The Friendly Owensboro, KY ‘Nana’ Serving Up Pizza and Smiles in the Drive-Thru
Last Friday, I was downtown working with my buddy Ron Rhodes, from Eyewitness News. He and I co-emceed the big USSSA 3 Up 3 Down Baseball Tournament parade and awards ceremony at Friday After 5 and the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum. When it was over, I dropped my station vehicle off, picked up my car and headed home. But, first, I stopped by Pizza Hut on Frederica Street to pick up dinner. There, after a long and exhausting day, I was greeted by Nana.
If you've ever visited Owensboro's Pizza Hut location at 4127 Frederica Street, there's a strong chance you've met Nana. She is a regular figure at that location's drive-thru window and there's a simple reason for it. As Nana explained to me, her manager likes for her to work the window because she's "a talker." And she most certainly is that.
Nana always greets her customers with smiles and conversation. She loves getting to know her customers. For Nana, it's the perfect combo- pizza and people. Well, Friday evening, I decided it was time to get to know Nana.
Nana, by the way, is really Connie Singer. A lot of folks in town remember Connie from K-Mart over on Parrish Avenue. She worked for the company for 35 years. She started her career in the Kmart deli and cafeteria and eventually etired in 2015.
When it was open, Connie was the Assistant Manager at the Parrish Avenue store. In fact, that disclosure quickly led us to a conversation about a mutual friend of ours. My friend Betty Murphy worked at that K-Mart for years too. Nana bragged about Betty and talked about what a hard worker she was. She said, "If you needed something done, Betty would get it done."
Though Nana admittedly struggles a bit with her memory (her family has a history of Alzheimer's Disease) and she has been diagnosed with Early-Onset Dementia, she is sharp as a tack and most certainly remembers and celebrates the people who've impacted her life. And, well, let's face it. Nana's impacting the lives of her customers.
Last summer, Kathryn Meade took this awesome photo of Nana and shared this:
Everyone, meet Pizza Hut Nana!! She’s Pizza Hut’s greatest asset. She knows how to take care of her customers (thank you for the Nana-bag!) She is a joy, an inspiration and just a really cool lady.
By the way, more on that "Nana bag" in a bit. But, first, a quick trip back to Nana's previous job at Kmart.
While Nana bragged to me about her coworker Betty, it's easy to tell that Nana's a hard worker too. Still. Though she's officially on disability, she is still able to work about twenty hours a week and does so at Pizza Hut, where her customers (and coworkers) have grown to love her.
My friend Denise, who has also worked at Pizza Hut for years, says Connie typically works weekend nights- Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (occasionally on Thursdays). And, she's been known to spread some cheer at Pizza Hut on Christmas!
Connie sometimes waits tables, she answers the phones and does whatever needs to be done. But her primary home at the Pizza Hut is that drive-thru window.
Nana makes every drive-thru experience a memorable one and she's found a way to leave her mark on every single order. If Nana's working when you pull through the window, you're gonna leave with a "Nana Bag" just like Kathryn described. Yes, Connie's creating handy to-go bags that are full of goodies to go with your pizza.
Every Nana Bag has napkins, red pepper flakes, grated cheese, some peppermints. The one I got on Friday night even had a couple of other individually wrapped candies in it.
I was really tired Friday evening. I had worked about thirteen hours that day and the last part of it was spent outside, in sweltering heat and humidity, with a couple of thousand people downtown.
But when I went through the drive-thru window at Pizza Hut, I forgot all about how tired I was and how much I just wanted to be at home. Nana turned that proverbial frown upside down. I was greeted with a smile, a pizza, a story and an absolutely delightful new friend.
I lost my grandma over ten years ago, but I suddenly feel like I have a brand new Nana. I guarantee you that if you go an visit her, she'll be yours too.
In case you didn't get a chance to hear it, here's our radio interview with Connie "Nana" Singer.