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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spotlight: Unsung heroes of the Siciliano's staff

Dustin & Ren, back room masters
By Steve Siciliano

If you’re as old as I am, you will remember how things were before Michigan implemented a deposit law. Back then you could casually discard the container of whatever American lager you were drinking (this was, after all, 1978) without fretting about that wretched ten cent deposit. Those were the good old days. Out camping for the weekend? Leave a three-day pile of those worthless suckers behind in the woods. Out boating? Leave a watery trail of high floaters bobbing in your wake. On a road trip? Toss the carcasses of the dead glass and aluminum soldiers out the window.

I’m kidding of course. Those definitely were not the good old days. Not only was there no good craft brews back then, we seemed to have little regard for the environment. I don’t know if the deposit law was the main factor in making Michiganders more environmentally aware (you may be surprised to hear that besides Michigan, only ten other states have enacted deposit laws), but I have no doubt that it had a positive impact on cleaning up our state’s landscape. Michigan’s deposit law is a good thing, and this coming from a business owner who has to deal with returns on a daily basis.

Ren pontificates while Dustin laughs

We get a boatload of returns at Siciliano’s. I’m not complaining. We get a boatload of returns because we sell a boatload of beer. But the sheer number of empties we get does present some difficulties. There have been more than a few times when I've had to carve a path through the bottle room to get to the warehouse before our two backroom employees -- Ren & Dustin -- can whip it back into shape. Believe me, the other employees and I certainly appreciate them for doing that.

Our back room guys are not only responsible for sorting and putting away returns, they also do a good deal of the pricing, stocking, cleaning and organizing which allows the rest of us to concentrate more fully on helping our customers. Because these guys toil for the most part behind the scenes and their duties are anything but glamorous, I think it’s about time that we give them some recognition.

Dustin in his element: the bottle room

Our main “bottle boy”, Dustin Olsen, has been with us now for about two years. Dustin is a graduate of Grand Rapids public schools, has a mind like the proverbial steel trap, and a sense of humor that can best described as quirky. He has a keen interest in Ham radios and would probably talk to us for hours about transistors and resistors if we didn’t gently suggest that he get back to work. He delights in walking up to us, cracking a silly joke, then leaving us rolling our eyes in the wake of his big, booming laugh. Since he began working at the store he has developed an interest in the technical aspects of fermentation, has made some very passable beers and mead, and is now delving into the art of soda making. Dustin, 27, lives with his grandmother in Wyoming, MI.

Ren in his domain: the warehouse

Our other back room guy is Ren Hanselman. Ren, 53, is an inspiration to anyone familiar with his story. When he was sixteen he was in a severe automobile accident, suffered a fractured skull, and was in a coma for sixteen days. Despite the severe nature of his injury he graduated from high school, went on to community college, eventually graduated from Ferris with a degree in occupational safety, was accepted into the army, and was ultimately given an honorable medical discharge. Ren is a jack-of-all-trades. He helps Dustin with the returns, does the bulk of the pricing, bags ice, shovels snow in the winter, cuts grass in the summer, and breaks down our weekly shipment of beer- and wine-making supplies.

Needless to say, the contributions Dustin and Ren make are invaluable. We are indeed fortunate to have them on our staff.

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