Jackie Gutierrez’s memories of childhood brim with recollections of skipping stones across the smooth surface of Lake Huron at their grandparents’ home near Lexington.
And though that lake life proved formative, art has been the true underlying current of Gutierrez’s life.
A precocious kid with creative talent, Gutierrez graduated from Heritage High School in Saginaw with a full ride to Saginaw Valley State University based on an impressive design and illustration portfolio — but graduation never came.
“I was all over the place,” Gutierrez says. “I knew I had to do something creative and got a lot of pleasure out of going to school, but it just was not where I wanted to be.
“The other side of the coin for me has always been spaces and environments, and if I’m not plugged into my space, it’s just no bueno.”
Instead of finishing out the program, they found themself on a fast track to retail management, working their way up to overseeing a small region for a national clothing retailer.
After a few years climbing the corporate ladder, that journey came to an end, too.
“Retail hit a cold hard stop for me,” Gutierrez says. “I couldn’t be in malls anymore. It’s one of those things that you know you’re either a lifetime retail person and find a way to elevate that, but for me it just wasn’t something that I wanted to do anymore.”
So came another pivot, along with a new home and partner near metro Detroit, as well as a new industry to explore: hospitality.
Gutierrez’s friend worked as a manager at The Last Word, a pioneering craft cocktail bar in Ann Arbor that happened to be hiring, and Gutierrez dove right in.
All that retail and training experience came in handy, as Gutierrez evolved from serving tables and filling in as bartender in a pinch to training servers and elevating the service quality of the iconic place in the process.
“I have very warm memories of that building and it being full of jazz,” they say. “I had an awareness in the moment that it was very cool and I felt lucky to be here. But six years out, I’m now painfully aware of how special it was to be in that space.”
After a year and a half at The Last Word, Gutierrez and their partner craved a change of scenery, decamping for the progressive Detroit suburb of Ferndale, where they would ultimately meet bartender Jaz’min Weaver before she became Frame’s resident “mixtress.”
Fast forward past a few more retail positions and a global pandemic to Gutierrez becoming the bar manager at NoHo Hospitality’s Brakeman Bar at the Shinola Hotel in Detroit. Here, Frame Culinary Director and fellow Saginaw native Michael Barrera came to give a talk about Ben’s Friends, and the two reconnected.
Gutierrez started as a server at Frame in February 2022, but quickly ascended to Director of Service within a few months.
In between their time making sure guests are taken care of and service at the Frame properties runs smoothly, they enjoy antiquing with their partner and are currently restoring a 1963 Avion camper.
“I’ve done a lot of different things and put myself all over the place professionally, but this spot definitely feels correct and I’m super excited about all of the things that are happening and all of the people involved,” Gutierrez says. “It gives me goosies just thinking about it.”
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