BY JIM WELLS
She is one of the first people racing fans see when they walk in the front door, and they are often greeted with a handful of mixed nuts of one variety or another.
She has become the answer lady for any variety of questions, the person with directions, the lady with the answers, and sometimes she can’t help but laugh to herself.
She is Phyllis the Nut Lady.
She is Phyllis Brevig.
And she is retiring when the racing season ends next Saturday, ending 17 years of doling out samples of her products to Canterbury Park patrons, which often convinces them to make a purchase.
A couple of months shy of 87 years of age, she has seen it all since opening up shop on the first level of the grandstand for the Nuts & More Company based in Chanhassen.
A youngster around three years old walked up to her one time with a $100 bill in his hand.
“I didn’t see a $100 bill until I got married,’’ she said.
She has gotten all kinds of questions over the years and she often has had to bite her tongue and soften an immediate response.
The nut stand is located immediately next to the escalator on the first floor. A woman asked her on one occasion if it went all the way to the next level.
“I wanted to tell her no,’’ Phyllis said. “It only went half-way, then she had to jump over the railing and take the stairs the rest of the way.’’
She has had to deal with any number of personalities over the years. The inebriated ones are the worst, although they often make up for their rude, obnoxious behavior.
“They usually are good tippers,’’ she said.
Seventeen years ago Phyllis answered a newspaper add looking for workers at the Minnesota State Fair. “They needed 2,000 people,’’ she said, “but I was the only one who showed up.’’
Consequently, Phyllis got her pick of the opportunities. She wound up selling nuts. She had worked for 19 years in the flight kitchen for Northwest Orient Airlines as a supervisor and later for Marriott Inns when they took over that part of the in-flight operation. She liked working around food.
She has worked year round with a month or so respite during the winter months, traveling to camping and boat shows in Wisconsin, Iowa, the Dakotas and Minnesota.
Phyllis has four children, two boys and two girls, 14 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. She will have more time for them when she retires, although she has other responsibilities, too. She is president of the association in the Edina apartment building where has lived the last 17 years.
She’ll do some cooking for the people there when she retires, although she plans to spend some time traveling, too. “I’d like to go to Cuba,’’ she said. “I like learning about other cultures.’’
She learned that during trips to Africa, Israel and various places in Europe.
She encouraged some of the girls working the ice cream stand next to her to go to fashion school. They have all watched and evaluated various attire at Canterbury these last few years.
“That’s a good looking dress on that young woman right there,’’ someone mentioned. “Oh, yes, and she has the figure for it, too,’’ Phyllis said. The occasion reminded her of an incident years ago.
“A woman not a bit less than 350 pounds was wearing a dress like that,’’ Phyllis said. “It was really easy to tell she was wearing bikini underwear.’’
Phyllis the Nut Lady, a monicker provided by her boss, Chris Carney, will be missed at Canterbury… as well as any place else she sold her wares while providing a humorous insight or two on the surroundings.