Every once in a while, I meet someone whose smile could light up a room even during a power failure. The first time I met Karen Dion, a cashier at Ryan’s Grill, Buffet & Bakery on Brevard Road in Asheville, she gave me one of those mega wattage smiles and asked me where I was from.
“I’ve lived here for 23 years” I replied, quickly realizing that my answer did not satisfy her curiosity. Having lived in Key West, Karen was a pro at detecting a South Florida accent. Soon we were chatting like old friends.
At Ryan’s, your meal is paid for before you eat and the cashier is the first person who greets you as you walk through the door. I watched as Karen spoke to each one of her customers, putting a smile on their faces taking priority over collecting their money. Several folks were lucky enough to get hugs along with their receipt.
A week later, I had the opportunity to talk with Karen. I found out that Karen had previously been in the restaurant business and was just about to close her last restaurant when she visited Ryan’s. Impressed with the family atmosphere, and feeling that she could be an asset to the restaurant, she applied for a job as evening hostess.
Nine years later, she is still at Ryan’s, spreading love faster than folks can scoop food off the buffet. Karen has a soft spot in her heart for the elderly, many of them who eat at Ryan’s on a daily basis. Some come to the restaurant right from doctor visits or medical treatments and Karen is there to give them a hug and hear about their day. She also has a fondness for children and enjoys conversing with them as they come through her line.
Karen has a simple philosophy about life that has helped her get through even the toughest of times. “If I can make someone feel better and happy” she says, ” then I consider it a great day.”