Thirty five years ago, I started my job at Ray’s Boathouse. It was the place to work in the 70’s and if you made it through the grueling four-interview process, you were among a very select and eclectic group of healthy, intelligent, active, and a bit full of shenanigans, people. The pride the crew felt working at Ray’s, was over the top and from day one, I observed mutual respect from owners and managers.
Within the first few days of training, I could feel the loyalty and passion among those working, and we instantly became one big happy family. My new family worked together, played together and always took care of each other. This was so unique to me as I had worked in many other restaurants around Seattle and there was nothing like the camaraderie at Ray’s.
In those days, it was not uncommon for the crew to start their lunch shift with a shot of tequila, with one of the owners at the helm. No, this did not go on everyday; it was more like a toast to “bring it on” before we got our butts kicked with the high volume of guests lined up out the front door. The lunch shift was fast and furious and of course filled with the high profile Seattle celebs and their martini lunches. Being one of the hot spots in town, we attracted all the movers and shakers in town and was the place to go, to be “seen”.
At the time, the bar upstairs (now the Cafe) was a hangout for fishermen after they came home from crabbing with their pockets full of money and other items I won’t mention…remember, it was the 70’s and 80’s! In the summer, we held our pre-shift meetings on the deck and would occasionally”‘flash” a fishing boat going by on their way to Alaska.
I knew most of my guests by name and what they drank. Many came in several times a week and some, daily. We had a little window in the bar where we could look out to the parking lot and see who was coming in. It wasn’t unusual for me to have their drinks waiting on the table before they arrived.
After several years of waiting tables, I was promoted to manager. With that responsibility, I quickly learned that the name of the game was all about mutual respect, hospitality and relationships. Nurturing guests, crew and vendors was, and is, my passion.
Never dreaming then I would still be at Ray’s today, I am grateful to the owners for trusting in my leadership and showing me the road map for success.
With our 40th birthday party today, I look forward to seeing many of those same people that were joining me in that shot of tequila, 35 years ago…cheers!
It’s baseball season and our longtime General Manager Mo Shaw will imminently be departing. Both have been on our minds of late. Why do I conflate the two? Is Mo an aficionado of the summer pastime? I can’t say. But I do know that she’s a fan and a champion of her employees and perhaps there’s a lesson of the baseball diamond that relates to Mo’s swan song.
I played shortstop as a youth, softball as an adult. A major principle of the position, as of all the infield positions, is to charge a ground ball hit to you. Go get it. The reasons are twofold. One – get that ball as soon as you can to increase the odds of throwing the batter, or a runner, out. Two – get the ball on a good hop. If you wait it out, the ball may take an extra bounce and careen away. If it’s a three-bounder, collect it at two and a-half and make the play. Perhaps that ball is opportunity.
To many of us, Mo has been a coach, a teacher, a (cheer)leader, a coworker. She “covers a lot of ground” in the cafe when the rush is on (and even when it isn’t). I think she has an MBWA degree – that is, management by walking around. She knows the field, knows the turf, and knows what’s happening in all departments simultaneously. She’s plugged in.
Baseball lineups change, batting orders change, business employment rosters change. More infrequently, the leader who writes that roster changes. We’ve been fortunate to be led, instructed, advised, taught, reminded, cheered, and celebrated by Mo. It’s time to celebrate her, and to welcome our new GM Doug Zellers.
On Saturday, April 27th, two of my colleagues (but most of all, my friends) and I competed in the first ever Seattle Urban Trek organized by the Seattle Sports Commission. The Seattle Urban Trek is a team adventure race similar to that of the popular television show “The Amazing Race”. The competition lead us on a scavenger hunt across a 10 mile trek of downtown Seattle’s urban terrain where we would complete a series of check-points ranging in varieties of cognitive and physical challenges. Lorna Stokes, Mark Smith and myself comprised the corporate co-ed team “Try To Catch Some Ray’s” representing Ray’s in the competition against roughly 40 other corporate teams ranging from ROOT Sports to Click 98.9.
We began our morning adventure at Bell Harbor on the Seattle waterfront. After settling in and pumping up for our big morning adventure, each team was given a map of downtown Seattle and the 12 check-points we would have to visit and complete a mystery task at each in order to progress to the finish line back at Bell Harbor. We were given 30 minutes to decide among our teams how we would trek across downtown Seattle, from as far north as the Seattle Center to as far south as Safeco Field, in the shortest amount of time possible.
