Percolating dreams: Mill House server wants to open mobile coffee truck one day

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It’s What They Do is an occasional series that focuses on jobs people do and what motivates them.

Caroline Black moved back and forth among tables, the cash register and the kitchen for nearly an hour and a half without a moment’s break.

The Mill House server was trying to find just a few minutes to sit down and talk about her job; but, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, things were quite busy on Friday afternoon. Customers took advantage of the patio dining, and Black was the only server for her shift.

The new computer system, installed just days earlier, left her a bit perplexed. She called over the general manager a few times to help her figure out certain things.

“It’s a new system, and it’s only my second day on it, so it’s given me a lot of trouble. But I’m learning it,” Black said. “It’s going to be more convenient once I learn how to use it.”

Black joined the Mill House team in January after working at Aromas Village Coffee — another locally owned business — for a couple of years. Not long after, she had to take about a month off when COVID-19 restrictions shuttered restaurant doors.

“I live with my mom, so I didn’t have to pay rent,” Black said. “I also had some money saved up to pay for the car and gas and everything. I’m not really doing anything right now, so there’s not huge expenses.”

Once patio dining was approved by the governor, she returned to work.

“There’s definitely been tables like one after the other,” she said. “I think people are just excited to be back out and eating.”

The governor’s newest order, announced Friday, will allow restaurants to have in-house dining at 50% capacity beginning today.

Black said The Mill House atmosphere promotes good times, which, appropriately, is the name of the associated Good Times Brewing next door.

“I think the fact that we provide alcohol, you know people tend to be a little happier,” Black said. “It’s a good time. Generally, the crowd here is pretty easygoing.”

Black just finished her sophomore year at Lander University. She is a business major, and she hopes to own her own business one day. She said she learned a lot from the owner of Aromas.

“Just seeing how she managed all the stuff on her own and how hard she worked, it was really inspiring,” Black said.

She said she really wanted to continue working for a locally owned business after leaving Aromas.

“I prefer working for local places, and I like to support local purchasing when I go out places,” Black said. “I didn’t want to work for a franchise.”

She also enjoys how time seems to fly as a server.

“I love how fast-paced it is,” Black said. “I would probably dread working at some retail store where I’m just sitting and waiting for a customer to come to me. I love the customer service. I like talking to people and being friendly. I’m a pretty outgoing person.”

Her dream is to one day convert a horse trailer into a mobile coffee truck.

“Eventually, I want to be able to travel,” she said. “That’s another big reason I like the mobile coffee truck idea. I’m not one who likes to stay in one place. I like to go constantly to new places.”

COVID-19 has changed the way she does her job at The Mill House.

“Obviously, we were sanitizing before, but it’s really over the top now,” Black said. “It’s hard to remember to wear gloves to take someone’s credit card out and little things like that. I guess just being mindful about cross-contaminating things, and also keeping distance from people. You don’t want to be up in people’s faces, so I’ve got to remember to step back a little bit. I feel like everyone doesn’t really know what to do, but they are excited to be back.”

Contact staff writer Greg K. Deal at 864-943-5647 or follow on Twitter @IJDEAL.

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