I feel safe saying that everyone reading this column has heard of Cheers. You remember—the Boston bar made famous in the sitcom by the same name. Owner and bar tender, Sam Malone, created in Cheers such an atmosphere that its regular customers would never even consider visiting another establishment.
Of course, even though the Cheers bar at the time was a real place, the show about it was not. Luckily, there is at least one real-world version of Cheers, and am I happy to be one of its regulars. I have been a customer since its opening 16 years ago.
The Main Street Café atmosphere is eerily similar to the one presented on “Cheers.” Loyal, regular customers who have choices of where to eat gather almost daily at “The Street.” Many of us have gotten to know one another with conversations facilitated by the co-owner and bartender, Dave Murrie.
It is a family business owned by the Murrie family matriarch Pauline’s children: her son and daughters, Dave and Dee and Kelly. Dave took over the bartending duty full time when his father Bruce passed away. Bruce was a neat person, and we regulars miss him greatly. The Main Street atmosphere is much like a pub, complete with a good menu of food and a nice selection of beverages.
So what is it about Main Street that engenders such loyalty and repeat business? Well the simple answer is customer service. The Murrie family and its employees make their guests feel more like family than customers. It’s the reason I choose to have lunch at The Street several times a week even though I live close enough to easily drive home, make a sandwich and return to work well within my lunch hour. It’s about the atmosphere that is created when people you know and like are around.
And there is history, too. For example, several years ago, a nasty blizzard hit Cincinnati. For those of you not familiar with Cincy, it’s topography is not ideal for driving in snow—hills, hills and more hills—which is further complicated by insufficient frequency of snow events to justify proper removal equipment.
On this particular day, we had a whopper by Cincinnati standards. Overnight, we had 5 to 6 inches on the ground and more coming down by the hour. I mentioned that I live fairly close to work. That, plus being originally from hilly West Virginia generally means I make it to the office regardless of snow. And there are usually a handful of us intrepid (or stupid) ones who can be counted on to brave the elements regardless.
By noon most retail stores were closed, and there was talk of closing the streets to traffic. There were about 15 people in the office that day, and as lunchtime approached, I put in a call to Main Street on the off chance it might be open. Pauline answered and said they were closed. Pauline lives above the shop, so she’s always there and kitchen wizard Wilma happened to be there that day, too. Pauline said come on up (our offices are only a minute away), but instructed us to use the kitchen door so the public wouldn’t think the place was open.
Pauline and Wilma welcomed us and apologized for not having soup on or their excellent chili, but said the grill was available. Our party spread out, and two of us took orders, I tended bar, a couple more helped Wilma in the kitchen, and Pauline coordinated her very
amateur and temporary staff. We had a great lunch, and when the bill came, Pauline said she couldn’t run the credit cards, so pay her later, which we did.
Beyond the food and drink that Main Street provides, its customer service is clearly what causes its regulars to hold the establishment in such high regard.
If you can build similar relationships with your customers, or make it a goal to provide this level of customer service day in and day out, then when its time to place orders, everybody is going to know your name.