By Joycelyn Cabrera
Native Grill & Wings creates a family-friendly atmosphere in more ways than one. About one-third of the sports bar’s staff have relatives working with them.
At Maricopa’s Native, there are 10 families working in the same restaurant, half of whom are siblings. Twenty out of 63 employees have a relative on staff.
“What’s funny is, a lot of times at restaurants, friends work together, and sometimes siblings do and whatnot, but we have an unusual number of siblings and parents with their child,” owner Pat Kieny said. “My theory is they must like working here, plus mom or dad can better keep track of what their child is doing.”
Families working together may face obstacles at the restaurant when certain members hold supervising positions. Kieny said family sets that experience the most trouble with the dynamic are parent-child.
Amber & Aly Miller (mother and daughter)
Amber Miller has worked at Native Grill & Wings 17 years, beginning as a hostess and now bartending. Her daughter Aly has worked at the Maricopa restaurant as a hostess for about a month, getting the job shortly after turning 16.
The two said they sometimes struggle finding time to spend with each other outside of work by getting the same days off together.
“For instance, tomorrow’s my birthday,” Amber said. “I had requested the day off; she didn’t request it off, so she has to work now. She’s going to miss family dinners.”
“Oops,” Aly said.
The mother-and-daughter duo rarely work the same shifts and typically end up working on opposite sides of the restaurant, leaving a lot of room for independence at work.
“I get to work with (my mom) and meet new people,” Aly said.
Tara Pelletier & DeAndray Curtis (mother and son)
Tara Pelletier has worked at Native Grill for three and a half years. Her son DeAndray Curtis joined the team two years ago.
Tara said she needed to adjust to having her son at work, which included being easier on him while at work.
“She definitely made sure that I did my job to my full potential,” DeAndray said. “When I first started, it was the standards that she’s put me to, just because she knew that I could get to them and that I could work harder and be better at what I’m doing.”
The now-18-year-old said he doesn’t want to think about what it’s like to work separately yet. The parent-child team said their family can be found at the restaurant rather than at home.
“I’m a single mom,” Tara said. “I have one other daughter, but we don’t have any family. Our regulars, we go to Christmas there, we go to Thanksgiving there, my boss has picked up my daughter from school when she’s sick. I mean, my coworkers are my best friends. This is our family dynamic.”
Rene & Heather Garcia (husband and wife)
Other family sets face their own obstacles, such as keeping home at home, and work at work.
Rene and Heather have been married five years. They have worked together at Native Grill for about two years. Compared to the struggle of commuting out of town for work, the couple said Native Grill is the best choice for their working needs. The couple said they sometimes struggle keeping it separate.
“We do what we call hug it out, so we give each other a hug before we work the same shift and we tell each other that it’s going to be OK that we’re on the same team, basically,” Heather said.
The couple have seen staff with relatives working together ever since they began working at the restaurant, so they were not surprised to see the trend growing.
“It’s like a big family,” Heather said. “Everybody just really tries to help each other a lot inside of work and outside of work. We’re friends outside of work, so that helps.”
Tiffany & Kelly Davis (siblings)
Many staff members and their relatives shared their inside jokes created at the restaurant, and others discussed the support they receive from management and each other.
Kelly, 23, has worked in the restaurant since in high school. Her younger sister, Tiffany, 18, has only been working a few months. Coworkers and managers refer to Tiffany as “Mini Kelly.”
“Before Tiffany even started working here, the manager came in for work one time and he goes, ‘Oh look it’s Kelly, and look, it’s Mini Kelly. But Kelly’s already mini, so it’s mini-mini Kelly.’ They just kept teasing her about being the mini-me,” Kelly said.
“It’s not even just the owner anymore,” Tiffany said. “There’s someone who calls me KJ, which is Kelly Junior.”
The sisters said they love working at the restaurant because of the family atmosphere it has developed for its employees.
“I know that there are a lot of us that are related, but my coworkers are pretty much my family anyways,” Kelly said.
Kyle & Katie Brentana (siblings)
Kyle and Katie are not new to the Native Grill atmosphere. While Katie, 23, has only been an employee for about a year, Kyle, 26, has been in and out of the restaurant since high school.
“There’s a lot of people that work here that I actually went to high school with and graduated with, so it was really nice coming back here, No. 1, to a good job, and No. 2, for the familiar faces,” he said.
After losing their father, the siblings shared the support they received from management and coworkers.
“I’m very appreciative of the managers. Our father passed away Sept. 10 of stage-4 neck and throat cancer,” Katie said. “They were very caring, very understanding. They said, ‘Take as much time as you need,’ and a lot of businesses aren’t like that, so I’m very appreciative.”
Mark & Leah McCormick (in-laws)
Mark and his sister-in-law Leah are two of the newest employees at Native Grill. While Mark has been working at the restaurant a few months, Leah began training in November. The two have worked together in a previous job, so while they are accustomed to working with each other, they said they were surprised to learn how many other coworkers were related.
“I was not surprised with one or two, but that there’s 12 or 15 people that have somebody related to them that works here,” Mark said. “I think it makes it a closer group.”
From Native Grill’s opening to the present, employment has dropped from 90 to 60. Kieny said the smaller staff size has resulted in closer relationships and a supportive environment among workers, thereby creating a positive experience for their customers.
“Really, we’re selling the same lettuce, the same cheese, the same Bud Lite, the same things as other people. The difference has got to be the people we have here working. The No. 1 thing for me, as an owner, are the employees,” Kieny said. “If I do that correctly, then the customer gets a really good experience.”
“Two of my daughters worked their way through college here, and three or four of the other people who work here currently, their parent or their spouse used to work here, too. So, we’ve got a lot of that going on, and it’s kind of nice. Sometimes they meet here.”
This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.