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Barthel retires after 30 years behind the bar

Kevin Cederstrom herald@eot.com Sandy Barthel walked into Mills Liquors in August of 1976 to work as an extra bartender/waitress during America's bicentennial celebration. Last week she called it quits after 31 years, officially ending her long r...

Kevin Cederstrom

herald@eot.com

Sandy Barthel walked into Mills Liquors in August of 1976 to work as an extra bartender/waitress during America's bicentennial celebration. Last week she called it quits after 31 years, officially ending her long run at the New York Mills municipal liquor store.

"In 1976 my mom was working here and she called me in for extra help," Sandy said. "I was just going to come in and fill in a little bit... and here I am 31 years later."

Sandy did more than just fill in, she ended up making a career out of working, and eventually running Mills Liquors.

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In 1991 the NY Mills City Council promoted Sandy to manager and that's when the struggling city-owned business made a dramatic turn-around. Sandy is credited for taking over a liquor store that was on the verge of closing its doors. Due primarily to mismanagement the council was ready to pull the plug on the joint before putting Sandy in charge.

Former mayor Dean Simpson and former councilman Mike Parta both have said numerous times Sandy is the reason the NY Mills Liquor Store made money then and continues to be profitable now. The bar quickly started making money when she took over as manager in 1991, and she leaves the business now in good financial shape. Mills Liquors consistently makes around $80,000 in profit for the city. That money goes into the general fund and is a crucial part of the city's annual budget.

Last Thursday the city held a going-away party for Sandy and outgoing Chief of Police Brian Nelson. The city presented Sandy with a plaque for her 31 years of service, something she said was "very nice".

Barb Minge was hired in December as the new manager, and has been working with Sandy the past month on getting trained in on running the business.

Sandy receives the credit for such a financial turn-around for the bar, and rightfully so, but she doesn't take all the credit.

"One reason it (Mills Liquors) does well is we have such a supportive community. We always make enough money for projects and to contribute to the general fund."

Although when she walked in 31 years ago to help out a little Sandy didn't plan on being in the bar for 31 years, she said it's been a lot of fun and a good way to make a living. The job just kind of fit with what she liked doing.

"I like being around people and I like my job," she said. "It's just time to move on to something else."

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Looking back over the years Sandy said there have been a lot of people coming and going, and she'll miss many of the regulars.

"You get to know people quite well," she said.

Sandy looks back at her time in the bar and describes Mills Liquors as a typical bar. Things may have been a little wilder a couple decades ago, when it was a regular thing on weekends to have a little commotion in the bar, but it certainly wasn't anything too wild. Things have settled down over the years.

Sandy recalls some of the more interesting times, which includes 1998 when the bar never closed its doors during the major remodeling project. The fire department moved into its new fire hall and the bar temporarily moved into the old fire hall without skipping a beat.

"One night everyone kind of grabbed something and moved over to what was the fire hall," Sandy said.

Many people recall how much fun the temporary home for Mills Liquors was in the old fire hall, with throwing peanut shells on the floor.

Then when the remodeling was done five months later the Lions helped move the bar back over to where it is now. Still going strong. Still making money for the city.

"I've always enjoyed my job," Sandy said. "I'll miss it for the most part. A lot of credit goes to the staff, and the city council and mayors have always been good to work for."

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