Joan Orem has been a staple at Baugher's Restaurant in Westminster for 47 years as she weaves though the dining area day after day, stopping at each of her tables to drop off food, a check or sometimes just a smile.
Seven to nine hours a day, six days a week for 47 years, server Joan Orem has been a staple at Baugher's Restaurant in Westminster as she weaves though the dining area day after day, stopping at each of her tables to drop off food, a check or sometimes just a smile.
"The day they take me out on a stretcher they can take my hours," said Orem, 61, of Westminster, who has no plans on backing off her work schedule.
Only one other employee has been working at Baugher's Restaurant longer than Orem. Shirley Rinehart, 77, who cut back to two shifts per week in December, has been at Baugher's for 57 years.
"I couldn't believe it when [Orem] told us how long she'd been working here," said one of Orem's regular customers, Dixie Little, of Westminster. "Holy Mackerel. Nobody in the world works in one place for that long."
Even before Orem started as a server, she helped her father, who was Baugher's butcher, prepare hamburger meat and cut steaks. During the summer, she and her sisters had to help their dad with the meat before they could go swimming, Orem said.
Orem dropped out of school when she was 14 and started working at Baugher's full time to earn enough money to buy a car when she turned 16, which she accomplished, she said. After that, Orem never found a reason to leave Baugher's, although she did get her GED certificate 15 years after dropping out of school.
"I just love it here. My family will tell you in a minute, 'this is her home,'" Orem said.
Both of her sons have worked at Baugher's, and her youngest, Louie Orem, 23, started when he was 13 and still works as a server during the summer and in between his college classes. He usually works alongside his mom and said they make a good team.
"Well she's very dedicated to her job, I can tell you that," Louie said. "That's all she talks about at home, too."
To some people, restaurant work may seem like menial labor, said Baugher's manager, Stephen Nace, but that is not how Orem treats her work. She is efficient and dedicated, and only takes time off for vacations and sick-leave, he said.
"As a manager, you would love to have six or eight Joans working here. In this day in age, we don't have enough of her, and we have too much of the other kind," Nace said, referring to employees who show up late or sometimes not at all.
"The fact that customers come to ask to sit in her section is a testimony [to] how efficient she is as well as her wonderful personality," Nace said.
Orem is close to her customers, and over the years they have become very special to her, she said.
"My husband says to me, 'You know your customers better than you know me,' and I say, 'You know what — I've been around them longer than I've been around you,'" Orem said. "I've been here 47 [years]. I've been married to him 37."
Orem knows her customers' routines and knows that if she does not see them then something is wrong.
"She sees us coming, and she's got the table set up before we sit down," Little said.
Little said she does not know where Orem finds her energy to do what she does.
"She's one of the best waitresses that ever came around. She's jolly all the time," Little said.
Orem knows how to talk to her customers — or rather how to tease them.
Phil and Annette Arbaugh, of Westminster, regular Baugher's patrons, always try to get Orem as their server when they come to the restaurant. Orem usually has their coffee on the table by the time they walk through the door, Annette said.
"[Phil] torments her every morning and she takes it well," Annette said. "[She] gives it right back to him usually."
Orem has built relationships not only with her customers but also her co-workers, many of whom have also been working at Baugher's for a couple of decades or more.
"It's been fun knowing her and hope it will be a fun time yet," Rinehart said.
Even though Rinehart is 16 years older than Orem, Rinehart said that they had similar interests and enjoyed working together from the very beginning.
"[We] just hit it off, and we just became best friends, and now there's not a thing we wouldn't do for each other. ... We have a very, very close relationship," Orem said. "A lot of people don't have that. And that is just so important to me."
Compared to when she first started working at Baugher's 47 years ago, things are more fast-paced, Orem said. Now she said she interacts with her customers on the run, but she has not stopped giving 110 percent to her job every day.
When Orem wakes up each morning, she never dreads going to work, she said.