When Mary Ann Pelley and her husband, Dick, moved in 1995 to Siesta Key, she thought she would spend the rest of her days going to the beach and enjoying the outdoors.
“When I married my husband, he said I would never have to work again,” she says. “In fact, he didn’t even want me to work.”
But when the economy took a dive in 2002, Pelley knew she had to figure out a way to contribute to their income.
“Once I knew I’d have to go back to work, I dreaded it and I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’” Pelley recalls.
Pelley started looking for work and got a job as the breakfast hostess and was later promoted to administrative assistant at the original Broken Egg. She enjoyed her work, and getting up early was not a problem for her — in fact, it was preferable. Unfortunately, the Broken Egg started having troubles financially in 2007.
Clayton Thompson, owner of Clayton’s Siesta Grille, offered the employees of the Broken Egg positions at his restaurant. Thompson was going to open his doors for the breakfast-and-lunch crowd and needed talented and experienced staff to run the new day shift. Pelley, along with many other workers from the Broken Egg, took Thompson up on his offer and began working at Clayton’s in December 2007.
The decision is one Pelley is glad she made.
“Clayton is an angel to work for,” Pelley says. “He wants this to be the best place possible.”
Pelley started off at Clayton’s working only five days a week but soon added a sixth day, which she considers “a blessing.” Pelley started doing more than just greeting and answering the phone. She began bussing, cleaning tables and making sure the customers had everything they needed.
“You have to be observant,” she says. “Sometimes, it is hard for the girls (waitresses) to get to everyone right away.”
One of the best parts of the job for Pelley is getting to know the customers. She loves seeing familiar faces and welcoming back the seasonal residents, and she also has learned many of the regulars’ orders and where they prefer to sit. Pelley also loves to dress up for different holidays.
“The kids love it,” she says.
But Pelley says the best compliment is when people come into the restaurant and ask where she is or tell her she is the reason they keep coming back to Clayton’s.
“It makes me feel so good,” says Pelley, with tears in her eyes.
Although Pelley is always touched by those compliments, she insists that it is not all about her. In fact, she denies it.
“We are a team here; I just love them (co-workers),” she says. “They bring tears to my eyes because they are all so much fun to work with.”
Pelley loves to brag about her co-workers and claims that “each one is nicer than the other.”
With nine years in the restaurant business, Pelley finds she rarely has a bad day or a reason to complain. Going to work is a treat, not a task.
“When I get up to go to work in the morning my hubby, Dick, says, ‘Do you have to go to work?’ and I say, ‘No, I get to go to work,’” she says. “I lucked into this business and can’t even envision doing anything else.”