Behind The Counter: Suzy Clemens

By Emily Peterson | September 9, 2016 3:23am

Suzy Clemens has been serving up coffee and bagels to UP students for over a decade. 

Media Credit: Hannah Baade / The Beacon

She owns three birds, one of which talks. She is originally from Germany. She owned a pizza pub. And although the majority of UP students know her for serving bagels, she doesn’t eat them.

Suzy Clemens is the Bon Appétit employee who has manned the Franz coffee and bagel stop for the past ten years.

She can recognize several faces in the swarm of students flooding the staircases headed to their next class. Conversations echo off the walls and the Franz basement fills with hungry Pilots hoping to get their morning bagel and coffee before the next class starts.

She knows the ins and outs of the daily and seasonal flow of people throughout UP’s main academic building. Clemens says finals and midterms are stressful for her and the other workers as well as students.

As a staple at the small coffee counter tucked underneath the stairwell in the Franz basement, Clemens says it’s nice to put a smile on someone’s face, something that her positive attitude, as well as a strawberry cream cheese bagel, will do.

In her free time, the longtime Bon App worker says she enjoys trying out new Portland restaurants, trips with friends to the beach and the symphony. She lives with her husband and her son, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Portland State University.

Clemens also has two pugs and three birds, one of which speaks.

“(The birds) do actually figure out the context of the word,” Clemens said. “If he wants a cracker he says cracker, if you leave he says bye-bye, you know, they figure it out… They are special.”

Clemens moved from Germany to Portland in 1996. Before her time in Franz, she owned a pizza place with her husband on Hawthorne.

“We had music there too, a lot of local bands played at our shop,” Clemens said. “It was a fun time.”

On September 11, 2001, a few years after she and her husband opened Murray’s Pizza Pub, tragedy struck the nation. A country she and her husband were still new to had just faced the largest terror attack in modern history. The economy took a hit. Clemens had to reduce the staff from over half a dozen workers to just she and her husband, working the shop from 9 a.m. until 2 a.m.

After working for years and only taking two days off, Clemens decided to trade in her Murray’s pizza cap for a black and purple one.

While the former business owner says she misses being able to make all the decisions and the creativity involved in owning her own business, she ultimately prefers the shorter hours and workweek she has at University of Portland.

Clemens says her favorite part of working in Franz is the students she interacts with. She says they are polite and nice and she has only had one or two encounters over the years where people were not respectful.

“I meet so many great young people,” Clemens said. “That’s a really rewarding part.”

The support of her bosses and coworkers is also a highlight of her job, as well as her interactions with the faculty and staff at UP.

“If you’ve been here as long as I have you know the faculty and the staff, so it becomes really almost like family,” Clemens said.

Although Clemens loves her job, she is not a huge fan of bagels anymore. After making them for students for the past ten years, Clemens laughs as she says that even when grocery shopping her husband will suggest bagels and she says no.

There to take your order Monday through Thursday, Clemens will be available to enable your caffeine and bagel addiction for a long time.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Clemens said.