Jack's granny serves smiles

February 06, 2003 12:00 am
Favorite Fritzi Chandler receives a kiss from Loree Bougher, a regular Jack in the Box Customer. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).
Favorite Fritzi Chandler receives a kiss from Loree Bougher, a regular Jack in the Box Customer. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).

By JASON ECK

Zipping from table to table with the energy of a teen-ager, Fritzi Chandler delivers burgers and fries, napkins, straws and anything else customers need to make their meals complete.

With the same fleet feet, she returns to the front counter where she punches in orders during a busy lunch-hour rush.

She said she's happiest when it's busy at the East Sonora Jack in the Box.

She flashes smiles at customers, both old and young, although more than half the small dining room is filled with people from her own generation. A white-haired woman standing in line gets a hug as Chandler tells her her table — one in the corner by a window — is set for her. A napkin and spoon have been laid out.

This is a typical day for Chandler, 80, who has worked as hostess at Jack in the Box in The Junction shopping center for the past nine years. She works about six hours, five days a week, and her hard work earned her a regional Employee of the Year award in 2002.

Born in Czechoslovakia, Chandler emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1964, but not before helping her father — a holocaust survivor — escape the horrors of a Nazi work camp. They are memories that are still fresh in her mind.

Busy ‘Grandma'

Chandler — or "Grandma" as she has come to be known by employees and customers — has groupies.

Her customers — many of whom say they dine at Jack in the Box because of Fritzi's presence — say she adds something to their dining experience people don't expect at a fast-food restaurant.

"She's great. She's like grandma around here. It's neat," said Ben King, a roofer and one of the younger customers in the restaurant during a recent lunch hour. "She has high spirits and makes everyone smile."

King said Chandler reminds his wife of her grandmother who recently died.

Nettie Dunlap, 86, of Sonora — the woman Chandler hugged — said Chandler always waits on her without hesitation.

"She seems to know exactly what I need when I sit down," Dunlap said. "She's one of the nicest waitresses around because of her friendliness."