SpareFoot Client Relations Team

While everyone at SpareFoot now calls Austin home, our team members came from far and wide to get here. Now that the holidays have arrived, many SpareFeet are planning voyages back to their hometowns to visit family, old friends and favorite nostalgic spots. This includes our Client Relations Team, the friendly folks you talk to whenever you call or email SpareFoot. They’re always here to help our facility clients, like you!

Wondering who these kind and knowledgeable support reps really are? Get to know them better through their stories about where they’re from and where they’re going back this holiday season.

Charlie WidlingerCHARLIE WINDLINGER | Houston

1. What’s your favorite thing about Houston?

My parents made sure that they did the whole “culture cramming” thing, so we always went to art museums, the natural science museum, the zoo. There are a bunch of great institutions in Houston that you don’t really find in any other major city.

2. What’s your least favorite thing about Houston?

The horrible traffic—when I was growing up there, they expanded I-10 to 20 lanes wide. There’s still no green public transportation system in the city, so that’s pretty frustrating.

3. What do you miss most about Houston?

My family’s dog, Champ. He’s a Golden Retriever mix with the best personality possible for a dog. He’s always super excited and happy, and probably a little too energetic.

4. What’s one place in Houston that says “home” to you?

Sam’s: It was an old-school burger kitchen that made awesome, simple and cheap burgers. My friends and I would hang out there a lot in high school.

5. Do you have any special holiday traditions?

Every Thanksgiving that Texas has a home game, my family has Thanksgiving here in Austin. We go to the game on Thursday and have dinner with the whole family on Friday.

Jeremy RachelJEREMY RACHEL | Abbeville, LA

1. What’s your favorite thing about Abbeville?

When I go visit my grandparents, my favorite thing is my grandmother’s cooking. It is, without a doubt, phenomenal. It’s also nice that Louisiana has drive-through daiquiri places.

2. What’s your least favorite thing about Abbeville?

The drive there isn’t all that great. It’s about six hours from here to Abbeville. Whenever I go out with my cousins, we have to go into Lafeyette to actually go to bars.

3. What do you miss most about Abbeville?

The food, my grandparents and seeing all of my family that I rarely get to see.

4. What’s one place in Abbeville that says “home” to you?

My grandparents’ house.

5. Do you have any special holiday traditions?

My grandmother always does a gumbo the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then she’ll make a bunch of different things on the actual day of the holiday: turkey, fried turkey, candied yams, potato salad, rice dressing, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, carrot and apple salad, ham and, of course, sweet potato pie. Let it be known that my grandmother Deloris Ruffins makes the best food on this earth.

Barry FinderBARRY FINDER | Rye Brook, NY

1. What’s your favorite thing about Rye Brook?

Its proximity to New York City—it’s a 40-minute train ride. Despite this, Rye Brook still has a small-town feel. It has only 8,000 people (there were 75 people in my graduating class), and the town is smaller than Central Park.

2. What’s your least favorite thing about Rye Brook?

The winter—it’s freezing!

3. What do you miss most about Rye Brook?

I miss the fall, my family and Cosi, the world’s best sandwich chain. I miss the New York hustle and bustle; people here think I’m always angry or speaking quickly, but I’m really not!

I miss good bagels. Most people think that elevation is what affects the taste, but it’s actually whatever chemicals are in the tap water. Those chemicals help the dough rise differently, and no one in the south has been able to re-create it.

4. What’s one place in Rye Brook that says “home” to you?

In high school, I worked at this resort as a lifeguard. Sometimes when I’m home, I’ll go swim in that pool. I’m also obsessed with my 8:40 p.m. flight out of JFK. I always take it—it’s my flight.

5. Do you have any special holiday traditions?

The sweet potato casserole. On Thanksgiving, it has always been my responsibility to put the marshmallows on top of the sweet potatoes. I once got into a disagreement with my cousin, who claimed that the casserole tasted just as good if you don’t meticulously line up the mini-marshmallows on the sweet potatoes. He was wrong.

The casserole has to have complete coverage, because I think the marshmallows melt differently and bake into the sweet potatoes better. You could go helter-skelter rogue and dump them all on there, or you can put a good 30 to 35 minutes into it, sit with those marshmallows and put them on the potatoes one at a time. Hard work pays off. You can’t just shun the sanctity of Thanksgiving dinner as if it doesn’t matter. Think about the pilgrims!