We had agreed that Lorna and Mark would be the brawn of this operation, leaving me to be the brains, which all kidding aside, came in handy when finding the shortest and easiest route through the evil hills of downtown Seattle. Okay, maybe I’m kidding a little bit; sorry team!
All of the teams congregated at the start where we were first challenged by having to exchange one shoe each and then separate to different starting points. The starting buzzer blared and we took off north towards our first checkpoint at the Olympic Sculpture Garden where we were instructed to draw a landscape portrait of the waterfront. Easy in and out and on to our next adventure!
We were welcomed at the Space Needle by some of our nation’s finest military soldiers where we had to answer four questions about the Space Needle – I bet most of you couldn’t tell us how many lighting rods are affixed at the top! Fourteen, a bit excessive if you ask me, but anyway…
Following our questions, we had to complete 15 jumping jacks and then we were off running to Nordstrom at 5th and Pine where we were instructed to find the color of the Brooks running shoe that was in one of the display cases. Mark and Lorna broke off running the perimeter of the building and I stayed watch, lucky for me, as Lorna ended up bolting through the entire interior of the store until we all met up again.
Then it was break time at the closet shop that sold bottled water. That was a heavy start! Then we were on to the Washington Convention Center where we got quite the surprise, as we were told we would have to trek up to the top of Capitol Hill at Pike and Broadway and get a picture of our team with the statue of Jimi Hendrix that resides there.
That trek nearly wiped us and many of our competitors out. The hill up definitely added some definition to our gluteal area! Then it was back downtown to the Washington Athletic Club, then to the Seattle Public Library where Lorna and I had to reenact a scene from the movie “Jerry McGuire”. “SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!” we screamed at the top of our lungs.
It seemed like the physically hard part was done, at least we hoped, as it was downhill from there to a shady alleyway in Pioneer Square to complete a poem about with magnetic words on an electrical box. Check!
Then off to SafeCo Field, the farthest south we’d have to run. The finish line was coming closer and closer, but we still had four check-points left! We made a sweep through our check-points on the waterfront. First at Argosy Cruises where one of the boat hands showed us how to tie a running bowline knot; all three of us had to successfully master the knot before we could move on. Honestly, this was the hardest checkpoint. It took us at least 10 minutes for all of us to complete it but, to Mark’s credit, he finished way before Lorna and I, but that’s because I hear he wears awesome pants.
We finally finished and bolted to the Great Wheel for a fun golfing and team adventure. Next we were off to the Seattle Aquarium to answer an extensive quiz about the marine life in the Puget Sound. Can you tell us what type of rockfish lives in the sound and what color it is? Yeah, we couldn’t either. Thank goodness for Google!
The end of the competition was near and all we had left was Pike Place Market. Sweet, we thought, take the elevator! So we hopped on the elevator and made our way through the hustle and bustle of the Market when we reached our check-point where we were told we had to count the number of Seattleites between the fish throwing and the Pig statue on Elliot. Seattleites? What are these people talking about, are they crazy? Well, we were the first group to FINALLY figure it out. If I remember correctly, 12 is the answer. Can you figure out what they are? Look around next time you’re at the Market and see!
Then we rushed down the Harbor Steps back to the waterfront when two teams started edging up on us and it was on. Mark had it in him to jet towards the finish line but it took all we could muster for Lorna and I to catch Mark and in turn beat Taos Trio by 13.1 seconds!
“Try to Catch Some Ray’s” finished 17 out of 40 teams in 2 hours, 31 minutes and 22.8 seconds; it was close, but we did it! This was an amazing event full of great teams and remarkable sportsmanship. People from organizations all across Seattle competed, but most of all, cheered one another on straight to the finish line.
We may not have won a big, shiny medal, but we had an incredible time together and got to see and experience much of Seattle we might not have ever gone out and explored on a typical day downtown. I hope that we have started a tradition that will continue on with or without the three of us. Teamwork is a valuable stepping stone in the journey of success and this was a great exercise to bond companies and employees in a fun and challenging extracurricular activity. Each one of us brought our own strengths to the team and we had to band together to get to the finish line.
