Avoiding workplace relationships is generally good advice, but there is always the exception to the rule. Despite the cautionary tales, longtime Pagliacci employees John Clifford, Director of Operations, and Audrey Middleton, Controller, will be married on October 10th at the Corson Building in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Yes, miracles happen. John and Audrey have successfully navigated the rocky shoals of a workplace relationship for seven years (and two children—but more on that later).
As these things go, it all started at the company picnic, just not the typical way. From the time they both strated working at the Pagliacci office in 2007, John had his eye on Audrey. He fretted about asking her out but nerves prevailed, and he continued to not ask her out. When Pagliacci and Macrina joined forces later that year, there were a number of inter-company get-togethers, at which Audrey was a regular. Unfortunately, they were always on Tuesdays, John’s basketball night. It took a twist of fate. During the softball game at the July 4th picnic in 2008, John broke his ankle with an exuberant slide into third (he stayed in the game and scored, by the way). Basketball was out, but inter-company trivia nights were in. Sparks began to, well, sputter.
Remember, workplace relationships are complicated. Matt Galvin, co-owner of Pagliacci and John’s boss, reminisces about the time. “When I first promoted John out of the stores and into an office job we talked about the reality that he may meet someone at work. Since he is one of the big bosses, he cannot just date an employee. I told him that if he is up front, meaning ask permission, not forgiveness, there is a way to do this properly.” Matt should know. He met his wife Michelle at work. “A few years later, it became obvious that something was brewing,” Matt remembers with a smile. “John came into my office and said something obtuse in reference to a hypothetical situation, something like ‘What if there was someone in the office that I might be interested in maybe talking to about possibly going out on a date….’ I made him sweat it a bit but finally relented. I did make it clear that if things didn’t work out, it would be John that was fired.”
Hall pass in hand, John set out to ask Audrey out. The setting: a late summer evening movie, Top Gun, on the lawn at Red Hook Brewery, an inter-company event. Only one other couple showed up. Good vibes were in the air, and John felt confident the interest was mutual. Audrey dropped John off at the office. Upon that they agree, but things get murky after that. Audrey claims he asked her out that evening. “I was way too nervous to ask her out in person,” John pleads. “I definitely called her on my drive home.” Either way, a date was set.
The Saturday of Labor Day weekend they planned to take the ferry over to Bainbridge. John waited and waited and waited. “I figured that because we worked together she’d at least show,” John says. An hour later she did, just a mix-up on the time. Things went well enough for a second date, this time pizza on the barbecue at John’s. Again, nerves were an issue. John failed to ensure he had enough propane for the grill. The first pizza toss landed on the floor. He successfully tossed the second, but almost as soon as he got it on the grill, the flames died—just the grill, not the relationship. They finished the pizza in the oven, and the rest, as they say, is history.
At the time, of course, thoughts of a wedding were not on the horizon. The opposite actually. Both John and Audrey worried about what would happen if things didn’t work out. At the time, Audrey was doing a lot of work at the Macrina offices. If things didn’t go well, she could always spend most of her time there, avoiding John. However, shortly after they began dating Matt asked John to help oversee the Macrina cafes. Audrey was less excited then John would have liked. “There goes my exit plan,” she remembers thinking.
While Matt and a few others knew, they still had to disclose the relationship to their colleagues. Jeff Woodruff, Vice-President of Operations, remembers being at Neumo’s for a Pagliacci battle of the bands. “A few of us went out for lunch beforehand. Listening to their conversation, they were seated next to each other, of course, I wondered whether I was picking up on a budding relationship. Of course, my skills for picking up such things were clearly slow, because they’d already been dating for weeks. They were good about keeping things on the down-low. A few days later John came into my office to let me know they were dating. I told him I knew already.”
That Christmas they walked into the company party holding hands, an official couple to all. Despite the hazards, things continued to go well and in 2012 their first child, Charlotte, was born. “The plan was always for Audrey to finish graduate school (an MBA at Seattle University), to get married, and to have kids. We just jumbled the order.” Audrey was pregnant when they went to the Galvin’s to watch a soccer game. The young Luca Galvin said, “How can they have a baby? They’re not married.” Matt’s wife Michelle Galvin turned and said, “Exactly.” It wasn’t so much an admonishment, but a way of badgering him into proposing. John had already set up an appointment at the jeweler so he was off the hook. While engaged, their second child, Benjamin, arrived in 2014. Recently, when John and Audrey’s wedding invitation, which featured a picture of them with their two kids, arrived at the Galvin’s, their son Jojo took one look at the picture and said, “Wow, that’s like two miracles. They should buy a lottery ticket.”
Thankful for miracles, John and Audrey will enjoy fabulous food and a joyful party with friends and family (and many colleagues) on October 10th before leaving on a very brief honeymoon to Hawaii. (A consequence of jumbling the order—they need to get back for Benjamin’s first birthday.) John and Audrey, congratulations on defying the odds.