Elena SavastanoELENA SAVASTANO | Cleveland

1. What’s your favorite thing about Cleveland?

Cleveland has a lot of cool places, like restaurants and art museums. It’s maybe a little harder to find the gems compared to how easy it is in Austin, but you just have to know where to look.

2. What’s your least favorite thing about Cleveland?

I don’t like how gray it is most of the year. I wish we could see the sun more often. And there are no breakfast tacos—it’s just not a thing up where I’m from.

3. What do you miss most about Cleveland?

I miss my family, since I only get to see them once or twice a year. My little sister is 14, so I miss being around to give her advice to help her grow up. I feel like I’m missing her milestones. There are a few places I miss, like the Great Lakes Brewing Company. It’s one of my favorite breweries based out of Cleveland. I also miss Pierogis.

4. What’s one place in Cleveland that says “home” to you?

Tommy’s. It’s a restaurant in Cleveland Heights that has been around for 40 years. My dad used to go when he was in college, and he started taking me when I was a kid. They’re mostly known for their vegetarian food—they have one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever had.

5. Do you have any special holiday traditions?

My dad’s family is Italian, so we have very specific foods that we eat both on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, we have the “Feast of Seven Fishes,” and on Christmas Day, we have a big multicourse meal that’s always composed of an antipasto plate. We have a wedding soup that we make from scratch: It’s basically chicken broth with greens, chicken, homemade veal meatballs and cheesy bread.

Cory MichenerCORY MICHNER | St. Louis

1. What’s your favorite thing about St. Louis?

In opposition to Austin, the fact that we have seasons.

2. What’s your least favorite thing about St. Louis?

The winter: It snows at night, but melts during the day, which means that it stays icy and slushy all the time.

3. What do you miss most about St. Louis?

The people. I like that it’s a blue-collar, hard-working town.

4. What’s one place in St. Louis that says “home” to you?

Imo’s Pizza. It’s this little pizza joint, but it’s awesome.

5. Do you have any special holiday traditions?

Our family is all over the place, so the only tradition is that we make sure we spend the holidays all together as the Michener family.

Emma NostrandEMMA NOSTRAND | Teaneck, NJ

1. What’s your favorite thing about Teaneck?

Teaneck has a really wonderful legacy of diversity. It was the first town in the country to voluntarily integrate their school system, so that’s something we all pride ourselves on. We had great opportunities to learn about tons of different cultures as we were growing up; it was part of our school curriculum, and something that we take pretty seriously.

2. What’s your least favorite thing about Teaneck?

The traffic. We’re a commuter town and really close to New York City, so it can take a long time to get anywhere. We have a bunch of highways immediately surrounding us, which makes driving a nightmare. Although, Austin is pretty bad, too, so it feels like home.

3. What do you miss most about Teaneck?

My family. I was born and raised in New Jersey, and this is the first time I’ve actually lived anywhere else permanently without an end date in sight, so I miss being close to home.

Bagels, bagels, bagels. I miss bagels so much. We have them in Austin, but they’re not the same. New Jersey takes our bagels very seriously. My favorite spot is Three Star Bagels on Cedar Lane and Teaneck.

4. What’s one place in Teaneck that says “home” to you?

There’s a small Irish dive bar in Teaneck called The Cottage Bar. It’s where we all went as soon as we were old enough to drink, and where we all go the night before Thanksgiving. If there’s ever a reunion, it’s always at The Cottage Bar. You’ll run into your teachers, coaches, old classmates, and everyone knows the bartenders. That really epitomizes Teaneck for me.

5. Do you have any special holiday traditions?

We have Chrismukkah, because I’m half-Jewish and half-Christian. Since we observe both, all of our holiday traditions are combined. My mom always makes brisket—it’s a traditional Jewish holiday food.

Austin WagnerAUSTIN WAGNER | Lucas, TX

1. What’s your favorite thing about Lucas?

There aren’t a lot of people who live there— the population is about 5,000.

2. What’s your least favorite thing about Lucas?

I miss all of my friends in Austin when I’m at home.

3. What do you miss most about Lucas?

The open space. Everyone out there owns a farm.

4. What’s one place in Lucas that says “home” to you?

My best friend’s barn roof. He and I built the barn with his dad when we were kids, and it’s been our go-to place ever since. We still climb up there on holidays (when we’re both back home) to have a few drinks and talk about whatever comes to mind.

5. Do you have any special holiday traditions?

Whiskey Slush. It’s a combination of rye whiskey, orange sherbet, cherries and magic. It’s magnificent.