“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” ― Phil Jackson. Or as I like to say, “Teamwork makes the dream work!” Until next year…
May 28, 2013 (Seattle, WA)- Ray’s Boathouse, Café and Catering, announced a leadership change at the helm, as Maureen “Mo” Shaw, General Manager, will step aside in mid-June before undertaking a new leadership role in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Shaw came to Ray’s Boathouse in 1997, following a five-year stint as Senior General Manager for Restaurants Unlimited, Inc. What she initially envisioned as a five-year position at Ray’s turned into 16 years of dedication to the restaurant that brought profitability and growth, alongside impressive service and training standards.
During Shaw’s tenure, the restaurant published a cookbook, Ray’s Boathouse: Seafood Secrets of the Pacific Northwest, received “America’s Most Classic” award from the James Beard Foundation, earned an “Award of Excellence” from the Wine Spectator for 16 consecutive years, and a “DiRoNa Award of Excellence” bestowed upon North American fine dining establishments that pass a rigorous and anonymous inspection process. The Washington Restaurant Association honored Shaw in 2008, as “Full Service Restaurant Operator of the Year” and she received the “Walter Clore Honorarium Award” in 2011. In 2012, Shaw led a five-month renovation, repositioning and grand reopening of Ray’s Boathouse, which had not been undertaken for nearly 12 years.
“While I never originally envisioned that I would spend 16 years in this position, I am very proud of the accomplishments that we have achieved and the team that I have built here,” Shaw said. “Ray’s Boathouse is a hospitality leader, an icon for waterfront and seafood dining in Seattle. I feel honored that I have been able to maintain our incredible reputation, nearly 40 years since we opened, and that Ray’s achieved great success during my tenure. I will miss our team and guests greatly, but I look forward to my next position that will offer a challenge for additional personal growth and increased responsibility.”
Russ Wohlers, one of the four Ray’s Boathouse owners, shared his gratitude for Shaw’s work on behalf of the ownership group. “We have been very lucky to have Mo for as long as we have,” Wohlers said. “She is a terrific operator, and has repeatedly demonstrated how to build and maintain excellence from her team. It is an understatement to say that she will be missed. We wish her all the best in her next venture and we thank her for her many years of service to our organization.”
In mid-June, Shaw’s successor, Doug Zellers, will take the reins at Ray’s. Zellers joins Ray’s after serving as General Manager at Palisade Restaurant in Seattle the past two years. Previously he was the Director of Food & Beverage Operations at the Washington Athletic Club (WAC) and also served as the General Manager of the Triple Door Theatre. He received the 2010 Washington Wine Commission “Walter Clore Honorarium” for his demonstrated dedication to the advancement of the Washington wine industry. Zellers anticipates this opportunity and realizes the shoes that he will have to fill.
“Mo is legendary in this town,” Zellers said. “Our industry knows what a great job she has done at Ray’s and her team really respects her. I look forward to transitioning with her in the coming weeks and hope that I can add as much as she has to the Ray’s experience.”
Summer is on the way, so mark your calendars for one of our favorite summer traditions, the 11th Annual Rosé Revival & Cool Whites event! Ray’s is again hosting this delicious evening, on Wednesday June 19, teaming up with Save Our wild Salmon and David LeClaire of Wine World and Spirits
This event, which runs from 6-9 pm in the Northwest Room, features more than 30 wineries serving some of Washington’s best rosé and white wines…no reds! You’ll meet a variety of Northwest winemakers and taste their rosé made in very small lots from Sangiovese, Syrah, Cab Franc, Tempranillo, Grenache, Pinot Noir! The event will also feature a wide array of delicious whites for summer, including varietals such as Prosecco, Pinot Gris, Viognier, Albarino, Gruner, & Pinot Blanc! Ray’s will provide some tasty treats to accompany these delightful wines.
Proceeds from this event go to support Save Our Wild Salmon, a nationwide coalition of conservation organizations, commercial and sportsfishing associations, businesses, river groups, and taxpayer advocates working collectively to restore self-sustaining, abundant, and harvestable populations of wild salmon and steelhead to rivers, streams and oceans of the Pacific Salmon states.
Private Waterfront Dining & Events at Ray’s Northwest Room!
Summer and Fall is a stunning time on the water at Ray’s! Take full advantage of these gorgeous views with parties, dinners and events in our private Northwest Room, reserved just for you! Celebrate it all, including: Grad parties Birthdays Anniversaries Celebrations of Life Rehearsal dinners and brunches Weddings Post-wedding brunch and more Calling all …