom keeps him coming back.
“It’s like having a second mom,” he said. “She’s just a really fantastic person … she always has a kind thing to say [and] radiates positive feelings.”
Bergstrom said her relationship with them brings her back to the shop year after year.
Even while vacationing, Bergstrom feels the pull of her job. While in Sweden one year, a postcard from her customers made her cry at the front desk of her hotel.
Though she thinks about retiring due to pressure from her family and the “aches and pains of an old [person],” she says waking up every weekday to get to the shop is better for her health-wise because it keeps her going.
After taking six months off to receive treatment for breast cancer about 10 years ago, Bergstrom returned to work at her “second home,” eager to resume her duties.
“I came back to work without any hair on my head and my customers still loved me,” she said. “We’ve gone through so much together.”
Her history with the shop stems from her mother Eleanor, who worked as a waitress at the cafe years before her. Though she tried a stint as a secretary after high school, she said she prefers one-on-one interaction with people.
“I just hated it, sitting behind a desk with nobody to talk to,” she said. “I love people and I love to chat with them.”
Not one to sit idle for too long, Bergstrom frequently refills coffee mugs and takes orders she has all but memorized, reminiscing with customers over their various shared memories.
Having started a football pool with her regulars, Bergstrom once had “a guy in a suit,” claiming to work for an undisclosed agency, tell her that gambling was illegal. True to her cheerful but diner-sassy disposition, Bergstrom told him he had no jurisdiction at the shop. That was the last she ever saw of him.
She said she genuinely enjoys making customers happy and relishes in the challenge of cheering up the disagreeable ones before they leave.
“You can’t always [make them happy], but for the most part, I do,” she said.
Agnessa Kasumyan is a freelance writer.
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