RJ GossettRJ GOSSETT | Clarksville, TN

1. What’s your favorite thing about Clarksville?

The sense of community. It’s a military and college town, so those two communities really work well together.

2. What’s your least favorite thing about Clarksville?

It can be a little monotonous. It’s very suburban, so you have to make your own entertainment. There were a lot of movie and game nights at RJ’s house.

3. What do you miss most about Clarksville?

I spent 25 years there, so I miss the familiarity of my surroundings and knowing where to go and what to do. I coached high school soccer at Montgomery Central for seven years before I came to Austin, so I miss the teams.

4. What’s one place in Clarksville that says “home” to you?

The Dunn Center. It’s the gym for the Austin Peay State University basketball team. We had our own little group of season ticket holders, so whenever there was a basketball game that week, we all knew what we were doing. Our school team was called the Austin Peay Governors. Ever since who knows when, our chant has been, “Let’s go Peay!” That’s how I know I’m back home—when I’m standing there screaming, “Let’s go Peay!”

5. Do you have any special holiday traditions?

The rest of my family is spread out in other parts of the country, so it’s just me and my parents in Clarksville, or “ClarksVegas,” as it’s affectionately known. We have a family that adopted us for Thanksgiving and Christmas—they’re not our immediate family, but we consider them our holiday family.

Erin FitzerERIN FITZER | New York City

1. What’s your favorite thing about New York City?

You can smell the seasons change, and everybody walks everywhere.

2. What’s your least favorite thing about New York City?

Sometimes it gets too crowded, especially when you go back after being someplace less crowded.

3. What do you miss most about New York City?

All of the food choices—there’s an Ethiopian restaurant called Meskerem Ethiopian Cuisine on MacDougal that I love. I miss getting a still-warm sourdough bagel from H&H Midtown Bagels, especially when it’s cold outside.

4. What’s one place in New York City that says “home” to you?

Grant’s Tomb. It has these gorgeous mosaic sculpture benches, and I like that it’s in the park.

5. Do you have any special holiday traditions?

My family is actually English, so they do Christmas crackers. You pull them apart and get these little toys and goofy paper crowns that everyone wears. That’s what makes me feel like it’s the holidays.

Laura BishopLAURA BISHOP | San Antonio

1. What’s your favorite thing about San Antonio?

The fact that my mom, dad and youngest brother are there.

2. What’s your least favorite thing about San Antonio?

There’s not a lot to do—when I lived there, the only thing people would do was go to the movies or go to the mall. That being said, I think San Antonio has some of the best malls and theaters. La Cantera is a great outdoor mall that’s just lovely around the holidays.

3. What do you miss most about San Antonio?

I miss my family, of course. I also miss a nail salon in Helotes called Cindy’s Nail Spa. She’s the best nail person ever—I haven’t been able to find anyone quite like her. (Shout out to our friends at Storage Mart just across from Cindy’s Nails!)

There’s a restaurant called Alamo Cafe that I love. They have the best Southwestern Cobb Salad. It’s $8, and you get a huge, hearty salad. In the last year and a half that we’ve been in Austin, I cannot find anything like it. Makes me want to drive back to San Antonio just to have their salad!

4. What’s one place in San Antonio that says “home” to you?

O.P. Schnabel Park. I used to go for walks, hikes and runs at that park, and I really miss it. Even though Austin has a lot of great parks and trails, O.P. Schnabel had a variety of stuff, like a kids’ playground, rock climbing, trails, creeks. It was very centrally located, so I think that’s where I feel most at home.

5. Do you have any special holiday traditions?

A few Thanksgivings ago, I was looking for cranberries in the supermarket and had no idea what they actually looked like! We’ve always had cranberries from a can, so I didn’t know that they were little red berries. I made my first dish of real cranberry sauce, and it was unlike any other recipe I’ve ever tasted—it’s definitely different from sauce you get from a can.

I love Thanksgiving, and recently I’ve decided that our family should try and eat all-natural foods. So instead of boxed, stuffed or canned items, we are making everything out of scratch. I’m trying to make our “All-Out Scratch” Thanksgiving a new family tradition. It’s a nice way to do something different and come together as a family. Plus, it’s healthy!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at SpareFoot! We look forward to being back in Austin to work with you again after the long weekend. Or perhaps we’ll see you sooner, as a few of us may drop in to visit local clients’ facilities in our hometowns!

Photos by Matt Stites