Spivey – Serving a nickel’s worth like a dollar

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 22, 2000

Features Editor

Success is measured, not by the amount of money people make, but by the kind of job they do and by the joy they get from it.

By that measure, Hazel Spivey has been very successful at her job.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

"Hazel," as she prefers to be called and as she is widely known, has never had a high profile job or a high paying one. But none of that mattered to her. She was committed to doing the best possible job every day and was always willing to go the extra mile.

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is the "extra" and that’s what makes Hazel an extraordinary employee.

"I’ve always done everything that was asked of me and then whatever else needed to be done," she said. "But the most important thing was to look after my customers and do anything I could to make their visit a pleasant one."

Hazel’s philosophy is to serve a nickel’s worth like it’s a dollar’s worth.

"If you do that, you’ll always have satisfied customers," she said. "Every customer is important and they need to be treated that way so they’ll feel that way."

Hazel’s "cafe" career began at the Brundidge City Cafe where she worked on her feet 12 to 14 hours a day and took home a paltry 25 cents an hour. She supplemented her hourly wages as a waitress at Hotel Troy and brought home an extra $100 a month, making it possible to pay her rent and buy an old model car.

She later opened her own business, Hazel’s Cafe in Brundidge, and served some of the best meat-and-three-vegetable meals in the country.

Restaurant work is demanding on the body and on one’s time. For Hazel Spivey it was almost more than she could do.

Her son, Charlie, is a victim of cerebral palsy and caring for him was a full time "pleasure" in itself. She also wanted to spend "meaningful" time with her daughter, Glenda.

She accepted all her responsibilities as blessings and gave each one extra-mile care. And, she managed.

When her own restaurant became more than she could do without sacrificing time for her children, she was fortunate enough to get a job at Pizza Hut in Troy.

There, she earned more money an hour than she ever had and things were looking up.

"I worked at Pizza Hut for five years and everyone there was good to me," she said. "But, then my mother got sick and I quit work to look after and care for her. She died almost two years later."

Then, about five years ago, Hazel got a lucky break or maybe it was fate, she said.

"I was in the grocery store and Mr. Charles Alexander saw me and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough."

Hazel found a second home at KFC and a second family, too.

"I have never been treated as good as I have been treated at Kentucky Fried Chicken," she said. "Mr. Alexander is the best boss anyone could have and I enjoy working with everyone there. I can’t say enough about our customers. They have all been so kind and good to me."

Hazel works the lobby and has the opportunity to meet and talk with people from the area and from across the country. And, when help is needed in another area, she doesn’t mind picking up the slack.

She’s often seen carrying trays for elderly customers or helping them to their cars. For her, it’s all in a day’s work.

"I don’t mind the extra steps at all," she said. "I’ve made a lot of extra steps to help people, not expecting tips, but just to do a good job."

However, now that she has reached the age of 69, her back isn’t as strong as it used to be and her feet fold under the extra steps.

Her son is in school in Ozark and the travel back and forth, taking him to school and other activities in which he is involved, has started to takes its toll.

Scouting is one of the greatest adventures in Charlie’s life and his mom supports him at every turn. She is a committee member for his troop and since 1990, she has been going the extra mile so that he can attend summer camp.

"I would work and then go to camp and get him ready for bed and be back for work the next morning," she said. "But, it’s just gotten to be too much for me now."

Because her family comes first, Hazel decided the best thing for her and Charlie was for them to move to Ozark. That means giving up a job she loves and leaving the people who have become like family to her and all of the friends she has made while in Troy.

Today is Hazel’s last day at KFC and Alexander and his staff wish her all of the best as she takes another step in her life.

"Giving up this job and leaving the people of Pike County is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do," she said.

"I would like to be remembered like the Hazel on the television show. She left everyone something to remember her by. I hope that I’m leaving something for people to remember me by. I hope I did something for every person who came in KFC and I hope they won’t forget about me. And, I hope they will keep me and Charlie in their prayers. They will be in ours."