Local News

April 17, 2010

Hanging up the apron

A fixture at Hardee’s, ‘Miss Faye’ retiring after 40 years

DALTON — Forty years of food. Forty years of memories. Forty years of friends.

After almost a half century of serving faithful diners at the Thornton Avenue Hardee’s, Faye Greene is hanging up her apron from the first — and only — job she’s ever had. Her last official day is Sunday, although employees joked they have “Miss Faye’s” cell phone number in case they need her expertise. If she doesn’t answer, they also know where she lives.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” Greene said. “I like dealing with people. You meet a lot of people and deal with a lot of people. That helps you out along in life.”

Employees converted the back dining room at Hardee’s into a retirement party Friday afternoon complete with balloons, a vase with flowers and gifts. Several workers came in on their day off, while many of Greene’s family shared in the celebration. Workers presented her with a plaque commemorating her time at the store (4/18/70 — 4/18/10) and a sheet cake for attendees to enjoy.

Most fast food employees only last a few months. Turnover is the norm. Greene has worked for the company almost as long as it has existed. In 1960, Wilber Hardee opened his first namesake restaurant in Greenville, N.C. Greene started at the Dalton location 10 years later when she was 29. Hardee’s now operates or franchises more than 1,900 restaurants in 30 U.S. states and nine countries.

Born in Calhoun, Greene moved north to Dalton at an early age. She started working at Hardee’s shortly after her husband, Billy, began at Shaw Industries. Why Hardee’s? It was a job.

“I started working on the back line,” Greene said. “I never liked being on the register. I’ll do anything you want me to, just don’t put me on the register.”

Through the years, she’s seen plenty of changes. The old orange and blue decor has been replaced by red and yellow signage. The menu, once dominated by fried chicken and fixings, has shifted to super-sized hamburgers and French fries.

Co-workers gushed about Greene’s strong work ethic.

“She runs circles around some of these younger kids,” Hardee’s manager Terry Rhoten said. “And she keeps the younger ones running, too.”

They also applauded her unassuming personality.

“She always keeps a smile on the crew’s faces,” said Ashley Slaton, who has worked with Greene for two years. “That’s what I always liked about Miss Faye. You cannot not smile around Faye.”

Greene returned the praise, saying co-workers, from teenagers to senior citizens, have all impacted her life.

“All the help that has come through has really helped me,” Greene said. “I’ve enjoyed working with each and every one of them.”

Even the president of the company that owns the Dalton Hardee’s thanked Greene for her dedication.

“Faye’s 40 years of dedication and loyalty are an inspiration to others at a time when people rarely stay committed to one company,” said Julia Scoggins, president, J&S Restaurants Inc. — Hardee’s in a press release. “It is employees like Faye that make this company great and we wish her many years of happiness.”

Several longtime customers dropped in to say hello, and also goodbye.

David Nichols can’t recall exactly when he first ate at the restaurant. He uses Greene as a reference point.

“I’ve been coming as long as she’s been working,” Nichols said.

He dropped by to wish Greene well in her retirement. The Hardee’s will definitely be different without her, but he’s yet to find another place that matches its caring atmosphere, he said.

“We’re going to miss her,” Nichols said. “She’s always been so friendly. This is probably the friendliest Hardee’s I’ve ever been to in the United States. To go somewhere other than your own home where you feel great respect, it’s just like family.”

Paul Setters has picked up coffee at Hardee’s for friends over the past several years. When Setters heard Greene was retiring, he thought it would be a nice gesture to say goodbye. He gave her a rug as a going-away gift.

“She’s blessed and everyone who has been around her is blessed,” Setters said. “She’s such a fine lady and a great example. That’s what we’re all looking for, a role model of some kind. It doesn’t matter what age you are.”

In retirement, Greene plans to spend time with her husband and continue baby-sitting her four great-grandchildren.

“She wears them out,” daughter Trisha Wheat said. “When she leaves, they fall over and go to sleep.”

Maybe that will give “Miss Faye” time to work a few more hours at Hardee’s.

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