I’ve heard people say that you’re lucky if you have a good boss. And while I’m still young(ish) in my working life, I’ve been extremely lucky to have some of the best bosses one can imagine.
Last week, I was contacted by a former manager at Ponderosa Steakhouse who let me know that my husband’s and my former boss was retiring. She was looking for photos from our years working there to create a scrapbook for a small retirement gathering.
That got me thinking back to my years there and the impact that Joe Maciocia (Muh-show-shuh) has had on both mine and my husband’s lives.
I worked at Ponderosa, almost consecutively, for more than eight years, starting in 2002. My husband worked there for a year or so. It’s how we met, though we didn’t start dating until several years later.
I remember going out on my 16th birthday with my twin sister to get another job. We were already babysitting and cleaning a bed and breakfast on the weekends, but wanted to work more for some reason. We both started out stocking the buffet and I moved to serving after a while.
I started working there at a pivotal time in my life, really. When I did, I met this group of crazy kids with X’s drawn on their hands. I asked them what that meant and they said it meant that they didn’t do drugs or drink alcohol. This is about the age where everyone is doing one or the other, or both.
This group adopted me as one of their own and I am still close friends with many of the people I met in those early years.
But this isn’t about that. This is about my boss, Joe, who owned the company with a silent partner. He ran the day-to-day operations and worked many nights and weekends. He never, ever let things slide when he was on the clock, which means he washed dishes, manned the grill, filled the buffet, answered phones, bussed tables, you name it.
For me, Joe coined the term “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” I often joked (and it’s probably not a joke) that Ponderosa was the cleanest restaurant in town, as we had to clean bottle caps, soda machine nozzles, take apart the ice cream machine to clean the parts, dust plants, scrub the cooler down, wipe down chair legs, lift out the booth seats and clean inside of them . . . my most hated “side work” was gum duty — no explanation needed.
Side note — Please don’t stick gum under tables. It’s disgusting. Someone has to clean it.
Joe worked with so, so many teenagers, and he was so patient with all of us. Joe wasn’t a demanding boss, but chiding when you needed it.
The thing that I admire the most about Joe is that he was always willing to give someone a chance, and usually a second and third chance — even if they didn’t deserve it. They often didn’t deserve it, but he was able to look past that and see the good in people beyond their circumstances.
Joe provided a good working environment, which is evidenced by the number of employees who have been there for over a decade, including a cook, a manager, several waitresses and a buffet attendant.
The food service industry, though, is limited for many. Joe has helped instill values and work ethic in young people who grew up to be doctors, engineers, business owners and managers, police officers, a newspaper editor and who took many other career paths.
He showed us that you get to choose to work hard and be successful. He tried to teach us to “pay yourself first” and just an incredible amount of other life lessons.
Joe was a supportive, encouraging and funny leader. He had such a big impact on the youth and families in this community and I know he will be missed.
I also know that there’s no one who deserves an awesome retirement more.
Congratulations and happy retirement, Joe. By the way, it’s time to get on Facebook. Just stay out of politics and online comment forums and you’ll be fine.