“Life’s a blessing,” said Chris Meade, known as Ms. Chris to the 70-plus employees and hundreds of customers at Chester’s Chick-fil-A. Ms. Chris has been greeting customers arriving at Chick-fil-A for 14 years, seven-plus of those years at the Chester location.
Last Wednesday, celebrating her 90th birthday, she was the one being greeted with 90-plus roses, birthday cards and lots of hugs from fellow employees and customers of all ages.
“It [the day] has been wonderful,” she said of her four-hour shift she works Monday through Thursday. “The love that everyone has shown me...people have been so nice. Such love and respect.”
Meade said she has no plans for retirement any time soon, and her manager, Jason Branch said, “She can have off as much as she wants, take off whenever she wants, go on as many trips as she wants, but the only way she can retire is to go to heaven.”
Ms. Chris set out to try a six-month period at being a sampler at the Southpark Chick-fil-A after her husband died in 1999. Branch was her manager then and she moved with him to the Chester location in 2005.
“She started with me at Southpark in 1999 as a sampler,” he said. “She gave away food. I had customers that would tell me what they bought was not as good as what she had. I would tell them she put a lot of love into it.”
Arriving for her 11 a.m. shift, she was surprised with a birthday greeting on the door, a big hug from Branch and his announcement of her birthday to the guests in the restaurant. Everyone sang Happy Birthday.
Meade was crowned with a birthday crown by a former fellow-employee, Laura Pitts, who continues to come and visit Meade over the six years since she left Chick-fil-A.
“I am a bit emotional. She is like a grandmother,” said Pitts. “One thing about Ms. Chris...she loves people. She greets each employee when she comes in each day. She hugs everyone...and Chris never has a bad day.”
“She is the bright spot in this whole place,” said Pitts.
“When Chris comes in and says she is ok, that means she is not feeling like herself. It has become our code word,” said Branch. “But Chris never has a bad day.”
Meade had a fall down a flight of stairs in January, injuring her spine along with a few cuts and stitches - five in her head. She was out over six weeks recovering. Observing her spunk and enthusiasm on her 90th, she looks as though she has bounced right back from her injury.
“I was out five or six weeks,” she said. “Now, I am doing fine.”
Meade attends the First Baptist Church in Petersburg. Her husband was a minister and Meade was very active in the church.
At Chick-fil-A she is sort of the “Hostess,” a bit unusual for a fast-foot restaurant, but helpful in the hustle and bustle of activity at the Chester Chick-fil-A. Meade refills drinks and cleans up the tables. She greets everyone or at least makes the effort.
“She talks to people,” said Branch. “It is her way of mentoring...continuing what she did when she was active in her church.”
Meade never sat down in the oversized leather chair Branch brought in for her to relax in during her four-hour birthday celebration. On her feet most of the day, she greeted friends, customers and her Chick-fil-A family as they wished her a happy birthday and returned the love she gives them each time they encounter.
Her favorite food at Chick-fil-A was the Carrot-Raisin Salad. The salad is no longer an item on the menu so for now, Meade enjoys three of Chick-fil-A’s famous waffle fries during her shift each day.
Meade has four children, three sons in the area and a daughter in Norfolk. Seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
“The Lord has been good to me,” she said. “He has blessed me with many friends and a wonderful family.”