restaurant family got together Sunday at in Farmington Hills to celebrate the company's 44th anniversary.
Owners Don and Peggy Payne welcomed dozens of current and former employees, some of whom have been with them since they opened their first restaurant in Detroit in 1967. Don Payne said he worked for Stouffer's and for Maple House restaurants in Detroit for a year each before he struck out on his own.
Linda Green has been the restaurant's bookkeeper for 42 years. She applied for the job after hearing about it through word of mouth.
"I think we just sort of clicked," Green said of her long-term work with Don Payne. "He's a great person to work for."
Through the years, the company's bookkeeping hasn't been computerized; Green said she's "still using the paper-and-pen method. It's easier that way for us."
Christine Jones was a newlywed and had just moved to the United States from England when she saw an ad for a job at Family Buggy 28 years ago. "The ad said no experience necessary, will train," she recalled. And though she had her certification in elementary education, Jones never did teach.
"I sort of came here and never left," she said. "It's been a nice place to work."
Betty Bergers started as a "salad girl" in November 1973 and helped with preparation and cooking. After 11 years, she went to Don Payne and said she'd like to do something else. He told her the cook in Farmington Hills had just quit and offered her the job; she's been in the Family Buggy kitchen for the last 27 years.
"They are just such good people to work for," Bergers said of the Paynes. "If you have a problem at home, they'll work around it. They're just really good people."
"There no other establishment that has as many loyal employees as Mr. Payne has," said Marge Barbarich, who has worked for the company for 34 years. "Some of these young people started when they were 15 or 16 years old, left for college and came back. We have children of employees that still work for us."
Payne (even the longest-term employees still call him "Mr. Payne") said the 27 people who have been working five years or more at Family Buggy restaurant in Farmington Hills have a combined 525 years of experience among them. Asked how he has kept such loyal employees, Payne said everybody goes by the same rules — "including me."
"Everybody is an equal. Everybody knows what the rules are and what their job is, and I stay out of the way and let them do their jobs," Payne said. "Everybody helps everybody."