Bernie Brown is a true gentleman in the restaurant business. He has always made his guests feel very special and comfortable.
He’s now the food & beverage manager at Ripon’s Spring Creek Country Club after years at two popular Modesto eateries.
For the many years my bride Mary Lou and I have known Bernie he has never forgotten our wine orders. He also asks if we are going to have the usual – remembering our entrees exactly as we liked them on a previous visit.
Bernie has always stood tall in my eyes.
That’s even more the case after a recent chat. I asked about his high school years and whether he had gone out for football or basketball.
No sports for me, he said, because he was looking for money at 14. It was just him, a younger sister and his mother.
“Sports didn’t pay the bills,” he said. “If you want something you have to work for it.”
And work he did to earn money to help support the three of them. He had five older brothers and three sisters. Probably his proudest moment came when he turned 19. He had secreted enough cash on the side to buy his mother a car after graduating in the first senior class at Johansen High School in 1999.
“I’ve been taught by two of the best in the restaurant business – Dan Costa and Mike Nelson, in that order,” he quipped. Chuckling, but in a serious tone, he added, “I guess I have a PhD in the School of Costa and Nelson.”
Dan Costa operated Mallards Restaurant where Bernie first worked as a dishwasher and later as a server when he turned 18. Nelson owned and operated Mike’s Road House on Dale Road where Bernie wowed the customers as a manager for many years.
After he was hired away from Mallards, he continued to work at both restaurants for about three months, he recalled. Bernie said of Dan Costa that even today he always has time to answer his phone when he calls.
“I learned from Dan to never say anything bad about anyone,” he said. “That, too, has paid off.” He watched Dan and Mike closely in their restaurants, paying attention how they talked to people. It has been easy to see that Bernie has never met a stranger – everybody’s a friend.
With the closure of Mike’s Roadhouse in December of 2012, Bernie was challenged in finding another position. He went to work as the manager of the Prime Shine Car Wash in Modesto until he was hired on a Spring Creek the last week of July and later offered the Food and Beverage position on Nov. 11.
In his off hours he spends time with his wife Holly, a CHP dispatcher, and their four-year-old daughter. Bernie is also restoring and rebuilding a 1994 Ford Mustang.
His philosophy in treating his customers: “Treat my customers the way I want to be treated – even better. You should get the same service in the restaurant as you do in my house.”
Now on his free time on Sundays he is taking up the game of golf at Spring Creek. He does his chores first and he’s on the green by 3 p.m.