Carmel McKentry is a long-time friend of mine, but we lost touch. Busy lives, growing kids, but when we get a chance to connect, the conversation is easy. Her smile lights up a room. She recently posted on social media that she was working at The Hideout, a bar and grill in downtown Muskegon Heights. I was intrigued.
A busy mom of two, Carmel says she's always had multiple jobs, but I only knew her as a dedicated daytime professional, a mental health counselor. So I asked her to meet up and set the scene for this moonlighting side-gig.
From the entrance on Broadway, the Hideout is a single red door, and a curved window of glass block. When you step inside, the glossy bar runs the length of room, ending just before a bright red pool table on the far side. Hoops of neon hanging from the ceiling create a combination of jazz vibe mixed with disco.
Carmel and most of her coworkers also have professional day jobs and are well-known in the community. This has created a Cheers effect, a place everyone feels welcome, and if they don't know you, it won't be long before they know you by name. Not so much a place to hide, as a place to gather away from the stress of the day. Regular events like their Brunch & Blues are reaching out to encourage a diverse crowd to share the scene.
For ten years, Carmel's daytime career has been with a local healthcare provider, offering counseling services. She recently stepped into private practice full-time and is accepting new clients.
Her positivity rubs off like glitter.
"I think it helps people feel comfortable, I have a lot of people that have told me, just from the smile and my openness, that they were kinda nervous coming in or they didn't know what to expect, but that I made them feel comfortable, and I think it helps to get people to continue because they know they're going to get something out of it, even if it's just somebody listening to them intently and being there and having some sort of positive thing to leave with." That's part of why I went into counseling, she said. She wanted to always be that little bit of light and hope, providing a new lens on hard times, helping people grow.
She can now offer 60 minutes sessions at Servicios de Esperanza, among a diverse group of clinicians, including those offering bilingual services. Services of Hope accepts clients of all backgrounds and focuses on providing a welcoming environment to otherwise marginalized groups in our community.
As I shared with Carmel, I have found that in Muskegon, once someone champions an event / place / idea, they want to share it with their friends and community, helping it to find its own legs and grow. De-stressing is the name of her game.
A graduate of Reeths-Puffer and Michigan State University, Carmel reflected on her undergrad experience at State, and how the environment and cultural expectations differ from what we unaffectionately call "the Muskegon Bubble". "I think people who never leave Muskegon get a very small view of the world, and often see only one way to be, one way of being successful." She finds that stepping out of the bubble, regularly traveling to visit family in other states for example, and making friends from all parts of the community, provide new perspectives she can apply in her family and work life, and help her connect with a variety of clients who seek her counseling services.
As for the Hideout, I didn't mean to blow your cover, but it should be on everyone's radar. We could all use the good vibes and smiles.