Story and photo by Doug Petrowski
While the rest of Mountlake Terrace sleeps, 65-year-old Burton Wagnerin works. And it’s been that way for 37 years now.
Wagnerin celebrated his 37th anniversary as the graveyard shift clerk at the Mountlake Terrace 7-11 Thursday the same way as he does any other workday – arriving more than an hour early to get an jump on some of his duties.
“I like to clean-up and prepare some of the stock before I start,” Wagnerin said. He generally shows up between 8 and 9 p.m. for his 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift, a work schedule he keeps five days a week at the 212th Street Southwest convenience store.
So how does one adapt to this type of nocturnal schedule for so long? “Well, you never really get used to it,” Wagnerin said.
Wagnerin began at the Mountlake Terrace 7-11 back when the store was located across 52nd Street West in what is now a strip mall containing a hair salon, nail salon, laundromat and teriyaki restaurant. It’s been the only 7-11 he has worked at, and he has no interest in moving to another one.
“I love Mountlake Terrace,” he explained. “I’ve been here so long I don’t want to switch.”
Wagnerin commutes from Everett, where he lives in a house just blocks from the one he was raised in. A 1965 graduate of Everett High School, Wagnerin is still involved in athletics there, having been the scorekeeper for the Everett Seagulls girls softball team for 20 years. Wagnerin has also helped with the athletic programs at a few of the Everett School District middle schools.
“You can keep young when you’re around young people,” Wagnerin said.
In his 37 years at 7-11, Wagnerin reports he has been in the store during eight robbery attempts, the most recent occurring just a week ago on Nov. 2. Surveillance video shows a large man entering the store just before 6 a.m. and walking around the counter in an attempt to get to the safe or cash register.
“He waited until the store was empty of customers,” Wagnerin said. “Then he came into the store with his hand in his pocket and said, ‘You know what this is.’ I was so scared; I was probably too scared to open the register.”
If Wagnerin was frightened, it didn’t show on the surveillance video. What is seen is Wagnerin grabbing the bigger man and attempting to push him out the front door.
“I tried to escort him out,” Wagnerin said. For his efforts, Wagnerin was pushed to the floor. “I bruised my seat,” he said.
The suspect walked back to the clerk area behind the counter, grabbed some packs of cigarettes and lighters, then exited and headed up 52nd Street. A police and K-9 search was unsuccessful in finding the man.
Incidents like the Nov. 2 robbery attempt don’t seem to deter Wangerin, much to the delight of store owner Hirut Bekele. “We love him,” Bekele said. “He is honest, punctual and never been absent.”
After about two years in the Army — more than 13 months of it in Vietnam in the late 1960s — then a few assorted jobs in Chicago and southern California, Wangerin ended up back in Everett looking for work. His brother was working at a local 7-11 and helped Wangerin get his present position.
The 65-year-old thinks he has a few more good years left in him. “I plan on working til I’m 70,” he said.