Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 30, 2013

MARK MAYNARD: Hostess has put face on Winchester McDonald's for past 25 years

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — Bonnie Lake can’t imagine doing anything else in her life.

If you’ve been to McDonald’s on Winchester Avenue in the past 25 years, then you know Bonnie.

And she knows you. Probably by your first name.

That’s how she rolls.

Jere Gilpin, the director of operations of 14 McDonald’s stores owned by Tom Wolf, describes her this way: “Personality. Energy. Personality, personality and personality.”

The Winchester McDonald’s celebrated 50 years in business on Tuesday, and through the remainder of the month. The store opened on Jan. 3, 1963 — the first fast-food chain restaurant.

We’ve all been there (some of us more than others and some of us more than we should be).

For half of those years, Bonnie Lake has been there, too. She is the hostess of the dining room at

McDonald’s. She serves with a smile. All. The. Time.

“I tried to get on here about a year before they hired me,” she said. “Then the hostess here was sick and they asked me if I wanted to give it a try. They didn’t let her come back. She got transferred to another location.”

And the legend of Bonnie Lake was born.

She turns 71 in May and works three days a week, eight-hour shifts on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nobody outworks her, said Gilpin, another area McDonald’s legend who has been working with Wolf since 1975.

“She runs circles around most of these people,” he said of Lake.

Six years ago, when the current location was remodeled, Lake was given the honor of locking up the old building and then, when the renovation was completed, unlocking the current location.

“A lot of stores have a Bonnie, but there is only one Bonnie,” he said.

Lake leads by example and with a bubbly personality that makes her the model hostess for a fast-food restaurant. She counts the customers as family and they feel the same way about her.

“It’s like a second family to me,” she said.

When her husband, June, died a few years ago, many of her customers wrapped their collective arms around her.

She return the favor. Some of her customers who met regularly for coffee and “to solve all the city’s problems,” have died. She goes to their visitations and funerals to grieve with family because, to her, they are family, too.

“She always tells me she’s going to work another couple of years,” Wolf said. “I tell her ‘When you go, I’m following you out the door.’ She’s just a terrific employee.”

Lake still treasures the day she was named a WSAZ “Hometown Hero” when newscaster Tim Irr came to Ashland and gave her the award.

“It was an amazing letter they wrote about me,” she said of her loyal customers.

McDonald’s has hired a lot of employees in Ashland during the last 50 years but maybe none more valuable than Lake.

Ed DeBorde, the man who served the first hamburger at the restaurant, has passed away. But his widow backs up the story and passed it along to Sherry Wolf’s mother. There are other stories like that in our town, too, about McDonald’s long history here.

“We’ve had a lot of great people who have worked here,” Lake said. “Some have come back as lawyers and doctors. It instills a certain amount of discipline in their lives. A lot of them have come back and working here made a difference.”

But none of them can match Lake in longevity or in the joy of doing the job. She genuinely likes coming to work every day.

How many people can say that?

“It’s the best thing I can do for my health,” she said. “I just love coming to work.”

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.