Windsor Premier: Service with a smile — Windsor server brings the love to work, and to customers | MyWindsorNow.com

Windsor Premier: Service with a smile — Windsor server brings the love to work, and to customers

Kelli Heitstuman-Tomko
For Windsor Premier

When talking to Howard Adams, a few things become clear: He loves his job, he loves Windsor, and he may be the happiest man on the planet.

Adams is a gregarious man with infectious laughter. Both a server and a fixture at Stuft Burger Bar on Main Street, he is all over the restaurant, making sure customers are satisfied even if they're not at one of his tables.

It's easy to pick out the regulars at Stuft. They come in looking for Adams. A new arrival tells him they missed him Monday, so they came back now to see him. This earns the customer the genuine grin everyone seeks out when they come in.

Originally from Manassas, Va., Adams first saw Windsor when he was 18 years old while on a visit with his older brother. He said that, as a city boy, he was immediately struck by two things.

"Everybody smiled," Adams said. "In the city, no one ever smiled. And the sky was bluer than I'd ever seen."

Adams said he was drawn to the friendliness and the quiet, to the mountains and the people. He stopped and put down roots, though he admits he did it on a dare.

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"My brother said, 'I triple-dog-dare you to stay out here.' Adams said, laughing. "He didn't think I'd really stay. That was 15 years ago."

Adams said he has wanted to work in food service since he learned to cook. It's an industry that he loves. A lot. That's something that shows through his work at each table and in the way he treats everyone who walks through the door. He confesses he learned his technique watching a training video.

"It's amazing what a man can become if he pays attention," Adams said, laughing. It's a laugh that fills the space, not in a booming manner, but as a warmth that everyone can feel. It is, simultaneously, a joyful and comforting sound.

As he greeted more customers, it was clear Adams was in his element.

"This isn't work," Adams said. "I just show up here and stay, and they pay me."

That kind of dedication pays off on occasion. For Adams, it's resulted in a $1,000 tip.

The grand tip came from a man who had come to eat with his family and complimented Adams on the fact he was always smiling and laughing and still working at the table in a fast manner.

Before leaving, he thanked Adams for "the best service I've ever had," and handed Adams what appeared to be a hundred-dollar bill.

"It was busy, so I just slipped the money into my pocket," Adams said. "But I was looking later and couldn't figure out where all this money came from. I kept thinking, 'I didn't have my hand in the till.'"

Adams said he didn't know who the man was and hasn't seen him since.

"I'm still trying to wrap my head around it," he said.

The people of Windsor recently showed Adams a little love when they voted him the best bartender in town. While Adams does step behind the bar when it's busy or when he knows just what a customer wants, he is technically not a bartender.

There is no bravado, only humility on that subject. Adams said he has the best bartender honor because of the people of Windsor.

"They gave this to me," Adams said. "This is an honor I owe to the people of Windsor."

There seems to be a lot in the little town of Windsor to make Adams happy, but the top of the list seems to be people.

"I love people," Adams said. "I need to be around people. I may hug you when you leave. In fact, I will hug you when you leave."

While he said it saddens him a little to see his little town growing larger, he has no plan to ever leave. He has put down roots.

"I'd like to buy a house here," Adams said. "And I'd like to open a restaurant. Windsor has a lot, but there are some things they could still use."

Until Adams opens that restaurant, it's worth the drive to Windsor for a unique burger experience finished with a hug. Few people leave without one.

"I just go to bed every night wondering what I can do different," Adams said. "What can I do to make tomorrow better?"