NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A 90-year-old Chick-fil-A employee's willingness to work shows a sharp contrast to the job market following the peak of the pandemic.
"I came to Chick-fil-A after I retired because I couldn't sit at home anymore. I love to work," explained the Charlotte Pike Chick-fil-A ambassador affectionately known as Ms. Marie. "I came to Chick-fil-A and put my application in and they hired me that day, and that has been going on 11 years ago and I'm still working for Chick-fil-A and love every minute of it."
She is one of the company's oldest employees and the third longest-tenured employee at the Charlotte Pike location in Nashville.
"My children don’t like for me to work since I'm as old as I am but I still enjoy work and as long as God give me strength I will be working," said Ms. Marie.
She used to work an 8-hour shift but the company recently scaled back her hours.
"They thought I was getting too old to work eight hours but I could still work eight hours a day," she said.
She used to be the lead hostess at the restaurant and now is the store's lead ambassador.
"I sit right here at this table and I welcome all the customers and tell them to come back. And I take care of my little kids I give them like keep me stuff on my table coloring books and little cows and everything and I take care of all my children that come here," Ms. Marie said.
According to the Tennessee Department of Labor, Tennessee's unemployment sat at a record low of 3.2% for the second month in a row in April.
Unemployment across the nation also remained unchanged in April at 3.6%. One year ago, the national rate came in at 6%.
The department reports, "the number of Tennesseans in the workforce also hit new highs in April. Statewide, the seasonally adjusted civilian workforce grew to 3,388,426 from March’s total of 3,370,646. The number of Tennesseans employed came in at 3,278,825, compared to 3,261,628 for the previous month."
Nearly 8,000 nonfarm jobs were also added between March and April with the hospitality industry seeing the largest number of new positions. Other industries seeing significant growth in positions includes mining, logging and construction.
Over the last 12 months, the state’s employers added 145,600 nonfarm jobs. The leisure and hospitality sector created the largest percentage of those jobs, followed by the trade, transportation, and utilities sector and the professional and business services sector.
Mary Ann Peugeot and her husband made going to Chick-fil-A part of their weekly routine years ago.
"People know your name. They know when you've been gone. When you show back up. It's like ‘where have you been?’ It's just it's it's a part it's a part of our world," explained Peugeot.
She said their experience at the restaurant would not be the same without their visit with Ms. Marie.
"Marie has been a part of our lives ever since we came in because she's so loving. She's the grandmother to so many people, or just the friend of so many people," explained Peugeot. "she can come in here and you may be having a bad day, but she can change that in one smile."
Marie's advice to those who are having a hard time going back to work after years of work from home or unemployment? "Keep your career that you've done and just keep working."