Shanie Schmitz has seen it all; and if she hasn’t, then Sue Brown has; and if not her, then Chanel Stiggers has, for sure. All three local women have made the trek from table to kitchen and back countless times at local restaurants as waitresses; long-time servers with experience that speak in terms of — not just years — but decades.
“There is nothing else I’d rather do,” Stiggers said matter-of-factly.
Schmitz, Brown and Stiggers have served the people of Texoma for 25 years — at least. Each brings a set of skills and strength of character to the table, so to speak.
“I’m basically a shy person; very shy, but it’s funny. At work, I’m a different person,” Schmitz said. “Waitressing has helped get me out of my shell. It’s been good for me.”
All have varied backgrounds — Schmitz is from Gunter and has a business degree; Brown is from Oregon; and Stiggers, a current school board member, is from Sherman — but all love working with and serving people during that special time of day — mealtime.
“I never saw this job as permanent at first; but I found I enjoyed it,” Brown said. “It’s been good to me; I can’t see myself doing anything else.”
Each waitress has a unique perspective on the profession, which is centuries old; and are not shy about discussing their time ‘waiting tables’ in Texoma.
Finish where she started
Schmitz works at Tracks in Sherman; she’s been there for almost as long as it has been open.
“I came in 1992 — about four years after it opened,” Schmitz said with a smile. “I enjoy it. I get to see familiar faces. I also get to meet new people. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Schmitz came to Sherman to attend Grayson County College and wanted a job to complement her school schedule. She had only a couple of part time jobs in high school and little experience, but she replied to an ad. And, the rest is history.
“I had no idea back then that I would still be doing this all these years later, but it has been good,” she said. “It was just meant to help me through college. All the sudden, I’m graduated (SOSU in Durant) and have raised three children. And here I am.”
It would have been natural to move on from a waitressing job after college, but Schmitz saw something different at that point in life — the same type of scheduling applied to her family life and her children’s activities. Another of the main reasons Schmitz stayed was the nature of waitressing — the variety on a daily basis.
“You never know what’s going to happen; it’s not the same thing every day,” Schmitz said.
But at this point in her career, it’s the people she’s met — both at work and in the dining room — and the sense of family that has cemented her time at Tracks and “waiting tables.”
“I have a lot of friends here; some have worked here and come back years later,” she said. “The owners (Scott and April Adams) have been great; really good to me. And I love everyone I’ve met; my repeat customers are just the best.”
Joan Young and Geri Wimberly, both from Sherman, have been coming to Tracks for about 10 years. They now have a favorite waitress in Schmitz. Both agree Schmitz is the prototypical waitress.
“She is just wonderful; always smiling,” Young said. “She’s always here; and always ready to help.”
“She’s a sweetheart,” Wimberly added. “She takes time to talk to you. She’s attentive. She’s a great waitress.”
Schmitz has had responsibilities added to her duties over the years; in fact, she manages the restaurant most days when she isn’t waiting tables.
“It’s been a fun addition,” Schmitz said. “But checking on my customers and making sure they have what they need is still the best part. I like to be part of their day.”
Scott Adams called Schmitz the best employee he’s ever hired.
“Shanie is wonderful; dependable and a great worker,” Scott Adams said. “She is the best employee I’ve ever hired. She is great with customers; and good with all aspects of the restaurant business. You don’t find them like that anymore.”
One of the worst memories of her time at Tracks was when the restaurant flooded — along with much of that area of Sherman — in 2007. Schmitz said in addition to the actual damage, she missed the job itself more than she realized she would.
“It was a sick feeling; the hardest 10 day stretch I’ve had while working at Tracks,” Schmitz recalled. “But we were so happy when we reopened.”
One part of the job stands out for Schmitz — the passage of time in the lives of her customers.
“The sad part is when I see an older customer come in alone after coming in for years with their spouse,” she said softly. “To find out one has passed away is so very sad; that part is never easy.”
Schmitz is about to hit another milestone; her youngest child will be graduating high school soon. Will she remain working at Tracks?
“It’s a joke around here that I will own the place someday; my daughter has been working with me for five years now,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like I’ve been here that long, but it feels like I’ve always been here. I’ll be here until I retire, that’s for sure. Can I make it another 25 years? I’ll do it if I can!”
