Late into the evening of open mic night at Wheelhouse Brewery, the delightful beer-slinger paused from her duties to sidle up to the band and belt out a jazzy tune that made everyone in the room stop to listen to her rendition of “Oh Darling” by The Beatles.
Angelica Jesser may be one of the most contented twenty-somethings on the North Coast who has no desire to leave the community where she was born and raised. While many younger generations tend to flock to bigger pastures after high school, Jesser doesn’t have the same itch — yet.
Mature beyond her years, Jesser left home when she was 17-years-old and two years later she purchased an aged brick home with her boyfriend. Just as many homeowners do in Prince Rupert, the couple have been renovating the space to rid it of its 1970s décor for fresh paint and wood flooring.
“We are renovating it but it’s taking an eternity because we don’t really know what we’re doing. We’re slowly ripping things out and replacing,” Jesser said. “It was pretty much all wood paneling and shag carpets. It was just awful,” Jesser said. To top it off, amidst the chaos of renovations, her boyfriend brought home Luna, their dog, who she brought along for the interview.
Their home has become a spot for late-night jam sessions with other musically inclined friends. Her older sister inherited a piano from their grandmother, which she keeps at her house. She also has guitars, a mandolin and a ukulele, which she hasn’t quite figured out how to play yet.
Jesser trained her voice in classical and opera in her mid-teens as a gateway into theatre. She always wanted to be in school plays, but she had a lisp and she said she wouldn’t get certain parts because of it. At Annunciation School, she saw a speech pathologist and an educational assistant worked with her to overcome her lisp.
“I wanted to do all that singing and theatre stuff and I was super excited when I actually could,” she said. She took singing lessons and in Grade 12 she performed in “Fiddler on the Roof” and then “Les Misérables.”
After high school, Jesser got a job as a travel agent but she felt her calling was geared more toward working with children. Being thoroughly connected in the community, Jesser was contacted about an opportunity to work as an educational assistant, an occupation she already had benefitted from herself as a young student.
She started with the younger grades and then more recently she worked with high school students.
“That was fun. I expected to work with little little kids. Then I ended up working with the older grades. You can be sassy with them and they’ll be sassy right back and it’s hilarious,” she said.
Eventually, she wants to teach but she’ll plan for that later.
The bartending gig also fell in her path. The Wheelhouse was a regular hang out spot for Jesser and one day she asked one of the male bartenders why there weren’t any women working there.
“Well, women can’t lift kegs,” was the response she received. So she proved them wrong and playfully suggested they hire her on. Two weeks later, she had an interview and started pulling pints. She loves that there are no TVs in the space, there are shared tables, and she has been able to meet people in the city who she’d never meet otherwise. The brew pub has become a Prince Rupert’s version of Cheers.
There could be a line up out the door, or she could be working a double shift from the school to the brew house, whatever the situation Jesser always offers a friendly smile to the patrons.
“I’m really content in this town. I like the community, I like the theatre, I like my jobs. I don’t want to leave, I know that much. I’d like to travel more but it’s always either finish a room or go overseas,” Jesser said.
The upstairs of her home is still gutted, but the downstairs is well on its way. Unlike many youths who would prefer donning a backpack and scouting the world, or living the campus life in university, Jesser lights up when she talks about her almost completed bathroom.
When they moved in the bathroom was blue linoleum, with a pink tub and tiles, pink walls and a cracked ceiling. The young couple have sanded, painting and gutted the room. Then they installed a refurbished free-standing clawfoot tub that used to live in her friend’s backyard.
The house and her career is a work in progress but that doesn’t concern Jesser. She has faith that it’ll all work out. Life is an experiment.
“I love it here, there is so much to do. If you want to go hiking or out on the water or really anything you’re really in the perfect spot,” she said.