Two 18- to 20-something baristas staffed the counter at Dunn Brothers Coffee in Bettendorf while their esteemed co-worker handled what they described as the "dirty work" out back.
“Recycle duty,” Carol Walton clarified last week when she returned to her post at 787 Middle Road, sporting an apron and a headset, part of the uniform. “I get on the kids for that. I think we should put in everything we can recycle.”
At 63 years old, Walton breaks the stereotypical mold for a part-time coffee shop employee. She donates “a lot” of her hourly wage, she doesn’t have a nose ring, and she graduated from medical school more than three decades ago.
For 30 years, Walton worked as a pediatrician, treating sick children in the Quad-Cities.
Not long after retiring in 2011, the former doc began picking up a couple shifts every week at Dunn Brothers, which her good friend, Gina Bettini, opened six years ago next month.
At first, Walton drew several double takes from former patients when they rolled through the store's drive-up window for a cup of jo on the go.
Just recently, she began wearing an apron, which a co-worker gifted her for Christmas, that reads "Dr. Latte," and that's what she goes by now.
Although Walton once responded to a customer who tripped and suffered a minor short-lived seizure from a fall, she finds herself much more relaxed and under less pressure at Dunn Brothers.
“It’s a nice break,” said Walton, who has two adult sons who live in Iowa City and Des Moines. “The crises that arise here are not anything like you see in medicine, so it's nice.”
Following a month-long break she referred to as her "sabbatical," Walton reported to work on Friday for her first shift of 2017. For the fifth straight year, she helped wrap presents, 13,000 in all, during the holiday season at NorthPark Mall in Davenport.
Upon return, she didn't skip a beat.
"I'm sorry, but we're out of the sprinkles," she told one customer who ordered a Candy Cane Mocha with whipped cream.
When she's on the clock, Walton doesn't mess around, according to Bettini, the nose ring-wearing 50-something owner of the two Dunn Brothers locations in town. She and her daughter opened their second location last summer at Birchwood Fields Office Park, located at 4520 E. 53rd St., Davenport.
"If she (Walton) sees that something still needs to be done, she just stays and does it," said Bettini, who employs four retirees in all. "We can tell when Carol’s been here because everything’s organized and clean to a different level than what it normally is."
Walton's husband, Clint Beckert, who spent his professional career putting his Ph.D. degree in botany to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, formerly served as a roaster at Dunn Brothers.
Their son, Mitch, a Davenport Central grad who is wrapping up medical school at the University of Iowa, also used to work there.
Bettini, who met Walton years ago while walking her dog at Duck Creek Park, said she appreciates the leadership and strong work ethic her "senior management" brings to the table.
Walton seems to relate well to the younger workforce, as well.
“She’s so spunky,” said Deanne Busse, a 21-year-old barista and senior at St. Ambrose University. “She’s always in a good mood, and even though she’s retired, she probably works harder than most people.”
Walton, who admitted she's "technologically challenged," said she tries to set a good example for the "kids" on the job.
"This is a stepping stone for them in their careers," she said. "I'd like them to learn that sometimes you have to do a little more work, and it's really appreciated by the company you work for."
In her spare time, Walton enjoys cycling and traveling. She has hiked the Inca Trail, bicycled the hills of Ireland and pedaled across Iowa five times in the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI. In the future, she hopes to volunteer as a tutor at a school in the Quad-Cities.
For now, however, she's completely content with her current gig. She's currently the third-longest-active barista there.
"I'm shooting for number one," she said during a break in her recent six-hour shift. "Retirement is great."