Erin Clark: 'Club Novack' Devotee

by Lindsay Keare | 4/24/14 4:57pm

by Katelyn Jones / The Dartmouth

Erin Clark may have one of the most recognizable voices on campus. The lead counter woman at Novack Café, Clark can be heard loud and clear weekday mornings ushering the line along — fast.

Clark can also be seen breaking out “Club Novack” with her co-workers, singing and dancing to every imaginable music genre, from Disney to rap to what Clark calls “frat basement music.”

“As long as it’s not country music, we’re good,” Clark said.

Club Novack relieves stress for both customers and employees, she said.

“It appeared one finals period, where the workers were burnt out, the student body was all frazzled and all strung out,” she said. “One afternoon, we just turned on some dance party station.”

Clark grew up on a potato farm in Sangerville, Maine, where she said she developed her work ethic at a young age.

“The joke is that when you grow up in Maine, you’re either a potato farmer or you work for the logging industry,” Clark said. “My father was a farmer, and my mother has been a secretary for one of the largest paper companies for close to 30 years now.”

At age 8, Clark started mowing the farm’s lawn and later tedded and raked hay, hand-planted potatoes and picked rocks, “the worst job ever,” she said.

“I definitely learned the value of hard work from the get-go,” Clark said. And despite being the only female in her familial generation, she said “there were no excuses made just because I was a girl.”

Since her parents were divorced, Clark only saw her mother on weekends. She described her father as a “no-nonsense guy” who set many expectations for his children. Clark has a half-brother 10 years her younger and an older stepbrother, with whom she grew close during her childhood.

Though Clark worked on the farm all summer and during three weeks of harvest season in September, school came first, as both her aunt and stepmother taught at her school.

At age 18, Clark left home to go to Vermont Technical College in Randolph and later took business classes.

“I was so ready to get out of this small town in Maine,” she said.

The summer before college began, Clark attended a special program that only accepted around 30 students. One day, Clark gave a classmate a ride home, where he introduced her to his best friend, Josh Clark. After spending the summer getting to know one another, the two started dating and married 12 years later. When Clark was 22, they bought a house in Strafford, where the couple still lives.

Clark soon was hired by the College and has been here ever since. After working at Homeplate, a former part of FoCo, she ended up at Novack, a move she embraced.

“I just liked that it was out of the large dining hall, and there weren’t as many other full-time employees,” she said. “I knew this was where I wanted to end up. It had everything going for me.”

Clark’s husband is a store-room helper, so he receives, takes care of and delivers food in FoCo and Novack. He’s one of many behind-the-scenes College employees who students never get the chance to meet, Clark said.

“There is one woman who makes all these sandwiches every day for you — she makes over 20,000 sandwiches a term,” Clark said. “She is a large part of your eating habits without ever being seen.”

At Novack, Clark loves interacting with students, both behind the counter and in front of it. While her interactions with those who frequent Novack for snacks are generally short, Clark appreciates the deeper connections she forges with students who work under her.

Those who work for Clark further emphasized how great she makes working at Novack for students.

“She has a way of bringing people together when two people are working together for the first time,” Gabrielle Forestier ’14 said. “She’s kind of a common mutual friend that helps you foster your friendships.”

Heidi Illanes-Meyers ’14 said Clark and student employees get along well. She laughs at all of the students’ jokes and Snapchats with them, Illanes-Meyers said.

“She sends me a lot where she is pointing at something she’s wearing or owns, and writes ‘AWESOME’ on it,” Illanes-Meyers said. “Like a picture of shoes, ‘AWESOME.’ Her dogs, ‘AWESOME.’ Her car, “AWESOME.’ I suppose it's kind of a running joke that Erin is awesome. That’s what her contact name is in my phone.”

Both students said that working at Novack with Clark has been a highlight of their Dartmouth careers.

One of Clark’s best friends was a member of the Class of 2007. At the time, Clark still worked at FoCo and was infamous as “the mean Homeplate lady,” she said. One day, a student with a broken foot got in line and couldn’t find her ID, so Clark gave her a hard time. To her surprise, the student shot back. The two hit it off and quickly became close friends.

“I was shocked that somebody dared say anything,” she said.

Outside of Dartmouth, Clark loves to shop, snowmobile with her husband, spend time with her three dogs and indulge in her guilty pleasure, reality TV. “I still to this day watch ‘The Real World,’” she admitted.

A self-proclaimed iced coffee addict, Clark can be seen with one of these cold beverages in hand even when it’s 30 below or snowing. And if you think EBAs, Ramuntos and C & A’s just aren’t good enough, Clark will let you in on a secret: “the best pizza in the Upper Valley is actually up in the Bethel area.”