Car-hop to manager: New owner a familiar face at the Stayton A&W

February, 2012 Posted in Business

By Jodi Kerr Larry Blakely, right, does a ceremonial ‘handing over of the keys to Brenda Lederer, center, the new owner of the Stayton A&W.

For Brenda Lederer, the Stayton A&W has been a big part of her life since she was 17 years old.

Now, 23 years later, she has worked her way up from car-hop to manager to owner. Brenda and former owner Larry Blakely always said that when he was ready to retire, the time would come when Brenda would own the restaurant.

That time came Jan. 1, and Brenda and her husband Leighton couldn’t be happier.

“The A&W is all about family and community involvement,” Brenda said.

A lot has changed with the A&W since Brenda started, but for now one small change.

“We now offer free Wi-Fi,” Brenda said.  “We have been through a lot of changes since I started. In the last 23 years the drive-up was added, the new playground and the addition to the dining room.”

Her favorite menu item? “I love the grilled chicken sandwich. We are serving some good food. We bread the fish ourselves and of course our root beer is amazing,” Brenda said.

The A&W has always been a family kind of place. Brenda got to know her husband Leighton when he started working at the restaurant, and now her daughter Miranda works with them. Son Nicholas is only 9 years old, but his turn is coming up.

“We have about 25 staff members,”  Brenda said. “It’s a lot of part-time high school kids.”

When she began working at the restaurant in high school, Brenda said she loved coming to work because it felt like a family.

“I still love it, and I try and create that atmosphere for my staff. I have quite a few kids working for me,” Brenda said.

Giving back has been a tradition for the A&W and will continue to be.

“I have a Relay for Life team this year.  We will be doing quite a bit of fundraising for our relay team. My niece was diagnosed with Leukemia two years ago, so we wanted to get involved. Our team is called Believing in Miracles.  My sister is the captain, and she works here, too.”

Brenda had the option to get away from the franchise name and be a local non-franchise restaurant, but she likes things just the way they are.

“I like the brand name and I like the nostalgia that goes along with it. I don’t know if it is the A&W name that keeps the restaurant busy.  I don’t think it would stop if it was no longer the A&W. But we are the A&W and we are a big part of this town. It’s our history and I like it that way.”

Brenda remembers as a young girl wishing she had an A&W closer to her house.

“I remember getting the bear head straws. I loved those. The A&W just has so many neat memories for me,” Brenda said.  Now, she is ready to make more.

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