Pizza Hut in Denison can boast a longtime waitress in Sue Brown, who has been serving customers for 32 years at that location. Currently, she adds the title of assistant manager to her duties, but the love of serving customers is still a big part of her day at work.
“I like customers,” Brown said. “I get along with them. I enjoy seeing them come in. They are incredible. I’ve seen many for years and years. They are just great.”
There is a simple two reasons for this waitress to be at Pizza Hut.
“It was close to home and I like pizza,” Brown said with a smile.
Brown began her current job after stints at Jack in the Box and Sonic locally. Her family came to Denison from Oregon right after she graduated high school. Brown was born in New Mexico but the family moved around during her childhood.
One of the “neat” things about working at a public place for so many years is how people recognize her at other locations around town.
“No matter where I go, there is always someone who knows me,” Brown said. “Once, a child tugged at her mother’s shirt and said, ‘Look, Mommy! It’s the Pizza Lady!’ That’s so fun to hear.”
Even though she has managed the restaurant — in addition to being shift manager and assistant manager — it is waitressing that captures Brown’s imagination.
“My favorite thing is the customers,” Brown said. “I love them. They are like family. When I see them, we just start talking like it was yesterday even though it might be a month or something.”
Some of the most fun times are when local Denison students ride the limousine to Pizza Hut for lunch after earning that prize in a school-wide fundraising project.
“Those kids are great,” Brown recalled. “They will get out of the limo and just start dancing all the way inside. It’s all they can talk about. The smiles are incredible. They love the pizza and doing something special for school. I’m glad I can be a little part of it.”
Brown actually retired in 2015…for two weeks. She readily admits she couldn’t stand being away from the profession that has given her so much.
“I was bored being retired,” Brown remembered. “The company was so good to work with me. I missed everybody. I figure while I’m able to, why not work? I’ll be glad to be here for years to come.”
Managers and co-workers sing Brown’s praises and agree she is a “great” waitress.
25 years in the business
At MG’s Restaurant recently, there was a surprise celebration where every staff member wore matching T-shirts and specialized cupcakes were served to all the customers. That day marked 25 years that Chanel Stiggers has moved table to table searching for people to help and food to serve.
“I had no idea they were going to do this,” Stiggers, who herself donned the celebratory T-shirt, said. “This is so wonderful; what a great idea!”
Stiggers started in March 1993, about 10 years after MG’s opened, with no fanfare — just tables to be served. The job just “fell into place” like it was a sign showing her what to do.
“I never thought I’d be here this long, but I can’t imagine being gone now,” Stiggers said. “I’d miss it too much; this is my second home.”
Stiggers acknowledges that her personality only allows her to work with people and to talk to people, so a waitress job is perfect for her.
“It’s the people; my customers are awesome,” Stiggers said. “I’ve made some really good friends over the years. I love my customers. They are my people! I love talking to them. I couldn’t make it without them. I like spending time with them; I like to see what everyone is doing in their lives.”
One of the special times for Stiggers is holidays because former customers and co-workers come to MG’s to see their favorite resident waitress.
“They all come by to see me and say ‘hi,’” Stiggers noted. “It’s fun to see. Thanksgiving is the best because everyone comes home on that holiday. It’s awesome!”
Someone else who thinks it’s awesome is MG’s owner Mike Adams.
“Having Chanel here is awesome; she brings the smiles and she is a great worker,” Adams said. “Chanel is approachable and dependable. She’s a natural fit; basically, Chanel is the face of the restaurant.”
When Stiggers says she loves her customers, she really means it, according to Sue Foster, a long-time patron of MG’s.
“We’ve been coming 12-15 years; and just love her. I’ll usually call to see if she’s there,” Foster said. “We enjoy being with her; she is the best. And her personality is incredible. She’s never met a stranger. She knows most everyone who comes through the door. She has a way to make you feel like you are the only one in the restaurant. She is just a sweetheart.”
Why they stay
Even after the long days and years, all three waitresses have a common feeling about the time on their feet. Brown summed it up in general — and personal — terms.
“Most waitresses would say that it’s the customers as to why we stay at this job,” she concluded. “They become part of our lives; and we just love them so much.”