30 Apr Then & Now: Tonya Price
Irregardless has been around for 43 years and has seen many people coming and going, including the wait staff and cooks. To celebrate the years and the people who have helped make the restaurant what it is today, our staff blogger Alix V. has created a Then & Now Blog Series – capturing the special memories of previous employees when they worked at the cafe back then – and what they have been up to now. Let’s catch up with Tonya Price!
Q: What was it like working at the Irregardless back then?
Tonya: It was awesome. I loved working at Irregardless because it was like everybody had worked there a long time. There was a core group, there were older people who had been there pre-fire and then there were people who got hired on after the fire. Then, there were new people always evolving. Like in every restaurant, people come and go. I was hired on after the fire and the first shift when the new restaurant opened.
Q: How long were you working at The Cafe?
Tonya: I worked at The Cafe for about seven years.
Q: What was your position at The Cafe?
Tonya: I was one of the waitstaff.
Q: What drew you to the restaurant?
Tonya: Mostly that I needed a job and sometimes, you get a job and it’s just sheer luck that you find a home there and end up liking it.
Q: Was is it strange being one of the only veggie-option restaurants in Raleigh?
A: No, it wasn’t strange. It was funny how if you weren’t a hippie or a vegetarian, you would get quirky people who would come in the restaurant. But I made friends with customers and some of the waitstaff that I still keep in touch with. I met this family who used to come in and I always doted on their kids and one day, they moved to Hong Kong. I didn’t really know them all that well; I was only their waitress. When I heard they were moving, I asked them if I could come visit them and they said yes. And I’m still friends with those people. To this day, we still keep in touch. Both the kids are getting married; one already did and invited me to come to the wedding. There was another customer we called Mrs. Extra because she always wanted extra ice and extra lemon. I’m Facebook friends with her daughter and she married one of the busboys at the restaurant. I think the restaurant business, in general, brings the kind of atmosphere where people are hospitable and friendly with one another.
Q: Do you have any significant stories that you remember from working at the restaurant?
A: I remember, not of any particular time, but sometimes, the other employees would make me laugh so hard, I couldn’t even wait tables. We were all friends; we’d go out to Sunday dinner together; it felt like we were our own little community.
There is another story that I’ve never told anyone and I still get a kick out of it. Once there was this man who came in about 10pm when we were closing and he sat down in my section. I asked him what he would like to drink and he said water was fine. I then walked off and went and did my side work and paperwork and went home, having completely forgotten about him. I do not know what happened to that man. And I didn’t tell anyone. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I could get fired for this.’ The next day, I went to work, nothing was said so I guess the man just got up and left. No one knew about it except for me and that man.
Another story I have was about the time that I started, it was kind of a different vibe. It wasn’t as hippie as it had been. The older workers would tell us that Arthur would make them go outside and talk about their hopes and dreams. It was like a hippie little restaurant. I think Irregardless was very forward thinking. They were vegetarian and non-smoking, probably one of the first non-smoking restaurants in the area. That was unheard of.
Q: What’s something you miss about The Cafe?
A: The people. The restaurant business is one of those easy things you can talk negatively about. It’s hard work and people can treat you like second-class citizens, so when you think about how to keep it in a positive spin, the people are who kept me going.
Q: Do you keep in touch with anyone from the restaurant?
A: Dodge and I were friends and I don’t always keep in touch with him as much as I should, but I always send him a holiday card. I send Irregardless a holiday card as well. But I made friends with Paige, who was one of the waitresses there. Paige and I have been friends ever since we were neighbors. We lived in the same house that was split into apartments and to this day, we’re still friends. And I rented the blue house that’s right down the street from Irregardless too.
I miss seeing Ed Moon and his band the Ed Moon Trio and Peewee, who played in the band and was so hilarious. There was a line cook named Jason and we’re still really good friends. Like I’d go with either Jason or Paige on almost every vacation trip I’ve had. He and I would fight like cats and dogs when we worked at Irregardless. A funny story about him: there was a rule where if there was a special order, we’d have to ask and so I always felt like, ‘whatever, I’ll just do it.’ So I would be polite and go to the back to ask and then they would tell me no and I would get so pissed at those boys and I’d tell Jason to put his $40,000 education to use. And it made him so angry with me! It was just amazing the people we would meet there.
Q: Have you gone back to Irregardless to visit?
A: It’s been about two years since I’ve been back.
Now, Tonya is a wedding photographer with her own company called Pop Rock Photography.