Many have imagined owning a bar or owning the place where they work; some are able to live that dream and actually make it happen. Meet the owner of Peabody’s Bar & Grill, Heather Jenkins. She is a native San Diegan who overcame the struggles of being a young single mother and with hard work was able to purchase the bar from her longtime employer. With a love for her establishment, employees, and patrons alike, she also has the ability to see the soul of a place as well as insert her own. I was lucky enough to interview Heather in December where we discussed topics ranging from spirited service to succulent spines, and found out what really happens when a priest walks into the bar…

How did you find yourself in our wonderful F&B industry?

My first job was at a well known fast food place, but Food & Beverage is in my blood. My grandma worked in the kitchen at San Diego City College for over 30 years, and I spent many days/nights “helping” in that kitchen. I learned the basics like measuring, prep and food safety by the time I could see over the counter. I started working at Mr. Peabody’s Burgers & Ale as a server in the early 2000s, and worked my way up to manager before we took over.

What can you tell me about Mr. Peabody’s?

It’s a small neighborhood bar & grill surrounded by condos, a golf course, and just down the hill from USD. It was established in the mid 90s in a small strip mall in Mission Valley by my former boss James Brill and his business partner. It quickly became a favorite local place for all of Jimmy’s friends from his deli in Mission Bay and anyone who lived close by. Walking distance is always a plus! We had/have a wide variety of regular patrons from USD, the police department, the mall, office building employees and residents, most of which come at least once a week.

I decided to purchase Peabody’s after my boss passed away. I couldn’t stand the thought of Peabody’s changing hands. I worried about my fellow employees, and all the people who have Peabody’s as their home away from home. So my grandfather Anthony Minniti and I took a huge leap and bought it! The day I took over, I changed everything back to the way it was in the beginning. Those ideas made the business a local favorite for many years, and it was my belief that going back to what worked then, would work now. It did!

Where do you draw your inspiration? How do you inspire your staff?

There’s a feeling when you walk into Mr. Peabody’s that I strive to maintain at all times. That feeling of comfort and friendship is what makes our little place what it is. We are very much like a family, employees and customers. That’s what keeps me going. My staff is truly amazing. They always have Mr. Peabody’s best interest at heart, and go above and beyond what is asked of them. I put my employees first. I had worked alongside them before I became the owner, so they know I understand what a day in their shoes is really like. I trust them completely, and in turn they trust me. Each decision is made with the entire staff in mind. I have such great confidence in them, and I think it’s really important for any business to value employees above all else. An establishment can have a great location, 5-star food, and the best cocktails in town, but none of that will make the business successful when served by an unhappy employee. So, I do my best to give them a positive work environment that allows them to give the best of themselves.

What does service mean to you?

Service is about anticipating and fulfilling a customer’s needs. Each person that walks through the door is there for a different reason; therefore, the service they receive should be customized. There is no training manual for giving the patron excellent service. It comes with experience, and trusting your instinct.

What are some of the craziest things that have happened in your bar?

We keep a bar journal to keep everyone current on any news or happenings, and some entries that have been left are pretty laughable. The strangest one was just last week, actually! A man walked in wearing a cutoff t-shirt and bellied up at the bar. It wasn’t long before the other patrons noticed there was something sticking out of this man’s back, and called it to the server’s attention. She walked over to investigate, and it was a cactus! He was bleeding and his back was swollen, but didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact he had succulent spines embedded in him! After a while he decided to yank it out with his bare hands and slam it on the bar next to his drink. When asked if we could remove it from the bartop, he said no. He wanted to keep it as a souvenir. A priest walks into a bar, with his own cup of spirits, barely able to stand…that was a mess.