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Who Welcomes Our Visitors To Town?

A few weeks ago, I was honored to speak to our local Pizza Hut staff during one of their professional development/employee pride meetings.

My designated topic was personal accountability, but, of course, I can’t stick to one topic. I’m a rambler. Plus, I had another priority.

These people, the Pizza Hut staff, and many others, just like them, are our town’s welcoming committee. These are the faces of Council Grove, KS. Our gas station attendants, bartenders, retail workers, servers, and many more have a big job!

Our visitors (and potential new residents and employees) get their first impressions of Council Grove from their interactions with people, just like the staff of Pizza Hut. So I shared my first interaction with the Pizza Hut crew with them.

In July of 2021, my family and I pulled up to our new-to-us, major fixer-upper of a house. We had driven from Maine to Kansas. I was in our car, and my fiancé was in a giant U-Haul. We walked in to find that the plumbing work we thought would be complete was not.

It was the worst feeling. What had I done? I moved my two little boys to this new place that all Facebook stalking in the world hadn’t totally prepared any of us for, and now we don’t have plumbing! It was a horrible, sinking, gut-wrenching feeling.

Spoiler : Ron Wooden, plumber extraordinaire of Wooden’s Plumbing, came to our rescue faster than I dreamed possible.

But, that day. We were at a loss.

While my fiancé scrambled, the boys and I went to Pizza Hut.

Even though the restaurant was packed, we immediately felt special. We walked in, and they smiled and greeted us like they had been waiting for us to arrive all day. Our server took our drink orders, and I apologized for my not-as-friendly banter — I was stressed. Crazy stressed.

He walked away, and less than a minute later, he was back with drinks and games for us to play. Another minute later, he was back with complimentary breadsticks, and another server joined him. I asked what they love about Council Grove. They mentioned the history and the community events. They told us that we had just missed Washunga Days, but the Gunfight on the Santa Fe Trail was coming up, and they were so excited about it. They even pulled their poster down to give to us so that we wouldn’t forget.

I explained our situation, and we ate and chatted a bit more. The boys and I played games as they refilled our drinks. We never felt rushed. There was never a hint of feeling unwanted.

As we readied to leave, we were handed to-go drinks — even one for my fiancé, still scrambling at home. They piled on a free pizza and dessert for our dinner that night.

We left that Pizza Hut feeling like we were home. They made one of the hardest days feel overcome-able.

Those Pizza Hut staff members did more for me that day with their positivity about Council Grove, thoughtfulness, and generosity than they could ever know.

That’s the power of our businesses and those working in them.

They have the power to make and/or break our community’s reputation.

If that server had said something like, “Ugh, Council Grove is so boring. There’s nothing to do in this town. I can’t wait to get out of here.” It would have only served to dig a deeper hole in the pit of my stomach. But they didn’t.

So business owners, managers, and workers, please remember that YOU hold so much power. You are the outward expression of the soul of our community.

A warm greeting and heartfelt thanks are simple ways to ensure our City’s welcoming environment. Going that extra mile can affect our entire community in incredibly positive ways.

I encourage you all to discuss this concept in your businesses and implement strategies, and empower employees to indeed be the joyous faces of Council Grove. It worked on this girl. I fell in love with Council Grove because of a simple trip to Pizza Hut. How will you make the next person fall in love?

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for how you all represent us. I can market my heart out to bring visitors and new residents into the doors of Council Grove, but it is you that brings them back and, better yet, make them stay.

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