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Mel the bartender

February 22, 2015

by Hanna Teal

A big draw to Junior’s on Madison Avenue is Mel Thyrring. She is one of the restaurant’s day shift bartenders, and has worked for the restaurant for more than 10 years. Along with her drink-making duties, Thyrring plays therapist, counselor, recreation director and on the rare and eventful occasion, referee.

Mel Thyrring, bartender at Junior’s/Hanna Teal

Mel Thyrring, bartender at Junior’s/Hanna Teal

“I wear many hats, which is one of my favorite things about the job,” said Thyrring. “It keeps me on my toes.”

After separating from her husband, who she shares three children with, she took on a part-time bartending job at Pixie’s, a road house bar she describes as a “scary” place, in order to supplement her income as an early childcare provider. While working there she met, Sabrina Viglucci, the wife of Junior’s co-owner Brian Viglucci.

Thyrring loves her job at Junior’s. Once upon a time she had been considered to be a part of the management team as a day manager, a position she enjoyed. After a recent restaurant renovation, her schedule change – now she works Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 6 midnight.

“The clients are the best thing about this job,” said Thyrring, who has many regulars who come in just to see her.

One customer, who works just around the corner, Jim Kempf, has been coming to Junior’s for lunch for five years, mainly to talk to Thyrring.

“In all honesty, Mel is just a great bartender, she is down to earth, really funny, and she tells it like it is, who wouldn’t want to come in to see her?” said Kempf. “We have a lot in common, we both ride Harleys and we always wind up having the same problems with our pools each year.”

Similar sentiments come from her co-worker, Jennifer Riccardi, a waitress at Junior’s who believes Thyrring’s appeal is her loving, mother like friendliness.

Bartender, Mel Thyrring, pours a drink for a customer/Hanna Teal

Bartender, Mel Thyrring, pours a drink for a customer/Hanna Teal

“The great thing is she isn’t afraid to show her personality, and she never lets the job get to her,” said Riccardi.

One of her best friends, Marcy Louprette, who met Thyrring at a party when they were both pregnant with their first children, some 29 years ago, said Thyrring is not afraid to stand her ground for what she believes.

“She will never conform to society’s standards,” said Louprette.

Thyrring, 54, was born in Ithaca, more than 150 miles west of the state capital she currently calls home. Growing up her father worked for Exxon Mobil, so her family moved all over the state until they arrived in Clifton Park.

“All the houses were the same, manicured lawns and cookie-cutter families. It was just very pretentious,” said Thyrring.

After having enough of the neighborhood, Thyrring decided to go live with her aunt and uncle and five cousins in the back woods, in the rural town of Vestal, near Binghamton. This is where her love of the outdoors blossomed and she became infatuated with horseback riding, snowmobiling, and motorcycle riding. But her happy life there didn’t last long.

“I was definitely a bit of a wild child,” said Thyrring.

She was 16 when she and her cousin were caught buying cigarettes and her aunt suggested it was time she moved back home. Instead, Thyrring decided to quit school and move out on her own. Once she realized the real world was a heavy load, Thyrring went back to school, got her diploma, and graduated from Shenendehowa High School at 17.

Mel Thyrring, getting napkins for a customer as she makes a joke/Hanna Teal

Mel Thyrring, getting napkins for a customer as she makes a joke/Hanna Teal

She earned an associate’s degree from Hudson Valley Community College in Early Childhood Development. She worked as a teacher or sometimes a teachers aid at places like the Emma Willard’s Children’s School, now relocated and renamed the Susan Odell Taylor School, as well as the Mercy Cares for Kids early childhood program at St. Peter’s Hospital where she helped in getting them accredited for the National Association for Education of Young Children.

Since working at Junior’s, Thyrring also began working at two other restaurants closer to her home in Ravena.  She also hopes to eventually open up and run her own food truck with her partner. Thyrring is keeping everything “hush, hush” and would only say that she loves to cook and has gained the experience she needs having worked in the food business for a very long time. Eventually she hopes to turn it into a catering business and restaurant.

For now, Thyrring plans to stay at Junior’s as long as it’s fun and profitable for her. She is still learning a lot in the politics of owning a business.

“I’ll leave when I’m ready,” said Thyrring. “Right now, I enjoy my job. I don’t see a need for change.” -30-

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