BULLHEAD CITY — After 15 years of working as the general manager for Wendy’s in Bullhead City, Libby Gates has decided to retire.
Including her time with Wendy’s, Gates has spent about 45 years in the restaurant industry.
Around 1980, Portland, Oregon, was going through a recession and it was hard for Gates’ husband to find work within the construction industry.
“Before I had my children, I worked at Denny’s Restaurant as a waitress and assistant manager,” said Gates. “So when we sat down and decided to do something, the only thing I knew to do was the restaurant industry. So we opened our first restaurant called Summit Restaurant and our whole family worked in it. My son and I were the cooks, he looked at me and said ‘Mom how are we going to do it?’ and I told him ‘just like at home but faster.’ We had the restaurant around eight years, then we sold it.”
After they sold it, Gates told herself that she was never going to do that again. However, around six months later, the family was opening its second restaurant called Gates Restaurant.
“We were there for about eight years and after that, I went to work for Shari’s as the general manager for about eight years.”
When Gates retired from Shari’s, both Gates and her husband moved to Bullhead City. That was 2004, 15 years ago.
“When we got here to Bullhead City, there were only a few places where you could buy stuff like the Bullhead City Walmart and the Smith’s,” said Gates. “When the snowbirds would leave the streets had minimum traffic and housing has been going up everywhere. We got our first real shopping center where Target and Kohl’s are located at. The city has grown a lot.”
When Gates arrived in Bullhead City, she decided that she needed to do something, so she applied for a job opening at a Wendy’s that was yet to be built.
“There was a job shack on an empty lot and when we hired several people, we had to go to Kingman to do training since that was the closest Wendy’s franchise to us,” said Gates. “I came and applied for the assistant manager position but Tom Jordan, my district manager, asked me if I wanted to be general manager. I told him, yes, but that the position wasn’t available. So he hired me with the intent of making me general manager,” said Gates. “Before I was hired, I told Jordan that I didn’t have experience in the fast-food industry but he told me that it was OK because I had knowledge of the restaurant industry.”
Gates had to learn a couple of things that are unique to the fast-food industry, such as operating a drive-through window and learning the specific computer system that Wendy’s uses.
“When the restaurant first opened, it was the height of snowbird season and we got busy. There were lines out the door — I couldn’t believe it, but we had help from the Kingman Wendy’s, as well as my district manager was there along with Jack Butler,” Gates said. “So I’ve always felt that we have been welcomed in the city.”
Gates has seen myriad changes in the restaurant industry.
“Equipment has changed, it’s more employee-friendly,” she said. “We’ve changed (Wendy’s) the process of how you do bacon at least four times and we went from a flat grill to a double-sided grill, which is like a giant George Foreman.
“When we first opened, we just had chocolate Frosty, and about four years later they started offering vanilla Frosty as well.”
Some of the employees Gates has hired to work at Wendy’s are students and she works with them to fit it into their schedules.
“I have a few that are going to college so we schedule around their college hours,” said Gates. “I tell them that I really support education and if they can get an education into whatever they want whether it be welding, plumbing or brain surgeon, I’m there to support them.”
Over the past 15 years, Gates had different highlights and lowlights being the general manager at Wendy’s.
“We have won seven or eight ‘Best Of’ for fast food and when they come to tell me that we won, I always get excited. To me that is a really big compliment from the public,” she said. “Then, we’ve had an experience where one summer our AC was completely out and we had to deal with that for about two or three weeks.”
She said the positive has far outweighed the negative.
“Wendy’s is an excellent place to work at and our owners are good people to work for. I am going to miss it,” she said. “Customers become your friends when you see them and some snowbirds would come in and say ‘hey you’re still here!’ and I’d say ‘yup, still here.’ ”