Meeting workers in New York City
Tiara, Belle and Ray,
Workers at Potbelly Sandwich Shop, 14th St.
1. By Emma Kilroy
I had to stand on my toes to rest my elbows on the counter at Potbelly. Tiara Reynolds and Belle Tere, the two women behind the counter, were wearing aprons and hats with Potbelly’s earthy green, red, and yellow colors. They had not expected three students to march right into the sandwich shop only minutes after they’d agreed to be interviewed.
Tiara, the shorter of the two, initially was more talkative. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, and still lives in a two family house with her mom, grandmother, aunt and uncle, and their two children. She works at Potbelly to pay for the classes in child psychology that she’s taking. It’s her only job, where she usually works five days a week, five hours per shift. “I like working here because of the people. Sometimes we have parties or theme days, like one day was silly hat day.” She also appreciates the way that the store is run. “We all run the shop together. There are people who are managers, but they let us take turns managing the shifts and have no problem leaving someone like me, I’m just a crew member, in charge.”
Belle shielded her face from the camera (“You didn’t say you were going to take pictures!”), but she opened up as Tiara talked, commenting about where she lived and what she thought about work. Belle started at this particular Potbelly, on W 14th Street, in 2012, but recently left to help open another location in upper Manhattan, closer to where she lives. She sometimes comes back to her original placement to help cover shifts. Belle is hoping to move up from shift manager to general manager, and eventually become Human Resources manager. “I work on and off though,” she explained, “because I went back to school in August. I want to get a bachelors in hospitality and tourism.”
“I LOVE to travel!,” said Belle, suddenly excited and eager to share. She lit up as she talked about the places she has visited. “I’m constantly travelling. I’ll go by myself…I went to the Dominican Republic by myself last summer. I go to South Carolina
sometimes with my friends for birthdays. I went to North Carolina once. That was the first time I ever got to ride in a helicopter. I also went to the slavery museum there.” Her favorite place to visit? “Salem and the witch museum! I’ve been there…about eight times maybe? I can’t explain it, I just think it’s so cool.” For those of us who hadn’t been, Belle described one of the exhibits, a series of wax sculptures of witches.
Belle also loves Manhattan because of its museums—the Met, the MoMA, the Whitney. Besides the art scene, she enjoys going to poetry readings and comedy clubs. “I was born here and I grew up here but there’s still always just so much to do!” Manhattan is the perfect home to come back to for an avid traveler, but she already has her sights set on her next adventure: “I want to go to Europe!”
While Belle opened up and chattered for a while, Tiara grew quieter. When asked what her hobbies were outside of work, all she could come up with after some thought was, “I like to shop.” She introduced us to another worker, Ray Smith, who had just clocked in. His answers were even shorter. Ray worked at a Five Guys in Brooklyn until starting at Potbelly 2 months ago, in order to be closer to his home in Manhattan. He likes football. The conversation stalled after that. It was still raining outside, but the novelty of the distraction of our interview seemed to have worn off. I eyed the chalk menu above the counter, but decided a milkshake was too expensive. Sheepishly I purchased a Dr. Pepper from the cooler, thanked the workers, and left them to their own thoughts about football, Forever 21, and France.
2. By Alex Mold
Tiara has worked at Potbelly’s for over two years starting in June, 2012. She wants to become a child psychologist and has taken classes at SUNY Buffalo to get closer to accomplishing this goal. She grew up and still llves in Brooklyn where she travels about 30 minutes five days a week to work six-hour shifts at the Potbelly Restaurant on West 14th Street in Manhattan.
Belle has been working at Potbelly on and off for two years as well while also working at another Potbelly on and off. She commutes from uptown New York in the Upper East Side. In her off time she likes to write poetry, travel and paint. Belle enjoys going to poetry shows and museums like the slavery museum in South Carolina. She has traveled to South Carolina, Salem, MA, and one day wants to go to Europe. In South Carolina, she went on her first helicopter ride in Myrtle Beach and saw the city at night as well as the Sky Wheel, a Ferris wheel. She loves Salem Massachusetts especially the history of the witches. And has gone to the witch museum there. She describes the witch museum as a place that has historical reenactments about the witch trials in wax as well as modern day Wicca practices. She does some of this traveling by herself as she is not afraid, but some of the traveling she does with friends.
Ray has worked at this Potbellies for nearly two months. He lives in uptown Manhattan and works here because of the easy commute. Formerly he worked at a 5 Guys in Brooklyn but changed jobs to have a shorter commute. He likes novels especially Terry Williams’ novel True to Me. He loves novels and writing so much he is studying for his GE exams. Outside his love of novels, he likes football, specifically the Ravens as he was born and raised in Baltimore until he was 14. He then moved to New York with his family. In 10 years, he is hoping to retire.
3. By Andrew O’Grady
Along West 14th St. in Manhattan, Tiara Reynoles has been working at Potbelly for about two years. She found the job through Craigslist and generally enjoys working at the restaurant. She works about 5-to-6 hours a day and lives in East New York, Brooklyn. Tiara lives in a two-family house with her mother, herself, and grandmother on one side of the house and her uncle, aunt, and there two kids on another side of the house.
Something’s she likes about her job are the fun days they have while they are working there. The Potbelly manager will sometimes allow workers to have creative fun days like crazy hat day. These kinds of days are what Tiara loves about her job and looks forward to. Tiara also loves that sometimes she is allowed to mange the shifts she works and is given a position of power when she sometimes starts her shift.
Tiara is currently trying to become a child psychologist and is taking classes in order to fulfill her dream of working with children.
Belle Tae is a supervisor who works at the same Potbelly restaurant. She started in 2011, but in total she was been working for about two years on and off while pursuing a Bachelors’ Degree program in Hospitality and Tourism in July, 2013 from Buffalo State University. Belle is trying to become a general manger at Potbelly and is then trying to eventually move into Human Resources. Belle lives in Manhattan, with her mother and loves the fast pace of the city. She also told me she loves to paint and loves art. She also loves to travel and has traveled to many places like South Carolina. Belle is not afraid to travel by herself and loves to visit different locations all over the world.