ISU graduate serves gyros and respect to his customers

By Katherine Klingseis,

With the current condition of the economy, some ISU graduates have had to pursue interesting — and sometimes stressful — jobs in order to make ends meet. This is what ISU graduate Trevin Ward did when he placed his application into a tip jar at a food cart on Welch Avenue.

“I was unemployed at the time, and really needed a job,” Ward said. “[My friend] wrote my name and my phone number in calligraphy, and put it on resume paper, and then we put that in the tip jar.”

Two years later, Ward works almost full time at Smiles & Gyros, a small business that operates gyro and Super Dog stands around Ames.

Smiles & Gyros has been in business for almost twenty years. In that time, the business has grown in popularity and size.

Today, Smiles & Gyros operates three food carts and has nearly a dozen employees. These employees, like Ward, have to deal with the stress of having to feed massive numbers of customers.

“It’s a very taxing job,” Ward said. “[Employees] have to work under stressful conditions because if we have a line that goes down to the corner, and something needs to be fixed, it has to be fixed instead of, ‘Oh no, what should I do?'”

Then, there are the late nights. For instance, Ward explained that he usually begins opening his stand at 8 p.m, and on some busy nights, he will not clock out until 5 or 6 a.m.

“Once you’re on the street, you work to the end of the night,” Ward said. “I completely live on a late-night sleep schedule. Even on the nights I don’t work, I am up until 2 or 3 o’clock.”

Beyond having to work late hours, Ward and his co-workers also must work under extreme weather conditions. Smiles & Gyros does have a cold weather policy stating that the stands will open late if the temperature is below 19 degrees at 8 p.m. or will not open at all if the temperature is below five degrees at 11 p.m.

“[This winter] as far as weekend shifts, there were probably about three or four weekend days that we were not opened; there weren’t very many that we were closed,” Ward said. “Last winter there were entire weeks that I didn’t get to work.”

Ward and his co-workers also have to deal with sometimes unruly customers.

“We deal with a lot sometimes,” Ward said. “Sometimes that means we have to kick someone out of line, tell them that they have to try to get food another night, and sometimes that means just talking to them and they understand.”

The employees of Smiles & Gyros are required to have a positive attitude when dealing with customers. Additionally, the business expects customers to treat employees with the same respect.

“One of the big things Smiles is about is having a positive influence in the community,” Ward said.

Smiles & Gyros also strives to help keep Campustown clean. After closing the stands, the employees walk one block in each direction around the clock tower, and pick up gyro wrappers, deli sheets and other trash left by their customers.

“Campustown is messy, and we want to make it less messy,” Ward said.

Although the job is sometimes tough, Ward does thoroughly enjoy his work at Smiles & Gyros. One of his favorite aspects of his job is dealing with customers.

“I’m making food for people, but it’s not like I’m in a kitchen away from those people,” Ward said. “When it’s slower, I can talk to people; see how their nights are going.”

Beyond interacting with his customers, Ward also likes how Smiles & Gyros operates as a business.

“I like working for a business that really cares about its employees,” Ward said. “[Smiles & Gyros] cares about where it is rather than just about making money.”

As far as interesting and stressful work goes, Ward’s certainly fits the bill. However, even with the late nights, bad weather conditions and unpleasant customers — Ward has found himself at home working at Smiles & Gyros.

(Posted originally on on March 22, 2011)

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