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Local 'Morning Bartender' Makes Commuters' Days

If you ride the Metra on weekday mornings, you've most likely met Randy Nicklaus. And he's probably had your coffee ready and waiting. Patch caught up with the guy most Oak Forest residents say makes the best cup of coffee in town.

Randy Nicklaus has a remarkable memory. Give him a week of making your coffee, and on the eighth time, he'll hand you what want, no order necessary.

Customers say it's what makes him the best around, and what keeps people coming back to his truck parked outside the Metra station at 159th and Cicero.

"He knows his customers, many of them by name," said customer of 20 years Angelo Luciano, an resident who commutes to the city for work. "I complain to him all the time that he's underpaid."

A cup of Nicklaus's creation goes for $1. A breakfast sandwich might cost $2 or $2.50. Starting the day off on the right foot is worth it to commuters.

"We can depend on Randy better than the trains," said Bev Smith, Tinley Park resident.

After 29 years, they expect to see his white truck parked outside the station. He's there like clockwork, rain or shine, from 5 a.m. until 8:15 a.m. Many trot inside, grab their ticket, then come back to scoop up their coffee. It's a swift hand-off: a dollar into the coffee jug, a Styrofoam cup into the hand.

His customers are in a hurry, Nicklaus said. They don't have time to stand around. 

"Thirty percent of this is last-minute," Nicklaus said. "They can always count on getting their coffee and paper."

Tinley Park resident Nicklaus never misses a day, and he notices when his customers do. Over the years, he's seen familiar faces disappear from the station scenery, as long-time working men retire and quit the commute. He has seen a discernable drop-off in customers in recent years, he notes. Shortly before 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, business is mostly quiet.

"It's not like it used to be," he said. "In the '80s and '90s, you wouldn't have been able to talk to me, I would be so busy."

Metra ridership seems to have dropped, he said, caused by a lack of available employment in the city. He estimated that profits are down about 30 or 35 percent from previous years, he said. And after Wednesday's , some customers told Nicklaus they would be changing to a different station to help offset the impact of the increase.

His sales at the station are "the backbone" of Randy's Catering, he said. And with , stability is a concern, specifically if the blueprints include plans to offer food and beverages. He does not offer catering outside of what he provides at the station, or that at the station at nearby Matteson Auto Mall.

"If I were to lose this, I'd more than likely go out of business," he said.

Not if his customers have anything to say about.

"We love Randy!" said Tammy Ochoa, Oak Forest resident.

"Oak Forest doesn't have a lot of businesses, so any time we can promote people to live, work in Oak Forest, it's really nice," Luciano said.

Nicklaus appreciates his customers' support and pays it forward with each steaming cup of Joe and friendly chit-chat. 

"I'm like your local morning bartender," he joked.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (Editor) February 02, 2012 at 12:23 PM
This is a fantastic article.
Jill February 02, 2012 at 04:09 PM
I wonder if this is the same guy who made my coffee 10 years ago. He used to have my coffee ready every morning, yes, rain or shine, always knew my order, kept things moving QUICKLY, and I also remember him making a 'drinking hole' in the top of our coffee lids with an old-fashined church-key type bottle opener. What a blast from the past - Randy - I miss you!!! (I have been driving for years).
Krista February 02, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Great story, Lauren! I'm so glad you got to meet Randy! He deserves the publicity! I was looking for you, but didn't see you. I usually ride the 7:21 a.m. train.
Peggy Andriola February 02, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Randy has made my coffee every morning for 27 years! My day is not complete until I have a cup of his coffee, he part of my morning routine. This man is a work horse, there is no stopping him. You rock Randy!! Thank you for all these years!
Sue Perlinski February 02, 2012 at 04:41 PM
I have been commuting out of Oak Forest for 26 years. Not a day goes by that Randy is not there. He has the coffee ready and is always pleasant. I truly believe he has never had a day off. Thank you Randy for your dedication and great coffee!
Lauren Traut (Editor) February 02, 2012 at 05:20 PM
I bet all these comments would make Randy blush. :) He's a humble fella.
Stones February 02, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Not only the best cup of Joe, great conversation too. Not only is he the morning bartender, he's become a good friend to many of us. Some come a bit early just to hang with Randy and catch the next train.
Lauren Traut (Editor) February 02, 2012 at 05:56 PM
This is what I'm sensing, Stones! :) Randy seems like a huge part of many people's mornings. :)
Amanda A February 02, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I've never seen him! I come in from the west enterance off the residental area. I don't drink coffee, but I wholeheartedly am willing to support a man who works so hard to keep Oak Forest commuters happy. Keep up the good work, Randy!
Krista February 03, 2012 at 01:55 AM
You can also get a newspaper, some fruit, a pastry, or other beverages, too! I think this would probably make him blush, Lauren! Did you tell him how to find the article? I was going to print it and give it to him.
Carrie Ruthe February 03, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Randy by far is the BEST morning bartender around! Randy can see me walking from 10 feet away, and by the time I get up to him, he has my coffee already to go! I must say his coffee is the best around. DD and starbucks is garbage compared to his. I don't know what it is, but it's just so delicious. Everything on Randys truck especially the donuts and breakfast sandwiches are delicious. It is very comforting to see a smiling, familiar face every morning. I will continue to support randy, even when they build the new station. Nothing compares to Randy! He is the nicest guy around.
Sally Miller February 05, 2012 at 08:21 PM
After getting 6 year old triplets ready for school in the morning and rushing to the train I tell Randy all the time how I look so forward to seeing him everyday, I know once I get my wonderful cup of coffee from him with his always smiley face I have a good half hour to rest til I fight my next battle....there are days when I am off and I try to run up to get my coffee from Randy after putting the kids on the bus...it is good and I hope he stays FOREVER!!! Thanks Randy!!!
Lauren Traut (Editor) February 06, 2012 at 01:36 AM
So awesome to see so much love for Randy. :)
TURKALISHISH November 16, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Well randy is gone to vegas!!! new owner is turk from turks italian beef!
TURKALISHISH November 16, 2012 at 03:40 AM
and the coffee is warm not hot food isnt hot either bring back Randy!!!!!! truck isnt the same!!!! food sucks too

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