By Sue Johnson
I worked at Bowl Land in Granite City, Illinois, for 36 years. When my daughter, Terri Bast, bought the bar down the road from Bowl Land I pitched in to help. The two of us worked hard to make it successful along with more help from my other daughter and Terri’s sister, Dawn Mushill. I still love working with my family as much as the day I started over 17 years ago.
I love working at the bar not only because I get to work with my family, but because of our customers. We have wonderful customers. It was definitely family that made this bar successful—and we consider everyone who comes in here to be family and we look out for them like family. If I can help someone who comes in here and is down and can pick them up and make them pull their shoulders back when they walk out that door, then I have accomplished my main objective in doing this business. I don’t do this job just for the money. If I have enough to pay my bills and golf then I’m a happy camper. I want our customers to leave their troubles on the other side of the door and come in here to just relax.
When people come in and start to rant and rave about their job, I ask “When you were at work, what did you think about?” They answer, “Coming down to Sue’s Corner and having a drink.” So I say, “Well, you’re here, what are you doing talking about your work?” They usually laugh and agree that leaving their troubles at the door is a good option. My daughter Terri is the same way. Some customers come in just to talk to one of us because they know we truly care about them. Just the other day someone told me, “I just love talking to Terri, she is so compassionate.” That made me so proud. My parents were the same way and that is where I learned how to treat people with kindness and respect.
I grew up in Tamaroa, IL. My dad, Dwight Cook, was a mechanic and he owned his own business so he did not have a job that got paid every week. Still, if somebody came through town and had car trouble and didn’t have any money, my dad would fix their car if he could. If somebody broke down in the middle of the night, they would stay the night in our house—there was no hotel or motel in those days—and dad would fix their car in the morning. Even if they didn’t have the money. That’s the kind of people my parents were. They would tell people they helped to “pay it back” to someone else because even though you may not be able to help the person who helped you, you can help the next person you are able to help. And that’s how I raised my daughters—and my granddaughter who is 20 years old is the same way. She has the same caring heart for people that my parents had.
My mom, Wanda Cook, helped everyone she could. Everyone knew that she would go out of her way to help another person. And it’s not like we had a lot of money, we didn’t, but we had the love, we had the family, we ate together at 5 o’clock every night. We kids had to be home, hands washed and sitting at the table, by 5 o’clock. That was family time and we talked about our day. I feel like a lot of our families have lost that not because we wanted too, but because we have so many demands on our time now. It’s just the way society seems to be.
Eleven years ago, Terri said, “Let’s do something for kids at Christmas” at the bar. I had the idea to ask for pennies, so I got a jar with a sign reading “Pennies for the Kids.” People not only gave us pennies, they gave nickels, dimes, and quarters and we raised $300.00 our first year. We did it again the next year and raised $700.00. Nine years later, last year, we raised $6,200.00 for the kids in our community. As of now, this little bar and its customers have raised over $40,000 in the past 11 years for the kids in Granite City, IL.
One of the rules we have at the bar is that everyone says goodbye when they leave. We are all friends and family here at Sue’s Corner and you wouldn’t go to a friend or family member’s house and leave and not say goodbye would you? So we always say goodbye when we leave because that’s the kind of bar we are. That doesn’t cost anything. You don’t need a lot of money to have a great life.
CLICK HERE TO SEE “SUE’S CORNER” ON VIDEO! Thank you Angela Ridenour for producing this story!