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Tales from Behind the Bar at Refinery Hotel: Art & Sole

Enter Winnie’s Lobby Bar downstairs at the Refinery Hotel.  Your hotel. Your “office.”  While others toil away in the fluorescent lighting of their work cubicles, you’ve got the best workplace around: behind the bar. Softly lit, perfectly illuminating the neatly stacked bottles on the shelves behind you.

Most days are quiet and smooth, even while living — ironically enough — in the loudest city in the world. But you’re used to the city and your work. Thousands walk past you on the streets every day and each person’s story and identity passes by with rubbed shoulders and quick steps. At work, a lot of people also scoot in and out of your life. Occasionally one stops, if only for a moment.

A slightly disheveled man sits down at the bar, interlocking his fingers in front of him. He seems out of place amongst the otherwise fashionable and well-coiffed patrons that typically show up at the bar, but that thought quickly passes by. He looks kind enough, and he’s a guest. You go and take his order.

He drinks quietly until you come back. You make friendly conversation, he probably thinks that its just your job, which it is, but you do actually enjoy taking an interest in your customers—it makes work more fun, it’s your personality and the personality of Winnie’s. You ask him what he does. You tell him where you’re from. He tells you where he’s going.

What do you enjoy? You ask.

I enjoy collecting art. And I enjoy traveling, away from work preferably, he replies.

You tell him, I love art.

He asks you what kind.

Shoes.

Shoes aren’t art, sweetie.

Show me a pair of Jimmy Choo Heels and then we’ll talk.

He laughs and gently slaps his hand on the bar.

When he walked in, you weren’t sure how lively a fellow he’d turn out to be. You thought he might be another passing face in the masses, until he stopped and laughed. And now, for the first time since he came into Winnie’s, the gentleman, who works for the United Nations and is tired of being on the road, rests forward on the bar top and eases his shoulders. It seems that he’s happy to have another prospectively passing face unexpectedly stop and turn and smile.

He’s been back multiple times since that first conversation. One night, amidst the bumbling saxophone and tip-toeing piano, you bring him a drink and the two of you share a laugh.

He tells you, I love coming to this bar, because it’s the only place that I can purchase a drink and truly feel at home. It’s as if I’m in my living room.

For you, this is the ultimate compliment. What he says is a testament to your everyday smile, your fellow bartenders, Winnie’s Lobby Bar and the Refinery Hotel. Any expectations of gratitude have already been far exceeded.

A few weeks later, he’s left the hotel, and the daily routine continues. You’re setting up shop for another night at Winnie’s. A courier approaches the bar. The young messenger slides you a package with your name on it. For me? You think.

Inside is a brand new pair of Jimmy Choo heels. You take one out of the box and examine it. That fleeting moment — a passing face, a shared laugh, a genuine connection — now lives forever as art and sole.

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