Lynda Engler, 66, who is “married to this business,” has worked in the restaurant business for 50 years and has worked at Scoogi’s Italian Restaurant in Flourtown for 20 years. (Photo by Len Lear)

by Len Lear

Anyone who has ever worked in the restaurant business knows it can be a real grind. When other people are out enjoying themselves on weekends, holidays and nights, you are working. Servers actually make considerably less than minimum wage in salary (believe it or not) and therefore have to rely almost entirely on tips, occasionally making nice with customers they might want to strangle.

As a result, many restaurants are virtual revolving doors of employment, with employees “turning over” as often as you might change shirts. But then there is Lynda Engler, 66, who has worked in the restaurant business for 50 years since she was a 16-year-old student at Lansdale Catholic High School. For the last two decades she has worked at Scoogi’s Italian Restaurant in Flourtown, where she has been the general manager for 11 years.

“You’re married to this business,” she said last week. “I work about 50 hours a week, but it’s a fun business. As far as I’m concerned, it is like a big dinner party everyday, and you want to be sure that everybody has a good time at the party. You have to love what you do if you are going to put in these long hours.”

According to Rob Rosato, owner of Scoogi’s, “Lynda is the hardest working manager I have ever had over 27 years at this location! I can say that she has a tremendous love for this business, and it shows in every shift.”

Although she has already spent 50 years working in restaurants, Lynda has no plans to retire. “On weekends I am the first one in at 10:30 a.m., and I do not leave until 9 p.m., but I always look forward to coming to work because I love what I do.”

Lynda, who has lived in Downingtown for three years, earned a degree in elementary education from Gwynedd Mercy, which “helped me in learning how to deal with people … It took me 15 years to get the degree. I took two courses a semester and took three years off because I had four children during that 15-year period.”

Lynda previously worked at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, and Marabella’s in Blue Bell and Stone Harbor, where she was a managing partner for 12 years. Owner Gabriel Marabella, who lived on Rex Avenue in Chestnut Hill, has now retired to Florida.

“I was Rob Rosato’s boss in Stone Harbor, where he was a chef, and now he is my boss at Scoogi’s. Marabella’s in Stone Harbor is still there. I had bought out Gabe and was partners with his brother, Angelo, who is still there. I left Stone Harbor in 2006.

“Every day is different in this business, and every day you learn something new. Last night we were doing karaoke, and a lady lifted up her top … When I owned the place at the shore, a husband and wife came in with two kids. We gave the kids balloons. One put chewing gum on the string and stuck in on the rug. I yelled at the other. The mother said she did not notice what the kids were doing. My temper got the best of me that night.

“Occasionally you may get someone who does not read the menu very carefully. A dish comes out, and somebody might say that’s not what they ordered, even though it was. The thing is that you can resell a dress if it did not fit, but you cannot resell food. But my job is to make everyone happy, so I have to fix it. It is very rare that I am not able to fix it.”

How does Lynda feel about the fact that there is so much competition in the restaurant industry? Every time you sneeze, a new one opens in the area. For example, Bacio, another Italian restaurant that was previously in West Mt. Airy, just opened in Erdenheim.

“I honestly think it is great for us,” said Lynda, “because it will bring more people into the area, and they may drive past Scoogi’s and want to try us next time. Just like when the new movie opened in the nearby shopping center, it was great for us! Tumbleweeds tend to roll down the street in Flourtown at 9 p.m. because it is so quiet, so anything that is good for the town and brings people in is good for everybody.”

Lynda can do just about everything in a restaurant except make cocktails. “When Bart (the bartender) goes to the bathroom, I stand there behind the bar. I tell the customers, ‘I can pour wine or beer, but if you want a cocktail, you’ll have to wait (until Bart gets out of the bathroom). The people all laugh.”

Lynda’s children are: Mary, 42,of Harleysville; Beth, 40,of Downingtown; Katie, 38, of Pottstown, and John, 33, of Pottstown. She also has nine grandchildren.

For more information, call 215-233-1063 or visit scoogis.com

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