Kate Kenealy: We Get To Serve The Nicest People On The Planet

– by Cara Aungst

Kate Kenealy, Big Spring Spirits’ Social Media Manager and Photographer got her degree in French from Penn State and taught for a few years before coming back to Happy Valley. “I fell in love with this area all over again,” she said. “It’s just as great as any place I’d been — I’m choosing to be here.”

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Her journey in hospitality started unconventionally — she took a job working from 11:30-4:30 shift at the Penn State Dining Commons as an undergrad before realizing that she’d agreed to an overnight shift restocking food while everyone else slept. “That didn't last long,” she said with a laugh. From there, she landed at Cafe Lemont … and realized how much she loved working in hospitality. “I loved having regulars, and serving,” she said.

In the days since then, she’s moved on to Big Spring Spirits (although she still works at her beloved Cafe Lemont!), working as the social media manager and photographer. She also has teamed up with Lucy Rogers from Big Springs Spirits to create Wines By the Class. In between her life in hospitality and wine, she’s also getting her degree in Digital Arts from Penn State. “My life is in a place I never pictured it being 10 years ago,” she says.

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Her favorite part of the journey? She says that it’s the customers. “They are the nicest people on the planet. The people here are the nicest and funniest people I’ve ever met. Plus, I love taking photos of the specials at Big Springs. I like documenting everyday life.”

She says she’s proud of Big Springs’ ability to pivot during the darkest days of COVID. “We completely changed what we do in the matter of a week — on Tuesday we were bartenders, and by Friday, we were working at a fulfillment center. I can’t believe we did that. It makes any problem since then seem that much smaller. It makes everything else seem doable.”

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She says that her goal for every visitor is to connect them to the staff at Big Springs. “They are such incredible people. I also want our guests to enjoy our spirits. People have a sip and say, ‘That’s actually really good.’ And that ‘actually’ is so key for me. I love to surprise people with an end result that’s really delicious.”

“There are a lot of people who work here to make that end result — distillers and makers who create our simple syrups, servers, bartenders. — they are invested in making the experience happen.”

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