AGAWAM — Brittany Houghton loves the vibe at Murphy’s Pub in Agawam.

And when she is tending bar, patrons seem to love her vibe, as well. Judges recently agreed, and gave her the 2024 Howdy Award for Hospitality Excellence among workers at beverage establishments in the Pioneer Valley.

Brittany Houghton received her Howdy Award at the April 29 recognition ceremony.
Photo credit: Nic Gonzalez

“I am so honored to be recognized and appreciated,” Houghton said. “I was in shock, because I didn’t expect this. I’m going in there doing my job and being nice.”

Houghton began working at Murphy’s Pub six years ago as a server on trivia nights. She was a single mother with a young daughter, and had just started working again. She stopped in the bar a couple of times and noticed it was hiring for specific nights. Houghton called, spoke with the owner, and was hired right on the spot. She had worked at a couple of chain restaurants before Murphy’s, but said she loved the pub’s neighborhood vibe and friendliness.

Working Tuesday trivia nights, Houghton got to know many of the regular customers and built relationships with them. After serving for a while, Houghton wanted a job where she could enjoy a more intimate experience with the guests, and a schedule better suited to a single mom. Four years ago, she began tending bar during daytime hours, while her daughter was in school. She said bartending involves working on a team, integrity, being flexible and assertiveness. Communication is critical when bartending, she said.

She told Reminder Publishing that working at Murphy’s is almost like working with your family. She knows many of her customers by name, and makes a point of asking new customers their names so she can greet them the next time they come in. She said one of the aspects she enjoys most of being a bartender is meeting people from all walks of life and listening to their stories, because it makes them feel heard.

“I’m a firm believer in this job that whatever is going on, you always want to leave it at the door, and that’s much easier said than done, especially for certain people,” Houghton added. “I try to take my morning to myself. I take my daughter to school and try to get into a good attitude and a good place. You always get those people who are difficult or not having a great day. Even though they might not be the kindest to you, if you’re still kind to them at the end of the day, they leave a little bit happier. That always makes me feel good.”

Houghton said she is glad to be part of the team at Murphy’s Pub.

“I’m really happy that I can represent Murphy’s Pub,” Houghton said. “The owner is awesome, and my managers are some of my best friends. I’m glad that I could be a part of advertising and letting other people know what a great neighborhood pub it is.”

Houghton was selected for the Howdy Award out of dozens of people across Greater Springfield nominated by their customers.

“A panel of three out-of-town judges selected Brittany as the winner in her category, beverage, describing her as an amazing person. Such a bright light, and not just to me, but to everyone they encounter,” said Michele Goldberg, vice president of marketing for the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, which sponsors the awards.

The Howdy Awards program was created by the Convention and Visitors Bureau, also known as Explore Western Mass., to recognize front-line employees in the hospitality industry who go above and beyond in the performance of their duties and provide outstanding service to their guests and customers. These hospitality professionals contribute to the economic vitality of the businesses they serve and the region overall, said Goldberg.

“Tourism is the third largest industry in the region, and by providing excellent service, visitors will want to come back and continue to help grown the tourism economy in Western Mass.,” Goldberg said.

Houghton was in Puerto Rico when her boss texted her about the nomination.

“I had just gotten engaged the day before and he sent me the Howdy email,” Houghton recalled. “I was sitting right on the beach screaming. Then at the same time I thought about, ‘What is a Howdy award?’ so I had to Google it to see what exactly it was. It was amazing. I was celebrating multiple victories all in one trip.”

Murphy’s Pub is at 664 Suffield St. It is open every day starting at 11:30 a.m. The kitchen closes at 10 p.m. but the bar stays open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday nights, and 1 a.m. on weekends.

Miasha Lee
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