Liverpool After four decades of hauling heavy trays of delicious food to hungry patrons at The Retreat, waitress Cindy Crooks is calling it a day at the end of this month.
Cindy started work at The Retreat when it first opened in 1972. Nowadays the village’s busiest bistro boasts two huge dining rooms, a spacious barroom and a multi-level outdoor patio, but when John Gormel first opened the place it wasn’t much more than a modest, single-family house with a bar on the first floor.
“I was one of the very first bartenders,” Cindy recalls. “It was me and Dick Ash and a girl named Marie.”
The Retreat kitchen had yet to blossom into the creative cauldron of cuisine it is today.
“We served Tony’s Pizza,” Cindy says, “frozen pizzas we bought at the store and heated up in the kitchen.”
Before long Cindy and her boss, John Gormel, had expanded their menu by catering dinners for local fire departments and private Christmas parties. “Then we started making burgers and sandwiches at The Retreat along with soups and chili,” she remembers…and the rest is history.
Proud single mother
Over the past 42 years as The Retreat grew into one of the most consistently satisfying restaurants in Central New York, Cindy has worked many different jobs there including barmaid, manager, head waitress and server.
Though she’s understandably proud of her role as a linchpin of Liverpool’s most successful eatery, she even prouder of her accomplishments as a mother. She sent both of her sons, Brad and Jeff, to Bishop Ludden High School where they excelled at basketball and football respectively. Later she paid their tuition at Syracuse and Colgate universities.
“I was a single mother, and I did it all on my own,” Cindy says with a self-satisfied smile.
While her self-reliance has served her well, Cindy’s ever-ready to thank those who helped her along the way.