ALPENA - She's turning on the fryers, she's pouring an ice cold beer, she's serving her loyal clientele, and she's opening up the bar just like she's done for 71 years. The recent Guinness Book of World Records longest career as a bartender award winner is living, and working, in Alpena County. Clarise Kramer Cadarette Grzenkowicz, 92, started her career at Maplewood Tavern when she was 21 years old, and she said she'll be behind the bar until she physically can't be anymore.
The tavern has been passed down three generations, beginning in 1924 when Henry Peter Cadarette and his wife, Orpha, built and opened the business as a dance hall. Although they didn't sell alcohol at the time, customers could pay a quarter for three dances.
"Those were in prohibition days," Grzenkowicz said.
News Photo by Erika Fifelski
Clarise Kramer Cadarette Grzenkowicz, 92, serves a glass of beer to a customer at Maplewood Tavern. The task is one Grzenkowicz knows well after working as a bartender for 71 years. She was awarded the Guinness Book of World Records title for longest career as a bartender last week.
The Cadarette's son, Henry, married Grzenkowicz in 1940, the year she left her job as a dressmaker at the garment factory to work behind the bar. After Henry died in 1964, Grzenkowicz took sole ownership in the business. The job is not one Grzenkowicz said she expected to have, but having spent her life doing it, she said she loves it and wouldn't have it any other way.
"I wouldn't be here all these years if I didn't. When I'm not here, I'm lost," she said.
Grzenkowicz kept the business afloat in good and hard economic times all while raising her two children. Her daughter, Carole Cadarette, was a baby when the family still lived in the house attached to the bar. Grzenkowicz said her daughter always loved music and attributed it to bands that played at the bar.
"She slept during the time the music was playing. As soon as the music stopped, she started crying, and I had to hold her all night," Grzenkowicz said.
Grzenkowicz's children still frequent the bar to help their mother keep things running smoothly during busy nights and events. Cadarette said the business is the stomping grounds for many local patrons who have been coming to the tavern for years. Clint Kirchoff is one of them. He began playing in a band with Cadarette's father and uncle when he was 16 years old. Now, at 80 years old, he still plays and enjoys Grzenkowicz's company.
"Everybody loves her. She loves everybody else," he said.
Receiving the Guinness World Record was a surprise and tribute to Grzenkowicz. Friends and family members procured all necessary documents to enter her in secret. Shirley Dietlin, who spearheaded the campaign, remembers going to the tavern as a young girl with her parents.
"This is considered to be like Cheers," she said, relating the tavern to the television show. "Everybody knows everybody's name."
Grzenkowicz grew up a mile and a half away from the tavern, and she went to a "country school" through eighth grade not far from that. She said she never ventured too far from home except on family vacations and now to Florida during the winter, but she never had to.
"I went to different places, but this is home," she said.
Maplewood Tavern is open Monday-Thursday from 3-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m.-12 a.m. and the last Sunday of the month at 3 p.m. Hamburgers are served Wednesdays for karaoke night.
Erika Fifelski can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.