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She's leavin' it

Sonja Shearer to retire from McDonald's

Sonja Shearer to retire from McDonald's

December 21, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - When Sonja Shearer started as a cashier at the new McDonald's on Northern Avenue in 1970, she made $1.25 an hour and sold hamburgers and french fries for 38 cents.

After taking five years off to care for her son, Shearer returned because McDonald's worked around her schedule as a mother, she said. She will retire Friday with more than 30 years of continuous employment at the same McDonald's.

"The hours were very good for somebody who's got children," she said. "I wasn't gonna stay here, but drifted on, drifted on."

When she started, the McDonald's restaurant was a tiny space with just enough room for customers to walk up and order.

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A dining room was built in 1976, the year she returned to work. The drive-through was added 10 years later. An outdoor playground came and went. The McRib sandwich, chicken fajitas and danishes were added to - and taken off - the menu.

Shearer's favorite sandwich, the Big Mac, cost $1.25 in 1968. The sandwich now sells for $2.89. The menu expanded to include chicken sandwiches, salads and breakfast during her tenure.

Shearer, 59, is the "gold standard," said Mark Levine, president of the Golden "M" Company and owner of the Northern Avenue restaurant.

Shearer sports a silver ring commemorating her 10-year anniversary with McDonald's, a golden arch necklace for 15 years, a silver watch for her 25th anniversary and a gold tennis bracelet decorated with tiny golden arches for her retirement.

"I was really happy when I got that at the Christmas party two weeks ago," she said.

It was important to mark Shearer's milestones at the company, Levine said.

"Thirty years in the same store is one out of a million," he said. "Normally, we would have 30 employees for one year," Levine said.

Shearer said her favorite part of the job is talking to her customers.

"I'm friendly. I love talking to people," she said.

She sees some of the same customers in the drive-through every day.

"People need encouragement. A smile every now and then or a 'good morning' to them," Shearer said.

Many people coming through the drive-through have told her that they will miss her smiling face, Shearer said. She is going to miss those customers, too, she said.

"You get attached to them," she said.

Employees who create personal relationships with customers are great for any business, Levine said.

He hopes that Shearer gets bored in retirement and returns to work for a few days each week, he said.

Shearer isn't so sure.

"You get burned out after a while," she said.

She and her husband, Floyd, plan to travel during their retirement years. They want to see Hawaii, she said.

And looking back, Shearer is satisfied.

"I encourage young people to work at McDonald's. You can make a good career out of it if you really want to," she said.

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