Putting the ‘V’ in service
Anthony Sapp was in the middle of a normal Saturday night bartending shift on June 2nd when an abandoned house caught fire down the street, which caused the V Club along with the rest of the block, to temporarily lose power.
“It’s weird to think in a couple of weeks, I’ll be there and not here,” Sapp told Patrick Guthrie, one of the V Club’s owners.
After nearly 11 years behind the bar, Sapp, 31, is moving to train with the Huntington Fire Department, hoping to serve Huntington’s citizens in a different way.
He got the call. He’d been accepted into the academy on his birthday, June 1.
“It’s pretty much the best birthday gift I could ask for,” Sapp said.
He didn’t plan to sling drinks for this long. In fact, Sapp originally moved to Huntington from Paden City in Wetzel County right after high school to attend Marshall. Like many Huntington transplants with similar plans, he fell in love with the Jewel City and decided to stick around.
At 20 years old, Sapp walked into the V Club in tattered cargo shorts seeking a bar backing job; they hired him to work the door. Despite the fact that he believes the owners did not initially want to hire him, he’s been at the local
OCCUPATION: Works at V Club, recently accepted into Firefighter Academy
HOBBIES: Finding new great music.
FUTURE ASPIRATIONS: To become a firefighter, and maybe drive the truck one day.
music haunt ever since. His presence has become an integral part of both the local service industry community and the music scene.
Sapp said he found a sense of camaraderie in the service industry. His descriptions of the community of bartenders, servers and back of the house workers are made with a sense of adoration. It’s comparable to how one would describe their family. He said the bubble of people that make up the close-knit community of service workers creates a “city inside a city kind of feel” among Huntington’s nearly 50,000 residents.
“They’re a really unique class of people in this town,” Sapp said. “It’s just been really cool working in it especially in this area.”
Sapp said the community has a “crazy special” willingness to help any and everyone who needs it, this compassion has definitely rubbed off on him.
“It doesn’t matter if we’ve met them once or a hundred times, we’re very quick to jump in and try to get people back on their feet as fast as possible whether that’s helping to raise money or donating food, clothes, whatever it is.”
This unique empathy shown in the city settled in Sapp, and ultimately it’s what helped steer him toward becoming a firefighter.
“I’ve gotten such a close feel for this community and I want to stay part of it in some sort of service capacity,” Sapp said. “I wanted to do something that had some serious purpose to it, some meaning, but I did want to do something in the capacity of helping people. That’s something that I’ve always been drawn to.”
When he was a kid and someone asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would always respond with either NBA basketball player or truck driver.
“I think I’m very comfortably in the middle of those two goals, and eventually I might get to drive the fire truck,” Sapp said, laughing. “Almost life-goal completed.”
Sapp said his bartending career always had him thinking about what his next step could be, where his experience would take him. This caused him to consider the main skill set a firefighter must possess.
“If you can deal with a drunk person at 2 a.m., you can deal with anyone you meet in this world” Sapp said. “Professionally, that’s one of the best things about it. I can handle just about any personality and I think that’s a really unique set of skills to have.”
An affinity for people is one thing his experience gave him, but the give and take of long nights into early mornings isn’t exactly an even exchange.
“I think this place has taken more from me than I’m taking from it,” Sapp said, jokingly.
One thing Sapp got in the exchange is a highly developed taste in music. It has shifted from hip-hop, popular rock and whatever else his brothers listened to when they were younger to a more extensive music vocabulary. Today, his tastes include everything from local Americana staples like Tyler Childers and Tim Lancaster to heavier bands like Karma to Burn and Horse-burner.
“I can go from listening to Horseburner one minute to Charles Bradley the next, or Dwight Yoakam to Dinosaur Burps,” he said. “When I got here I was such a layman to music. People would call and ask who the band was and what their sound is and I couldn’t tell them. I know the difference now between progressive rock and 70s-guitar-style rock.”
Working a venue where music plays three nights a week featuring multiple bands on each bill, has the potential to both shape one’s music taste and ruin eardrums, something Sapp wishes he’d invested in a while ago. He has likely seen hundreds, if not thousands, of individual acts. His eyes and eardrums are a testament to both the good and bad.
“I’ve seen some of the worst bands here,” he said. “I’ve seen some bands that are absolutely ridiculous. But I’ve seen some of the best music of my life on this stage.”
In addition to a developed music taste, Sapp is carrying with him an overwhelming amount of memories from everyone he has met during his time in the business, which includes a large portion of the Tri-State music community.
Sapp is endlessly thankful for all the people he has been able to cross paths with during his service industry tenure. He struggled to describe how every life he’s met over the years has in some way or another touched his own. He considered going around town and knocking on the doors of each and every individual to which he feels he owes his gratitude, he understood this would be too time consuming.
After considering these factors, and possibly just fading out with no fanfare, he attempted to relay his affections via a lengthy Facebook post. He likely reached the tagging limit and, even then, felt he only scratched the surface.
“I’m not saying there’s a short list of people who have really impacted me doing this, but there’s definitely a list, and I’d hate to cut down to the short list because that would be doing some people a disservice,” he said.
Though he doesn’t recall the last time he did something for 11 years, Sapp said the timing is right for him to move as he is looking forward to serving the community in a different way.
“I never thought that I would bartend for almost 11 years,” he said. “Even when I started working here, I didn’t think it would turn into this. I thought, we’ll do it until something else comes along, and nothing else came along. Maybe I just didn’t look because I was enjoying it so much.” The time spent doesn’t feel like over a decade’s worth of memories, but there is hope to add more as Sapp journeys onto his firefighting future.
Follow reporter Megan Osborne on Twitter at @megosborneHD.
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