We #ROSlove Birch Street Bistro’s bartender Stephanie Sunderland!

An interview by RVMS Marketing Committee Co-Chair, Jocelyn Hutt

Having recently been voted one of Roslindale Village’s favorite bartenders, we wanted to get to know Stephanie a bit – so she agreed to put down her shaker, and answer a few questions about what it’s REALLY like to be a bartender.

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How long have you been a bartender?

I have been an officially employed bartender since 1990! I have been at the Birch Street Bistro for 8+ years, and I think I landed in the best spot ever, Roslindale (I live here too) has the best customers across the board, I feel blessed to be working with the Bistro owners Mark and Patti, Chef Marcelo de Olivera, it’s a great and interesting staff! Location, location, location!

I would like to shout out to Kelly Cope my sister bartender that works four of the 7 shifts per week at the Bistro. She is awesome, and we rarely work together on the bar but we make a great pair; communicating about our customers and many ways to make it all work, we share the pride of the Bistro bar!

What has changed from when you began – is it very different today?

The mechanics of bartending are the same; the mixologist side of bartending goes through cycles as most things and often the drinks we “create” have already been enjoyed for years with different names!

The martini glass has grown in size, and it defies sensible serving suggestions!

The list of recorded drink combinations has grown exponentially! The average person is savvier about spirits, wine and beer!

Yelp and social media have been positive for marketing and sharing, however it has also captured mistakes that humans (it IS a service industry) may make with a myriad of moving parts and those opinions, insults and criticism lasts forever, which is a bit unfair.


Do people come in and ask for seasonal drinks, or do they really just ask for whatever ‘their’ usual is?

Both — people usually have a drink or two that they “go to” when they are indecisive or seeking comfort.  Other times those same people want to experiment with new concoctions. They may be craving sweet or herbal, celebrating something and want to drink something special and are intrigued by our seasonal lists.  At least 50% of the drinking population at the Birch Street Bistro always drink their “regular” drink. I benefit from that because I can have it ready and get to the best part of the job, connecting with them and their lives and what matters to them!


What do you wish people knew and understood about being a bartender?

It is not a job for everyone; many people desire to do this job as it seems sexy in some way. It is a “real” job with many facets of physical, mental and emotional parts.  It is one of the best jobs in the world for some of us. Every bartender must possess an awareness of the rest of the service being offered in the establishment they work in. They must have people skills that engage the customer, including knowing when to give space.  They must be able to remember more than one thing about each person that appears more than once at their bar. A good bartender remembers something they like to eat or drink, a way they want something prepared and or a detail about their work, family or neighborhood. Lastly, they must actually enjoy working in direct contact with fellow human beings, be empathetic and genuine and all that while doing a fairly strenuous job in a team atmosphere! Bartenders also must understand when and how to gracefully shut a person off when they have had enough!

Tips are truly appreciated; I enjoy tips as feedback and pay for a job well done.  I also appreciate tipping because you are actually choosing to share your hard earned money with me even when times are tough, I find people very generous and I never get mad about a tip size because everyone does what they can do and I know that!

For me, bartending was never a stepping-stone, I have had this job longer then my other profession and I have always been a bartender, no breaks, through college, two children, and 22 years of working in: wait for it….. Substance Use Prevention and Mental Health!

roslindale-birch-street-bistroAnd what’s YOUR drink?

My go to is Captain Morgan and soda water, a dash of coke and 2 limes.  I love big red wines and I enjoy Mai Tais and Sidecars when I am visiting bartender friends throughout!

Stephanie – thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights – it’s no wonder you are so well-liked. We encourage people to stop in and say hello to Stephanie at Birch Street Bistro.

Thanks to Outgoing Board Members

Every spring, RVMS hosts the Annual Meeting in order to share news of upcoming events and projects, as well as highlights from the past year, but also to both welcome incoming board members and thank outgoing board members. The RVMS board is a working, all volunteer board, operating in concert with RVMS staff, committees, volunteers, and community groups to do everything from running the Farmers Market to helping pack up and store office files.

We hope all of our friends and neighbors from the community will be able to join us on the night of April 12th, starting at 7:00 PM, at Saint Nectarios Church, to welcome new members to the RVMS board and to give a big round of applause to our outgoing members whose dedication and service will have a lasting impact in our community. 

This year, we say thanks to outgoing members Max Fripp, Jennifer Madar, Vinny Marino, Emily Meneer, Mary Perry, Elizabeth Swanson, Ben Warner, and Vernee Wilkinson. Each of these members brought unique talents and strengths as well as diverse backgrounds and we are so grateful for all that they have shared with RVMS and with the broader community. RVMS also wishes to extend heartfelt thanks to Jennifer Madar for her dedicated service to the Roslindale community as an RVMS Board Member since 2011, and most recently, as President since January 2015. Jennifer’s leadership in streamlining and documenting policies and procedures to support continuity and consistency, updating the bylaws, and reopening a discussion of long range planning will benefit RVMS for years to come. Vice President Hilary Sullivan will be stepping in as interim president for the remainder of the year.

Thank you outgoing members!

Bussey Bridge Disaster: 3/14/1887

written by RVMS Marketing Committee Co-chair Carolyn Donovan

The 7:00 am commuter train from Dedham, with its usual variety of businessmen, shop girls, and school children, started their days as they normally did. Just a normal day.

Without warning the forty-foot high bridge the train was crossing collapsed, plunging three wooden passenger cars onto the road below or tumbling down the embankment, and 37 people to their deaths. Sixteen of those people were from Roslindale.1887_Drawing_of_Collapsed_Bridge

It was called “The Bussey Bridge Disaster,” and it changed Massachusetts law. Today is it’s 129th anniversary.

The bridge was, as the Boston Globe reported, “Bad in Contract and Bad in Make, Bad in Testing and Very Bad in General.” It was designed by a man without any civil engineering qualifications who created a sham company in order to get the contract. His work was not overseen by the Boston and Providence Railroad, and the bridge itself had not been regularly examined during its life.

The tragedy made The New York Times.

There were three things that prevented greater loss of life:
1. The doors of the stoves used to heat the compartments were locked, preventing the coals from escaping and setting the wooden carriages on fire.
2. The train engineer flew down the rest of the track to the Forest Hills station with the emergency whistle sounding all the way, alerting the fire house;
3. The people of Roslindale rushed to the scene to help.

Following the tragedy, the bridge was rebuilt with stone and cement. It still stands, and is still used for train travel.

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Massachusetts now requires that all railroad bridges be examined by a qualified professional every two years.

To read more about the tragedy and its aftermath:

“The Bussey Bridge Horror,” page 627; Mixed Train to Providence.

“Photos of the Bussey Bridge Disaster of 1887,” Roslindale Historical Society.