It was a random weekday in December of 2011. I had been working as a staff reporter at The Reflector Newspaper for a little over a year, and it was the day after our weekly production day, so things were pretty slow in the newsroom. I asked one of my fellow reporters, Jake Fray, if he wanted to go to lunch. He replied with, “Yeah, let’s go to that new place I just wrote about – Mill Creek Pub. The owner is a super nice guy.”
We drove the short distance from our office in Battle Ground over to Mill Creek and decided to sit in the bar. After being greeted by the bartender, Mill Creek Owner Russell Brent was quickly over chatting with us and thanking Jake for the article he had written about the restaurant opening. I remember Russell saying, “Order whatever you want, it’s on me!” We each had some great food and a beer (yes, I had a beer during my lunch break, what about it?), and Russell refused to let us pay for anything. That’s just the kind of guy he is.
Fast forward a few weeks, I stopped in for lunch again, this time with my mom. Russell spotted us right away and came over to say hi. As we were chatting, I mentioned to him that ex-husband (husband at the time) had just lost his job as a line cook at another restaurant. Russell immediately told me to have him come in and drop off a resume. A week later, my ex-husband had a new job, all thanks to Russell.
Several months went by and I, of course, started spending a lot more time at Mill Creek since my then-husband was working there. I kept mentioning to Russell that I would love it if he hired me as a server on the weekends so that I could make some extra money. He finally hired me, first as a host. I worked my way up to expo, which I ended up doing for quite a while since I was apparently the best expo EVER. Finally, I started training as a server and was able to work a couple of days a week at Mill Creek in addition to my reporter job.
My ex-husband eventually left Mill Creek for other restaurant opportunities, and we ended up splitting up in 2014. I kept my weekend job at Mill Creek though, as by then I had developed many friendships with people there – the most important being someone who is now my very best friend and roommate, Tania. The friends and people I worked with at Mill Creek were like my third family (my newsroom family being my second haha).
At one point, I ended up getting burnt out having two jobs. I was picking up shifts and working way too much at Mill Creek on top of my newspaper job, which had continued to grow more and more stressful on its own. I finally made the decision to quit Mill Creek, knowing I always had the option to return if I decided to.
In 2016, I made the decision to leave The Reflector and join my old boss, Ken Vance, in an adventure starting a news website, ClarkCountyToday.com, from scratch. At one point during the year that I was at ClarkCountyToday, I decided I needed more to do again and asked for my job back at Mill Creek. Thanks to Russell, I was able to start again pretty much immediately. After about a year at ClarkCountyToday, I started feeling the need for a change and decided to take a break from the news industry. I started a job working as budtender at Main Street Marijuana for a while so that I could take some time and figure out what I really wanted to do. There was a two-week period of time before I actually left ClarkCountyToday that I was working three jobs – ClarkCountyToday, Main Street Marijuana AND Mill Creek. Let me tell you, it was a busy two weeks.
I continued working at both Main Street and Mill Creek for quite a while. Eventually, I knew that I needed to get back to the news industry and was given an opportunity to be the managing editor here at the Vancouver Business Journal. Again, I worked three jobs for a little while – five days a week at the VBJ, Saturdays at Main Street and Sundays at Mill Creek. That didn’t last long, and I again made the decision to leave Mill Creek. I then eventually quit my one day a week at Main Street as well.
Fast forward some more, in February of 2018 I found out I was pregnant with my son Ronin, who is now 1 ½ . As I started doing things to prepare for the arrival of a baby, I decided a little extra income would be great and – you guessed it – I was able to go back to Mill Creek as soon as I asked. I worked both there and at the VBJ until I felt like it was probably best for me to scale back to one job again as I became more and more pregnant. That time leaving Mill Creek was my last time.
Mill Creek has, and always will have, a very special place in my heart. As I said, I met my best friend there. I spent numerous Friday nights working there as an expo, getting yelled at by a kitchen of cooks, yelling back at them just as much and then sitting down with all of them for a beer after work. I ate way more food there than I needed to. I spent way too much time after my shift sitting at the bar there late into the night laughing and talking with everyone who worked there. I learned how to be a good server there and how to connect more with people. I learned that some people are terrible to you no matter how many times you try to make it right that their steak wasn’t cooked the way they wanted, or that you didn’t bring them another beer the second their empty glass hit the table.
Throughout all of my time there, Russell always, embarrassingly, bragged about me. He would introduce me to people and go on about what a great reporter I was, that I was who they needed to talk to to get their story printed. After getting this job as editor at the VBJ, he would always have someone to introduce me to and he would excitedly tell them, “She’s the editor of the Vancouver Business Journal.” I even remember that when we had a blurb in the VBJ about me taking over as editor, he had cut it out of the newspaper and put it up on the bulletin board back by the expo window for everyone to see.
Russell was always proud of his employees and their accomplishments. Not only that, he never hesitated to help an employee that needed it, no matter what that meant. And he has done so much for not only the Battle Ground community, but the entire Clark County community. I don’t go to Battle Ground much anymore, but I know that I can speak for everyone when I say that the closure of Mill Creek will create a void in the hearts of many people, whether you’ve been there 100 times or just once.
The community loves you and thanks you, Russell. And we all hope to see Mill Creek back open and better than ever after this is all over.