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Globe-trotting Petaluma cashier makes customers smile

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When she’s not off exploring some far-flung corner of the world, Suzanne Brown can be found behind the cash register at Petaluma’s Whole Foods, where regular customers know her for her genuine good nature.

A cashier for the past nine years, Brown also runs a travel agency with her boyfriend, helping many people take the trip of a lifetime. While she loves traveling herself, one of Brown’s favorite places is the East Washington Street store, especially in the early mornings, when regulars come in for coffee and a pastry.

“I’m a morning person,” said Brown, 65. “It’s the energy of people when they are starting their day. I feed off of that.”

Brown, who is typically at the store when it opens at 8 a.m., is the service person of the week for the Argus-Courier.

Brown said she likes getting to know customers, often chatting them up about their jobs or their families. She is also curious about the foods people buy, eager to learn how to make meals with unique ingredients. (She’s currently learning how to make soup from burdock root).

“I’ve learned a lot about food,” she said. “I enjoy asking people what they are going to make.”

Sue Lassen, who nominated Brown, said she is always upbeat, friendly and pleasant to talk to, even with grumpy customers first thing in the morning.

“She always has suggestions for products in the store and seems genuinely interested in how your day is going,” she wrote. “When I see she is working, I will always go to her line, even if it is not the shortest.”

Raised in Marin County, Brown moved to Petaluma 40 years ago after she studied at Sonoma State University. She has always been in customer service, from her early days in Petaluma working as a waitress at Steamer Gold Landing for 11 years, then working at Dempsey’s for another five. She said it was a wonderful experience getting to know families and friends in Petaluma.

She spent years working for a travel agency in Novato, before staring her own business with her boyfriend, with whom she lives. They have traveled the world, including trips to Europe, Canada, Mexico, Turkey, Greece and Japan. She’s planning a trip to Vietnam this year and recently visited Cuba.

“Cuba was amazing,” she said. “I love the people and the color of the faded buildings. The old cars.”

Brown has raised two daughters, now adults, and she became a grandmother three years ago. A self-described people person, she said she likes being able to help people on a daily basis.

“I like being there for people,” she said. “They can come to me and know I will engage with them. It’s a two-way street. They do the same for me. It’s uplifting.”

Brown is the second of five nominees for the Service Person of the Year award, which will be selected by a poll of readers. The winner will be honored at the 2018 Petaluma Community Awards of Excellence, co-sponsored by the Argus-Courier and the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce.

Email a nomination to matt.brown@arguscourier.com or write us a letter to tell us why you think your nominee should be considered for the service person award (no phone calls, please.)

Nominations can cover all aspects of the service industry, from cashiers and clerks to baristas and servers — not business owners, managers or directors.