April 18, 2017 – West Bend, WI – This story about the Day Ladies at McDonald’s in West Bend ran in the Around the Bend in March 2014. Today the Ladies are just as wonderful and welcoming as ever. Here’s an opportunity to do justice to them again.
Local McDonald’s owner Steve Kilian and son Steve Jr. took the time to offer a McSurprise to four long-time employees at the Galactic McDonald’s on Main Street after receiving a letter from a customer praising the Day Ladies for their friendly service.
“They call them the Day Ladies and each has worked for Steve Kilian for 20 years or more,” said Sharon Ruplinger, a McDonald’s veteran who started in 1973 when she was a 15-year-old sophomore at West Bend East High School.
“I was there when the special sauce for the Big Mac was mixed at the store and when the Hamburgler crawl thing, bouncy fry girls and metal slides were in the outdoor play land,” Ruplinger said recalling how they had to shut down the play area when it was “real hot because kids would burn their legs.”
As a teen Ruplinger had to know all the prices and the tax table, add by hand on a piece of paper, and cook by sight – not by computer. Ruplinger now works as Steve Kilian’s assistant and local marketing manager.
She said the Day Ladies have similar stories; they’re a unique group recognized by customers for their courtesy, commitment, and familiarity.
“I think we enjoy the customers as much as they enjoy us,” said Vicki Montanez, a Day Lady and an employee since Aug. 1, 1990.
“I was 36 when I started and the menu was really basic, we made all the biscuits for breakfast by hand and we had to bake and frost the cinnamelts ourselves and now it’s all done ahead of time.”
Montanez, who previously sold real estate, gravitated to McDonald’s because of the fast-paced environment but found she loved it for the flexible schedule. “It was really good because if my kids got sick at school I was able to leave in a second and that was really important,” she said.
Customers know the Day Ladies by name, they know their families, and many times their days off.
“You have the same people that come each day, some we know by name and others we know by order,” said Karen Wentz who knows a regular customer simply as ‘large coffee, seven cream, seven sugar.’
Wentz started in January 1997, when she was 33. She worked during the era when McDonald’s would bring breakfast to the high schools serving pancakes, cinnamon rolls, and egg McMuffins.
“We’d set up in one of the cafeterias and the kids just loved it,” she said.
Day Lady Caroline Schwartz started at McDonald’s in 1988 when the uniforms were baby blue with polyester pants and a blue striped button-up top. “I started because all my friends worked here,” she said. “I’ve stayed 25 years because it fit my schedule and the Kilians treated me like family.”
Schwartz talked about working alongside Steve Jr. when he was 12 years old and the appreciation shown by the owner.
“Steve sent us to the Packer game with a chauffeur and then they took us out to lunch at the Ninja Japanese Steakhouse; just so nice,” she said about Kilian who bought his first McDonald’s in West Bend in 1990.
Jane Sterr has been with McDonald’s since May 2, 1981. “I was 18, at West Bend East High School and the restaurant was across the street where Auto Zone is now,” she said. “We had a one-window drive thru and the popular sandwich was the McLean Deluxe.”
Camaraderie and customer service are reasons Sterr has stayed for 33 years. “We have our very regular customers and we joke around; we can still work while having fun. It’s a very good atmosphere,” she said.
Customer Judy Essig brought Jane a gift for her anniversary last year. Questioned about the longevity of the Day Ladies she said, “It speaks highly for the employer and the way they’re treated.”
Sterr admitted, she never thought she’d be at McDonald’s this long. “It’s hard work but we all work well together, we get along, and it’s amazing because we’re just dedicated.”
Editor’s side note: It’s so refreshing to see the familiar faces of the Day Ladies at the Galactic McDonald’s on Main Street in West Bend. They call customers by name, they’re committed to their work and yet have genuine enthusiasm about passion about where they work. You don’t see that too often and it says a lot about Mr. Kilian and West Bend.