Golden years

McDonald’s general manager retiring after 44 years under the Golden Arches

PHOTO BY JACOB GURNEY Sue Gaietto, a McDonald’s employee for 44 years and general manager of the Tiffin McDonald’s, works her final day at the restaurant, 1714 W. Market St., today.

A 44-year employee of McDonald’s is working her final shift today.

General Manager Sue Gaietto said she began working at McDonald’s a couple of months before she graduated from Columbian High School in 1974.

She said she began working there to earn money to buy a horse and became an assistant manager in her first year. She said once you start earning money, it is hard to walk away.

“I always enjoyed (working) and I think it has a lot to do with who you are working with,” she said. “I’ve always enjoyed the people that I worked with and I’ve enjoyed the many customers.”

Gaietto was an assistant manager for a few years before she went to Florida in 1978 and 1979 and worked at a couple of McDonald’s there. She said she returned to the Tiffin McDonald’s as an assistant manager and, in 1983, was promoted to general manager, a position she has held since.

Gaietto said it was fun to take a “not-that-busy McDonald’s” and turn it into one of the busiest McDonald’s in the area.

“When I first started, we didn’t have a drive thru,” she said. “I don’t think we even had breakfast when I first started. We added breakfast, we added the drive thru and then it just kept going and they decided to move out (to its current location) because McDonald’s corporation never really wanted to be on a one-way street so they had said, ‘Well let’s move it out here’ and then it just all took off after that.”

The Tiffin McDonalds was built in October 1973 at 435 W. Market St. and moved to its current location, 1714 W. Market St., in August 1987, she said.

“One of my best friends worked here and that is kind of how I got here,” Gaietto said.

She said a lot of things have changed since she started working. In the past, multi-mixers were used to spin milkshakes, ice had to be put into cups, pop had to be drawn and workers wore headsets that attached to a belt.

When she started, biscuits, tartar sauce and hotcakes were handmade, Gaietto said.

“When I first started, you rang things up, money-wise,” she said. “We had these cash registers where you rang in a dollar, cranked it, rang in a dollar, cranked it. We had menu pads and hand wrote the orders. Now, everything is touchscreen.”

She said she has enjoyed her job, although it is physically and mentally demanding.

“I think I really like being busy and we’re just busy all the time. There is always something to do …,” she said. “Again, I really like the people I work with and that makes all the difference in the world.”

Gaietto said she doesn’t regret staying at McDonald’s.

“I can’t imagine not doing this,” she said. “I can’t imagine all these years of doing something else. I don’t regret staying here all these years. I’ve made a lot of really good friends.”

Gaietto said she has worked different shifts and plans to relax when she is retired.

“Maybe in the fall I might look for a part-time job,” she said. “Since I started working at McDonald’s, I haven’t really had a summer. I work holidays, I work every Saturday so I’m just going to take it easy for awhile, but I am going to do something because I think I may get bored.”

Gaietto said Tom and Luke Humbard, owner-operators of the Tiffin McDonald’s since 1998 and owners of 13 other McDonald’s, threw her a retirement party at Fremont Country Club Wednesday evening. A party bus picked her up at her house, she said.

“I was shocked. I knew we were doing something, but I didn’t quite know what was going to happen. It was pretty cool,” she said.

Brenda O’Donnell, operations supervisor of the Humbards’ 14 McDonald’s, said she was hired in 1978 when Gaietto was in Florida, but had heard many positive things about her.

“When she came back, I understood everything they were saying about her,” she said.

“She is an amazing person,” O’Donnell said. “She is hardworking, consistent and she has helped raise so many people through this community.”

She said Gaietto’s consistency is what made her so good. O’Donnell said her daughter learned a great deal from Gaietto when she was assistant manager under her during college.

“My daughter is a charge nurse for an emergency room in Cincinnati now and the first time I visited her, she said she runs things ‘like Sue does.’ She said Sue had taught her how to organize and prioritize. She really taught her a lot about management,” O’Donnell said.

“She is so caring and her people mean everything to her,” she said. “She would always protect her people as long as they did a good job. (Gaietto) and her team helped build a good business.”

O’Donnell said it will be strange not having Gaietto around, but she knows Connie Nusbaum will do a great job.

Nusbaum, who has worked at McDonald’s for 40 years and is to be the new general manager, said Gaietto has been a great boss and a great friend.

“She is very fair and cares about others’ concerns,” she said. “She is genuinely interested in the other people that work here.”

Although she is a bit nervous, Nusbaum said she is excited to be general manager.

“She is my role model,” Nusbaum said of Gaietto. “We all are really going to miss her.”

Regarding Gaietto’s retirement, O’Donnell said, “There’s a little hole in my heart, but she will forever be my friend.”

Gaietto said she is glad she worked where she did all these years.

“Even though I had to work holidays and the weekends, I was always able to work my schedule around family things so I got to do things with my kids that maybe I wouldn’t have gotten to do if I had a normal 9-5 Monday through Friday kind of job,” she said. “So, I think overall, it has worked out. I really have no regrets.”

Gaietto is to work her last shift 3 a.m.-1 p.m. today.