It’s 1 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 16. The school has been back in full swing for almost two weeks, and the bar on campus at MacEwan University is buzzing. Tables are covered in textbooks, laptops and half-full glasses of beer as students meet to collaborate on projects, visit between classes and enjoy a pint.
Jill Brekke, the manager, and bartender at Towers pub and a familiar face for much of MacEwan’s student population
“Right now, my entire life is this bar,” says Brekke, a born-and-raised Edmontonian.
Brekke started as a bartender at Towers in 2011 and was promoted to manager two years ago. She completed her accounting diploma at MacEwan in 2017.
“It doesn’t feel like a job to me, I enjoy doing it. I’ll drop anything, come in whenever. It’s just meeting new people every day, building relationships with them, and seeing them throughout their university career … and crying when everybody leaves,” says Brekke.
Outside of her life at MacEwan, Brekke has worked other jobs, furthered her education and even entreprenerd her own business. Brekke graduated from Event Management at NAIT in 2014, she coordinated weddings between 2013 and 2016. In 2017, Brekke combined her lifelong love for pickles with her entrepreneurial spirit and opened Jills Dills, a pickle stand often found at Edmonton farmers’ markets.
“My dad and I have been making pickles since I was four. He’s hilarious and super creative, so he just started calling them Jills Dills. Every August, we would get together and make pickles, but when he retired from EPS, he bought a trailer and wrapped it to look like a pickle and then we started selling them at farmers markets,” Brekke says about her pickle stand.
An Edmonton restaurant, Louisiana Purchase, has even picked up on the hype and sells a Caesar garnished with a Jills Dills pickle. You can try one at either of their locations within the city, one of which is just a short walk from MacEwan on 103 Ave and 111 St.
Brekke has goals beyond Towers, but right now the bar is her focus. “I can see myself being here for another year because there’s a lot of things I want to accomplish,” she says. Towers hosts all kinds of events such as open mic night, and Brekke has been working with local breweries to bring local craft beers into the campus bar.
There is a mutual affection between Brekke and MacEwan students, as she greets each person — whether a new face or a loyal customer — with a smile, and it is clear that both parties find comfort in the gesture.
“It will be hard to leave this place … this is where I started bartending, this is where I learned everything.”
When asked about her future, Brekke says she wants to work in the event industry but doesn’t have a specific place in mind.