Guest Blogger: Warrior Ruk
My name is warrior Ruk (AKA Ruckus), Richard Matthews. I am 36 years old and the owner of Ullr Bar in Invermere BC.
Ullr Bar is a Viking themed, locally driven bar and restaurant that serves handcrafted cocktails, made from scratch food, and throws some of the wildest parties the valley has ever seen. Ullr Bar was created to go outside the norms of everyone’s perception of what a small-town bar should be. It's wild, fun, unique, and of the highest quality food, service, events, and drinks. It is a gathering of the best of the best of our valley so we can support and nurture each other to become the best the Ullr Crew can be. Normal is not something we do or praise.
Who is Viking Warrior Ruk?
I was born in Kelowna BC and moved to the small farming town Duntroon Ontario when I was 5 years old. My father was a ski resort specific engineer and I have been around ski hills for my entire life. It was an easy life, swimming on our pond and catching frogs while attending a school with less than 100 students.
There was a big change for me when I was 12 years old and my parents got divorced and we moved to the much bigger town of Collingwood Ontario north of Toronto. Once entering the much better school system they found out that not only did I have ADHD, and a serious reading disorder, but I was almost 100% illiterate. I can always remember my patient, saint of a mother and my new councillor trying to explain to me that my first name didn’t have a “P” in it. I still have friends that call me “Richpard”.
Sports changed my life and started the warrior way
My family worked hard with me, but the school system felt I was not going to be able to keep up with the other students. I was labelled with a severe reading disorder. Once that was on the table my mother and father pushed me hard into athletics to help with my ADHD and to find ways to build my confidence. Thank goodness they didn’t medicate me even though I am sure it was suggested, and they most likely wanted to. I never fitted in at school but excelled at almost any sport you put me in. It was my saving grace. I got a lot of extra help from teachers so I would not fail and could continue playing on the high school athletics.
Warriors don’t always fit in and that’s not just ok but needed
On a personal level in high school, I was a skateboarding punk rock kid that never fitted in with any group. My mother always said “Richard has verbal diarrhoea. His mouth works faster than his brain. He opens his mouth and all kinds of shit falls out.”
I was accepted by the preppy kids (I tried the collared shirts and frosted tips. I hated it). I could hang out with the basketball crew (They all tried to get me to listen to rap music and wear FUBU. 100% not me. They did love that I was always the punk rock kid that had lots of attitude on the court though).
I could hang out with almost anyone but never felt like I personally fitted in. I was different and at that point had not come to grips with who I saw myself as. I was the happiest training for sports, skateboarding by myself, or even just going for runs. I later in life found out that I have high adrenalin personality traits which means I am an all or nothing kind of guy. Normal for me is boring and not worth doing.
Don’t tell a warrior they can't because they will
At the end of my high school career, I had a meeting with a guidance counsellor and was hoping to find some way to get into post-secondary education. It was a conversation that I will never forget. He told me because of my disability I would never get accepted to college or university and if I did it would be a waste of money because I would fail. He continued to tell me I was lucky because of my size that I would always have access to good labour jobs.
My first thought and one that occurs almost every time someone doubts me is ''Watch this!”
I went to college for computer engineering and proved my councillor right by dropping out my first semester. FML. It was not my ability, but I hated the course and should have taken more time to choose a better course for my personal tastes. My father gave me two options: the army or go back to college and pay my own way. His motivational speech was “Did you have a good time at college?” I answered “yes”. “Great, I would go back if I were you because you are not going to have fun being shot at in trenches that are only 6 feet deep. How tall are you?” I was 6 feet 4 inches tall.
Factory work is the knife in the heart of a Viking
This time though I studied business and got a 3 year and 4-year diploma in 4 years and got a letter of academic achievement in all 4 years. In the summers I took jobs in factories which paid well but more than anything taught me what kind of job I didn’t want. A boring one... I spent most of my days wasting time finding out how long it took to sing 99 bottles of beer on the wall. On average 49.6 mins if curious.
When I graduated, I worked in highway construction, working from Canmore Alberta to Winnipeg Manitoba. I think this job taught me the most about work life. Most days were 16+ hours and sometime you would work for 30+ days without a day off.
You never want to be the weak link, it's not fun
The money was amazing, but most people can’t handle working like that. When I started the whole crew was so hard on me, they made my life hell and gave me all the shitty jobs. There was a reason for this because when you work those kinds of hours you are only as strong as your weakest link. One person not pulling their weight means more stress and more work for everyone on your crew.
I have taken this idea into my bar by creating the best team I can. It’s an amazing way to ensure that you lessen conflict between staff and create a more unified team. We turn down most people that want to work at Ullr Bar and would rather work shorthanded rather than have the wrong person in our Viking crew. We all work hard and succeed together.
The beginnings of a warrior’s life in F and B.
In the wintertime, I would bounce at the T Bar at Panorama Mountain Village. This was an amazing job because I could snowboard all day and work at night. I loved it and it stopped me from being at the bar drinking too much and spending money. Because of everything I had learned on highways, working an 8-hour shift felt like a break.
One day my manager said you are an amazing bouncer; you want to learn to bartend. Of course, I said yes, and my F and B life was rolling. I worked as a bar back, bartender, server, supervisor, and over a 10 year period became F and B manager for the entire resort running 6 venues.
I have worked almost every job you can imagine in the bar world and also honed my skills throwing outside of the box events. Roller discos, trivia nights, drag queen fashion shows, haunted houses, escape rooms, charity fundraisers and metal shows. I have thrown them all.
The Ullr way
I worked with two of my lifelong bouncers and bartender friends for five-years preparing to open our very own bar/restaurant. We kept hearing that people in small towns don’t want good food or high-end cocktails. They don’t come out to events or spend money. We also felt held back and miss treated as staff members everywhere we had worked. Again, being told it’s how business works and how the restaurant industry is.
We all didn’t believe it, so we started our journey to create the Ullr Bar. A place where patrons and staff alike can feel welcome and excel and support each other going forward in life. This was my past and this will be my future. Let's have a cocktail.
This was my first blog. So be gentle.