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On a blasé, so-so Monday, the joyful voice of Alice Sapp electrifies the dining room at Wendy’s restaurant in Shallotte.
“Hey, gentlemen, how y’all been?” Alice greets a group of men clad in matching pale-blue shirts at the front order counter inside the sunny eatery at Whiteville and Bridger roads.
Alice knows the ATMC security employees by name as she takes their orders, rattling off a list of possible side dishes they might like.
“I got salad, taters, apple slices …” she recites with proficiency and gusto.
At noon, as the lunch line starts to lengthen, Alice meets and greets each customer with personalized attention, including the West Brunswick High School golf team stopping by for a burgers-and-fries fix. Team member Cole Snyder said Alice cheers the place up.
Between taking orders, Alice dashes into the dining room with a fresh serving of chicken nuggets to deliver to a family with a small boy in one of the booths.
Seated at their own table, the ATMC workers are complimentary about the friendly Wendy’s employee who has garnered a reputation for spreading joy.
“Oh, she’s very nice — always friendly,” said Dan Stocks.
“She’ll do anything to help you,” added co-worker Jeremy Simmons.
She never lets your whistle go dry, Joe Brown said.
“She’s something else,” he said. “She would do about anything. The sky’s the limit with her.”
He sees her running for mayor someday.
“That girl could talk you into an Edsel,” Brown joked.
“She called me ‘handsome man,’” said an impressed Jackson Martin, 13, of Charlotte, dining at Wendy’s during spring break this week with his 4-year-old cousin, Fimmley Jones, and their grandma, Honey Martin of Bolivia.
“She’s a real asset to this location,” Honey Martin said as her grandchildren enjoyed the Frosties Alice had brought them.
Waiting on more customers at the counter, Alice looks for ways to cut their costs by offering combo deals and other bonuses on the Wendy’s menu.
During a lunchtime lull as the line subsides, she re-enters the people-filled dining room to tend to cleaning and customers, heralding herself with the grace and finesse of a bona fide “hostess with the mostest,” as she describes herself.
“How is everybody doing this afternoon?” Alice asks, standing next to a stack of trays at the center of the dining room. Her goal, she says, is to make sure everyone is comfortable “and that I can meet your needs and expectations. She will refill your drink once, twice, three times, asking only that customers remain seated as they enjoy their meals and service.
“Is there anything I can get anyone at the moment?” Alice asks. Minutes later, she’s back with a tray of Frosties, sweet tea and other drinks to distribute to diners.
“Alice is the coolest thing in the fast-food industry,” said former restaurant worker Andrew Fox of Calabash as he finished his Wendy’s chili and “senior Coke” she served him.
“She invented this whole thing for herself,” he said. “Nobody in the entire food industry has that for a front-house manager.”
Alice’s enthusiasm is infectious, he said, for people who tend to show up “hungry and grumpy.” Alice, he said, will slap you right out of the doldrums.
“She’s creating an atmosphere,” he said.
Alice has been spreading goodwill at the eatery since October 2011. The New York City native has lived in Shallotte for the past 13 years.
“I am a people person,” she said. “I bump my gums — I talk a lot. Life is more than being stressed out and miserable. I love to hear you laugh. I really do.”
Franchise spokesman Kelly Durham says Alice is terrific.
“We’re very appreciative of the work she’s doing,” he said. “Not a week goes by we don’t get compliments.”
Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.