CINCINNATI – It's a milestone that Angie Tye anticipated for years -- a landmark life event -- an occasion that she said may even top her wedding day.
Tye’s big day was her recent 25th anniversary as a White Castle employee in Cincinnati. She entered the company’s 25-year club, a 69-year tradition, along with seven others from the Tristate region and more than 80 from across the country.
Tye is proud of the work she does. White Castle, a fast food hamburger chain known for its signature little square sliders, has afforded her a living, providing extras and essentials, a house and a car. But it's more than that. Her customers are like family. Her co-workers are her teammates. And her store, a home away from home, she said.
"Some people might think it's only a little restaurant job. Some of my family even says, 'Oh, Angie, you just work at White Castle,'" Tye said. "But it's really made me who I am today."
It started off simply enough. Tye, raised largely in Cincinnati's Northside neighborhood, was the oldest of four children – the only girl. She wanted to help out around the house, so she applied for a job at White Castle, the 3940 Ludlow Ave. location, within walking distance of home, at age 16, as an after-school job.
Dreadfully shy – but with a million-dollar smile – she was hired on the spot.
"I was all dressed up and everything," she said. "I was nervous, though, when I first started. I thought I could never do this, talking with customers and stuff. Now I have no problem."
More Than A Job
Tye didn't seriously consider making her job a career until after high school graduation. She considered working at other places, "but it would never compare."
"I like to take care of others," Tye said. "The benefits caught my eye, too, even as a school kid. It's awesome how we get profit sharing, Christmas bonuses, paid vacations, medical. And I was so excited about the 25-year club. I wondered if I could make it. It motivated me. And now it's like, yes."
She officially celebrated her silver anniversary on Aug. 9. But Tye – and 83 other White Castle employees – got the VIP treatment during an official three-day 25-year club induction celebration at the company's headquarters in Columbus in September. They toured the corporate office, were wined and dined and driven around in limos. The company's 25-year club is one of the hallmarks of the White Castle culture, officials say. Nearly 10 percent of its 10,000-member nationwide workforce are members. One in four have been with the chain for a decade or longer.
"The longevity of our team members is an important milestone that we want to recognize,” said Bill Ingram, White Castle CEO and the celebration's master of ceremonies. "White Castle is successful because our work environment promotes positive relationships and dedication.”
Moving To The Next Level
On one of the last nights in Columbus, each team member was individually recognized during a banquet and thanked for their service. For Tye, that went full circle.
"I gave the owner (Ingram) a thank you card, because it was so awesome. They don't have to do none of this stuff for us," she said. "I'd been waiting for this moment for 25 years. It feels good to have your company do this for you. I'm still overwhelmed. I look back, and I'll just in awe."
Tye is quick to show off the fruits of her labor: a pin, gold watch and gift card. She is still based at the Ludlow Avenue location, working 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. every weekday. And she continues to encourage other long-time employees to meet the 25-year milestone as well.
As far as what's next? Tye's now eyeing the 40-year mark, which means she'll be fully vested, but it will also mean retirement.
"It's what motivates me, because I want to get to the next level," Tye said. "And experiencing all this stuff, it makes me even more motivated. Here's to the next 15."