SMC snack bar

Michelle Charles/Stillwater News Press

The Stillwater Medical Center snack bar is a popular stop for both employees and visitors of the hospital. It’s known for its handmade sandwiches, including unusual finds like egg salad, ham salad and pimento cheese. Left to right: Nutrition services employee Ashton Boda and Jacob Ellis assist SMC IT employee Evan Frank in the snack bar. 

The Stillwater Medical Center snack bar routinely comes through in the clutch. 

Whether it’s a nurse who needs a quick snack or a family member of a patient who will be at the hospital for several hours, the snack bar offers a much-needed space for rest and reenergizing. 

There are a few things that most successful organizations have that allows things to run smoothly, and for SMC that’s employees and volunteers whose nature it is to represent the company well. 

Shirley Brownlee has served in numerous capacities as a volunteer at SMC since 1992, and at 88 is still dedicated to taking time to help out wherever she is needed. She has been instrumental in helping make the snack bar a fluid operation and has seen it develop from a simple shop to what is basically now a mini-grocery store.

A former gym teacher and a participant in many senior Olympics events up until a few years ago, Brownlee balances her time volunteering at the snack bar with working at her son Brett Brownlee’s restaurant, Cherokee Strip BBQ. 

“My favorite part is mixing with the people,” Brownlee said. “I don’t get to do that back at the restaurant because I’m back in the kitchen.” 

Lisa Eckels, the volunteer coordinator for SMC, said the first record of the snack bar is from around 1958 at the hospital’s previous location on West 9th avenue. 

In its first few years of operation the snack bar initially offered coffee and donuts and, thanks to Mary Lighty, the creator of many of the famous recipes, there were also homemade foods such as chicken salad sandwiches.  

Several things have changed since those early days, and as the Nutrition Services department of the hospital began to manage the snack bar in 2008, it has taken some of the burden off the shoulders of the volunteers. 

Open Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., the snack bar has 35 volunteers that help run it in a few different capacities. 

Michelle Axtell, the director of nutrition services since 2009, said the staff made it a priority to keep the original recipes for the more popular items. 

“So, we tried to keep the recipes the same,” Axtell said. “We have people come in all the time to purchase them because they’re the same.” 

Complex taxes and the physical demand of the long hours were a couple of the reasons for the change in the staffing structure of the snack bar, but it hasn’t hindered the success of the shop. 

Joy Haken used to be the volunteer coordinator for SMC and oversaw the snack bar or what some people call the “Granny Shack.” She said since the change in management the shop can stay open for extended hours including on weekends and holidays. 

“Like on weekends the gift shop’s closed, so they’ve got it where the snack bar has a key and they can help purchase flowers and things like that,” Haken said. 

Beyond the service the snack bar provides for its customers, the proceeds also benefit the hospital, helping pay for other resources around the center as well as maintaining the snack bar itself. 

“They bought wheelchairs, hospital beds, electric doors, monitors,” Haken said. “They bought some big items throughout the years with that money.” 

Without looking at the financial value it’s hard to measure the precise impact that the snack bar makes for the people who count on it. However, Brownlee said it is definitely a big help to the hospital staff who might need a quick snack during the long day.  

“We’re almost here for the doctors and nurses that are here all day long every day, some here all night” Brownlee said. “I don’t know if there is a number that says we serve more nurses than we do anyone else because we are open for everybody here, but we do see a lot of the staff that comes in on their breaks.” 

Helping out the staff shows the essence and purpose of the snack bar as well as the team effort it takes to make SMC run smoothly. And what’s even more fitting is that it all plays into the hospital’s values and goal to promote an environment that seeks to achieve excellence in the services it provides.

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