From managing a café to managing our front desk: Meet Clear Path’s new receptionist

If you ordered a cinnamon shortbread latte at the Barnes & Noble Café in Clay last fall, you may find our new receptionist has a familiar face.

Since 2011, Stephanie Venezia called the hunter-green walled bookseller her work home, holding multiple positions within that span. “When I first started at Barnes & Noble in August 2011, I had no idea what an adventure it would be,” she said.

She began with Barnes & Noble – which outlived Borders to become the last national bookstore to compete with online retailer Amazon – in the part-time role of “Back-up and Breaks.” This meant learning each of the five departments in a two- to three-month span, “which sounds long,” she said, “but is in fact very short when you only work three days per week.” In that role she covered each department when an employee needed help or a break.

That position was eventually discontinued by Barnes & Noble, “so my role in the store changed many times over the years. Through hard work and a constant need to know everything in the store, I learned all about the Nook devices [the company-branded e-readers based on the Android platform] and eventually became the digital sales lead and was bumped up to full-time.

“Six months later, in August 2015, I was promoted to cafe manager. During my nearly four years as cafe manager, I was able to develop a strong team who not only had fun at work but also won awards and contests, including one that earned me a trip to Seattle, Wash. to visit the Starbucks Roastery,” she said.

Although she enjoyed her time at the book retailer, her initial college pursuit would have taken her down a divergent path. Venezia studied music therapy, first at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania and then at Charleston Southern University in South Carolina. However, after two years she became quite ill and was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease – an inflammation of the digestive tract – putting an end to her music therapy degree.

“Discovering that music therapy just wasn’t for me despite having an immense love for the field,” was a difficult decision, she said. However, she has pursued other interests, including herbology, and she is an Usui Reiki master. Music remains in her life; Venezia still avidly plays piano and guitar, and she enjoys singing. Lovers of jewelry may see her creative expressions as she enjoys making and selling at area craft shows.

About the transition to Clear Path: “The idea of working for Clear Path was exciting to me because I knew that I could use not only my work experience but also my personal experience to help others. When my husband was medically discharged from the Air Force in December 2010 it began a whole other journey for us, not only in transitioning from military back to civilian life, but also in both of us learning how to deal with his depression, PTSD and physical disabilities. If there had been a resource like Clear Path available at that time, it would have been less like walking an unfamiliar trail blindfolded with only one hand out in front of you. Being able to help other Veterans now is exactly where I need to be,” she said.

Venezia currently lives in Cicero with her husband, Mike; their two children: Aidan, 9, and Liliana, 5; their dog, Biscuit; and two cats, Isabella and Scamp.