For Brady and Tana Schulist, their employees at Culver’s Restaurant of Waupaca are their extended family.
“I enjoy them and their stories,” he said.
Tana says many of their employees are also their friends.
And so, they share and thank their managers, employees and the entire community in being named the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 Small Business of the Year.
“We were so excited,” Tana said. “We’e been nominated a couple times before. It’s nice to be recognized for trying. You come here every day and hope your hard work pays off and that people realize how much you love your job.”
They received the award Tuesday, Jan. 22, when the Chamber held its annual awards ceremony, at the Waupaca Ale House.
Brady was surprised to receive the award.
Raised in rural Stevens Point, he was self-employed before joining the local Culver’s in March 1998.
The restaurant opened in Waupaca in July 1997.
“I started as manager,” he said. “Within a couple months, I liked it. I thought that if I was going to do this, I didn’t want to be the manager. I wanted to know what it would take to own it. I became a partner and the full owner in 2001.”
Tana worked as a dental hygienist for 24 years and worked part time at Culver’s for several years before joining her husband full time in the business about three years ago.
Their children, Garrett and Chloe Meilinger, also work there.
Both started when they were 14 years old.
“They both tried other things and realized it’s pretty nice here, so they’re back,” Tana said.
Culver’s is known for being family oriented.
“George and Ruth Culver started the business in 1984 when they converted an old A & W in Sauk City,” Tana said.
The Culver’s son, Craig, eventually took over the business.
Today, there are 450 restaurants in 19 states.
“The support staff Culver’s has is amazing,” Brady said. “They make it a lot easier for us to run our restaurant.”
Tana works in the restaurant Tuesday through Friday and enjoys working in the dining area.
When Brady first began working at the restaurant, he worked 16-hour days and was typically there from open until close.
Since becoming full owners, most of his job involves doing the bookwork.
However, when an employee is ill, he is prepared to fill that person’s spot.
When it comes to choosing employees, they spend time finding the right ones.
They want employees who smile at the customers and talk to and treat those customers like family.
The manner in which they train their employees means when someone sees Culver’s experience on an application, that person is immediately hired, Brady says.
They describe the work environment at Culver’s as one which is fast paced and a true team.
“We take pride in a job well done and have found quality employees in the Waupaca area,” Tana said.
Chris Duren is their general manager, and they describe all their employees and managers as hard working and dedicated.
Culver’s Restaurant of Waupaca is also known for its community support, including its 10 percent nights, when the Schulists give 10 percent of their sales to the organization participating that night.
“The community supports you. The least you can do is support them. It’s been very popular for us,” Brady said. “We give them an apron. They talk to the customers and clean tables.”
The restaurant participated in the Waupaca Eating Smart program, with Tana explaining customers may always choose “mindful choices” off their menu.
Brady and Tana also sponsor baseball and softball teams each summer, donate to the Waupaca Area Public Library’s Summer Reading Program and serve food at community events, which is then put into its donation fund for use throughout the year.
They are members of the Waupaca Rod and Classic Car Club.
Culver’s also has a scholarship program, and some of their employees have benefited from that program.
Brady and Tana appreciate their employees and customers.
“I love the people, and it’s challenging every day,” Brady said. “I enjoy the employees.”