Sometimes, if you’re very lucky – or if you have the right attitude – painful loss can end in wonderful gain. Mary Hellman is a good example of that.
“I lost my dad last year. He was my life. He taught me to love life. I realized that I wasn’t doing what my passion was.” So, Mary resigned from her job and is now bartending at both El Rancho Brewing Company and The Wild Game.
But there is much more to her story than just that.
Born in New Jersey, her family moved to Wilmette, Illinois where she (almost completely) grew up. “We moved to Connecticut my senior year.” Her first job was in real estate investment. It was a lucrative position, but Mary was not one to remain where “there was no satisfaction.” Mary moved on to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York where she taught freshmen career decision-making, utilizing her degree in College Student Personnel and Counseling. “I realized how important it is to find your passion and follow it and I helped students do that.”
When a friend invited her to move with her to Colorado, Mary moved to Denver in the mid-'80s. “I bartended at Old Chicago – at that time it was one of only a few microbreweries – while I skied, hiked and enjoyed Colorado.” She shook her head, laughed and said of her history, “It’s wackiness.” Mary then moved on to Regis University where she worked in admissions at the College for Professional Studies. She worked with students to follow their passion. “It was a lot of fun.”
It wasn’t long until her successful past caught up with her. “One of the Old Chicago owners approached me and asked if I would help launch a Home Meal Replacement business – dinners to go.” Perhaps a bit ahead of its time, the company folded two years later and without any regret Mary “went back to Old Chicago. That gave me a passion for food,” along with her bartending experience.
She moved onto the Denver Athletic Club where she worked events and catering. Her boss asked her to be a part of his international event-planning group that was based in London. She traveled to London and worked throughout the United Kingdom and France. “It sounds more glamorous than it was,” she laughed, “I was working all the time.” But she “learned a lot.”
Returning to Colorado, she and her now-former husband moved to Conifer. “I lived by the Yellow Barn.” Utilizing her experience she opened a prepared-foods company that many will fondly recall – Aspen Specialty Foods and Catering. They had the storefront for over five years, until “the catering really took off and we couldn’t do both.
“When I was catering I did a lot with nonprofit organizations including Mountain Resource Center (MRC), as well as Habitat for Humanity, and even Conifer High School Band. I believe in giving back. My family growing up was always involved in nonprofits. I was taught by example that you should help out in your community,” she said. “Aspen Catering was recognized for their community support by the Conifer Rotary Club as one of the businesses of the year, and nominated by the Conifer Chamber of Commerce as business of the year. We developed a lot of relationships before we sold it in 2012.”
Mary’s experience again came in handy. “That’s when I used my degree by working at MRC. I helped build the Work Force Program.” Mary’s experience at Marist and Regis, along with her studies brought a rich combination to guide clients at MRC. “I went full circle.” She later moved into Community Relations and Fundraising for MRC where she planned and coordinated events. “I believe that we go through all of these passages for a reason,” she said of her vast and diverse experiences. “MRC did a jobs fair with Evergreen Christian Outreach and we hold our annual fundraiser of Mountain Bowls.” Both found success through Mary’s experience and efforts.
When her father passed away Mary said, “I realized I wasn’t doing what my passion was.” She emphasized how supportive the staff at MRC was when she chose to leave. “They were really supportive.”
Mary “wanted flexibility.” Bartending is perfect for her chosen lifestyle. “I can see people and it also allows me to travel, ski, and hike. I know that my dad would totally understand.” It was through him that she came to love piano, music in general and travel. “His father had an Airstream that he used when he traveled. I want to travel and see the world.”
Although still healthy and young – especially young at heart – Mary said, “My time is running out. I need to start doing things; I need to pull back and look at my life.” She likes what she sees. This fall she will teach a class in Workplace Readiness at Red Rocks Community College and mentor students in entrepreneurial business. “It’s a chance to use my education.”
Mary has learned valuable lessons that she is willing to share with others. “All that you do, no matter what job it is, you can take the skills to the next job. Everything in life prepares you for the next step in life. I’m grateful for every day. I think it’s important to live life that way. Get to know people and laugh. It’s what my father taught me.”