Sally Rheinbolt and Wilma Larkey have worked at the Kingsport Piccadilly since it opened in 1976, and say their customers and co-workers are like family.
Maybe it’s a wink or a grin, a joke or a hug, but most people are thankful that someone took the time to smile, say hello or say they’ve missed you. This is the story of two very special women and their special gift of caring.
Sally Rheinbolt began working at Piccadilly on March 8, 1976, two days before the restaurant opened in the Fort Henry Mall. She had been working at another local restaurant and heard that Piccadilly was about to open in the mall. Rheinbolt dropped by and found the construction site where the restaurant would eventually be situated, and filled out an application. After her first day on the job, she was reassigned to checker (cashier), even though, she says, "…I didn’t have any of the prices memorized yet!"
A quick study, Rheinbolt did the work and has kept that position for 37 years.
"There are so many people that I have seen sometimes every week for years," says Rheinbolt. "Couples who had young children that are now grown with children of their own. It’s a sense of family because you see them so often - you celebrate the good times with them, and the sad times, too."
Rheinbolt credits these friendships, the dedicated and caring management, and the high quality of the food for Piccadilly’s longevity and success. Many restaurants change their menus often to reflect the changing trends in foods; Piccadilly remains committed to the original "tried and true" recipes that people have come to expect from the cafeteria. It is "home cooking" at its best.
Over the years, Rheinbolt has worked on "opening teams," groups of Piccadilly employees that visit new restaurants, help train employees, while building a cohesive team spirit that centers around friendly attitudes and outstanding customer service.
"I’ve trained new employees for Picccadillys in Orlando, Spartanburg, and several other cities," says Rheinbolt." "We usually stay a couple of weeks and, at the end of our time there, it’s sad having to say ‘goodbye’, because we’ve gotten to be good friends."
Rheinbolt is a straight-forward individual.
"I try to be honest in everything I do," she says. "I genuinely love people and I am blessed to have friends I’ve made here at work that I honestly feel I could depend on for anything."
Wilma Larkey is another employee with 37 years experience working at the Kingsport Piccadilly.
"I had heard lots of good things about the Piccadilly in Bristol, so I was excited to hear they were opening one in Kingsport."
She, too, finds the customers the best part of her job.
"As a cashier, you get to see so many of the customers that come to eat here. They are so nice, some are funny, they have a joke or kind word to share."
Several rather unique memories stand out in these ladies’ minds, such as the time one of the assistant managers and his fiancé had their wedding and reception in Piccadilly. Rheinbolt’s friends and family threw a baby shower there for each of her two daughters.
"It was like having a huge extended family," she says." The customers had seen me pretty regularly over the nine months, so they were in on the celebration, too! The first time I brought my daughter in to visit and show her off, it took four hours to get out of the mall!"
Of course, these two ladies have more in their lives than their jobs. Larkey is more of a "homebody," and enjoys cooking, particularly lasagna and spaghetti. She regrets not ever having gotten the recipe for her grandmother’s "hot" pickles.
"They were so good and different from anything I’ve ever eaten. She never wrote down the recipe, so unfortunately she took the recipe to her grave."
Larkey also reads (primarily romances and books with religious subjects) and exercises her mind, doing "circle word" books and needlework on plastic canvas.
Rheinbolt enjoys spending time with her two daughters, 21 and 23 ("one’s in school and one’s in love"), especially at the beach.
"Some of our best memories have been when we’re together at the beach, although we have a good time just hanging out, watching "chick flicks" on television, too. We also love to shop. It’s important that we do things together - time is precious."
Rheinbolt enjoys working in her flower garden and camping, but if you are lucky, you might catch her onstage at a karaoke bar living out her "secret ambition "as a country western singer!
It is very clear that these women have enjoyed lives filled with many dear friends - for over 37 years. Loyalty is a trait that many believe has disappeared: with job insecurity, frequent relocations, and life events, it is difficult to develop a long-term relationship with anything or anyone. These two ladies seem to have found the secret and their lives have been blessed because of it.comments powered by Disqus