Today we’d like to introduce you to Chuck Fowler.
Hi Chuck, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My story basically began after I left working for the State Prison system down in Florence, Arizona as a Medical Assistant at the ripe ole age of 20. I got a job there due to my EMT training after high school I indirectly knew the Nursing Director and they needed a position filled to work the yards. Over the 2 year period I was working towards a job opportunity at Intel which did not pan out like the way I had hoped and needed to find work to be able to support myself and at the time a good friend of mine; Tommy was just hired on as a server for a new restaurant in the city called, Cheddars Scratch Kitchen. I set up an interview with their service manager and secured the job as a food server and I guess the rest basically began to write itself. I learned a lot along my path through the trenches of serving and made countless memories as well as meeting many different kinds of people all on their own path in life. Just like it always does, the service industry goes through its “slow seasons” and at the time I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do long term in my career and in my life. Do I go back to school to pursue a degree? Do I accept the corporate training server position and travel to only a select few states to repeat the same thing over and over again? At that moment, neither felt fulfilling enough for me and eventually I would hit a ceiling and have to restarted somewhere else and probably rinse and repeat till my time has come to a stand still. Luckily enough, I had a great Bar Manager in my corner named Erin who would always tell me that the day I turn 21, I will be behind the bar making Painkillers and pouring beers… 20 year old me thought that was the way to riches and it would solve all of my young adult problems. Only thing was, I was working two jobs in the Late Night Bar and Club scene on Mill Ave in Tempe, Az at CASA and also barely staying sane working in some real questionable clubs in Old Town Scottsdale 4 nights a week. I was cranking away everyday at one of my 3 jobs. Serving tables for 5 days straight in the first half of the day and then sleeping in my car post shift just to have some energy to work an 8pm – 3am shift at either club 5 nights a week. At the time I was living about 35 minutes away, scraping pennies to pay our rent with a good friend of mine named Joey. Rule of thumb: don’t ever let your pals convince you that you can live solely off of lentils and rice…. Just don’t. Fast forward a year later; I had left the restaurant job to pursue a better position within another club on Mill Ave called Zuma where I was making hand over fist in money but I was working 5 nights straight every single week, repeating the same thing over and over again. I tried to leave a few times to go pursue other industries such as banking, fitness and even leveraged my prison experience and good rapport with Tempe PD to get a job as a private investigator, which was shortly lived. I came back to the Bar industry but took the position as bar back at Zuma where I no longer made the big bucks. Matter of fact, I was averaging $15 an hour compared to my old $75 an hour when I worked the door out front. But thing was, I had a game plan and that plan was to finally become a bartender. I used to bar tend my parents work parties when I was a teenager, making frozen daiquiris and margaritas and just being the “cool kid” I guess. So I knew I had it in me somewhere to make that dream a reality, just needed to get a shot at it. Eventually I was allowed to bartend on Wednesday nights which were the slowest night known to all man kind because we would do maybe, $100 in sales and I would witness some real questionable things but some how, the other bartender/ manager and I would walk with like $300 in tips each from the really rich friends of the owners. This gig didn’t last very long as I was given a choice; jump ship and risk everything I have built over here for a bartender job across the street with a new bar opening up? The saving grace was that I was going to working with a guy named, the Honey Badger as my bar manager and that’s when the life of a degenerate bartender began. I learned many, many things about the bar industry within the 6 months we were actually open and operating. One day I showed up for work and the doors were locked. The place was being redesigned as a different concept and the GM there, Big E gave me some of the best advice I needed at the time. “You don’t want to work for places like this, go out and learn the craft side and then come back to this”. It honestly pissed me off cause In my mind I thought I did everything right. Went to all the work events, supported the brand and was always there ready to work and do everything I could but even then, those things don’t secure you a job. So fast forward a few years and some more stops along the way. I helped build a bar in Downtown Mesa where I learned what it takes to physically put one together. That ended abruptly and found my way back on Mill Ave working the door at the good ole Cue Club and before I knew it, I was starting my first ever craft bar gig at the craft brewery called Barrio Brewing at the Mesa Gateway Airport working the morning shift which yielded the highest money per shift due all the private flights happening before mid day. I taught myself everything about cocktail history and science, bought books and took online courses and just stuck to my dream of being a craft bartender. Then I got the the opportunity to test for a new cocktail bar in Scottsdale which took about 5 months in total for call backs and training but that’s when this whole new world of bartending opened up to me. For 2 years, I worked hard to develop my craft and to get to know this industry through and through and along the way I made some of the best friends and business partners I could ask for. I kept honest to myself and to my dream, to build the best bar team out there and luckily enough I have the hardest working and most degenerate group of people in my corner. Towards our tenure at the Place That Shall Not Be Named, Dirty Mike “my best friend and business partner” decided to say deuces and we bailed. Luckily enough, we had a plan already put together and we had met with our good friend, Alex about a project he was helping put together and he agreed to let Dirty Mike and I assemble a team to tackle this monster. In comes 12 West Brewing – Downtown Mesa, a massive undertaking of a project and an uncharted territory that we never thought would have us at the center working closely alongside with the owner of 12 West Brewing, Bryan. Blood, sweat and tears went into getting this monster of a place turned on and then the pandemic hit and so did the lock downs. 3 months into being open we were given the news that places needed to shut down by 5pm on St. Paddy’s day… The saddest day I have ever had in the industry and in my career. For 8 months, Maui and myself would come in and clean the building, filling crowlers to go and delivering beers and canned cocktails whenever we could. Those were some of the saddest yet most memorable moments of my career and it really made a lot of us appreciate the industry we were in, to extent that is. Fast forward to today, the story is writing itself as I go wandering down the streets of Downtown Mesa and looking forward to the many years I have left in this industry and the countless memories yet to be made. Who knows what’s in store for me and for the team here. I do know that grabbing a cold pint and sitting with some friends and sharing your stories should always be at the top of our to do list.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
At a young age I looked at struggles in my life as a, “why me? and not them?” which actually was a terrible out look, now that I am thinking about it. The road of life is never meant to be smooth and if it is, there’s something wrong here. One of my biggest struggles early on was being told I was too heavy/ fat to be behind a bar in any capacity and I was being told that by someone who was 3 times my size…. But I used that as ammunition to get my personal health in check and It actually allowed me to be more nimble behind the stick and I learned how repetitive motions can damage your body from shaking, standing, leaning, etc. behind a bar. A pandemic also is quite difficult to navigate around but I chalked it up to my tech friendly mindset from being a gamer and IT Tech early in my adult life which helped me grasps a lot of these needed changes.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am currently the General Manager for 12 West Brewing – Downtown Mesa in Mesa, Arizona and I take a lot of pride in being one of the most well rounded people based persons I know. I don’t believe I’m necessarily an sympathetic or empathetic person but more of a human being that just understand how humans behave. Again, I have many live stories and lessons and I credit this belief from my tenure within the Max Security prison I worked in. If you really want to get to know humans on a real raw and uncut level, go work in a prison and be open minded to what you are about to witness. Its eye opening and world jolting. But to really answer the question, I would point to my work ethic. Its never ending, unnerving to most and quite frankly it keeps me feeling like I am alive and not stagnant in this weird world we live in currently. Give me any problem and some half baked resources and I will figure out a solution eventually.
What matters most to you? Why?
The thing that matters most to me is being true to your word. Its rare now a days that someone will truly stay true their regardless of how small or big the topic at hand may be.
- Instagram: Chuck_served_up
Jacob Tyler Dunn (we love him)