Jessy Farmer hadn’t worked in a fast-food restaurant prior to becoming part of the operator of Sonic at 2564 North Road in Orangeburg in June 2020, but he’s already recognized as the “Turnaround Partner of the Year.”

On Tuesday, executives of Boom Inc., gathered at the store to congratulate Farmer on his nomination as “Turnaround Partner of the Year.”

Boom Inc., based in Columbia, is the franchise responsible for dozens of Sonic restaurants in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

“I just love everybody,” Farmer said about what motivates him to be successful.

“I had a hard childhood and I just look at people and I want them to smile,” he said.

Farmer said when he became the operator, which was during the middle of the COVID-19, the first order of business was to “show the store some love.”

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The employees required additional training and the overall reputation of the store needed changing, he said.

For example, Farmer said, “Every time there’s a guest complaint, rather than talk about the person who complained, I talk about how the town deserves better.”

Farmer said once employees began to realize they are valued, “Store sales increased, customer count increased.”

He also noted that most of his first-shift and third-shift employees are adults, but nearly 100% of the second-shift employees are comprised of local high school students.

He requires student-employees to maintain a C or better average.

He also reduces students’ working hours if it seems their jobs are getting in the way of their academics.

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But Farmer’s dedication to students’ success is deeper than merely giving them part-time jobs and encouraging them to maintain at least a C or better in their school work.

“A lot of the kids that come can’t count money,” he said, explaining they’ve not learned how to make quick change when someone pays for orders with cash.

Farmer said he sometimes role-plays with employees by using pretend money and a cash register drawer so employees can practice and increase their speed and accuracy.

And sometimes students need help with their homework. Farmer said he’s grateful to take time to show them how to solve math problems or help with other subjects.

Farmer said he’s also worked with employees to improve their “soft skills,” such as communication, interactions with customers and more.

“I have the best kids in Orangeburg,” he said of this student-employees, “they come from Edisto, Orangeburg-Wilkinson, all over the place.”

“I treat them as my family,” Farmer said.

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Farmer said he’s proud of his store’s involvement in the community.

“I love being able to go to the community and say, ‘You want to be able to get this new playground? Let me help you,’” he said.

Back on Oct. 13, the restaurant held a “Carhop for Cash” event, which donated a portion of sales from 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to Edisto Primary School to help raise funds for their playground equipment and other activities.

Emily White of Orangeburg has been a customer at the Sonic on North Road from when it opened in 1997.

“There’s a very good team here,” she said.

“People do like each other and there’s a positive environment,” she added.

“There’s excellent food, happy voices and quick to get food,” White said.

She noted that the business has helped with some fundraising efforts at Wesley Christian School in Orangeburg.

Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President James McQuilla said of Farmer, “Jessy’s part of our future.”

“I’ve watched him interview people as they come in for jobs, giving them opportunities,” he said.

“He’s the right person,” McQuilla said, “we’re going to be working together more.”

Boom Inc. CEO Mike Irons said, “Jessy has a future with us.”

Lou Zambrano of Boom Inc. said, “Jessy took over the store and he does a wonderful, wonderful job.”

“It looks great and we’re really proud of you, not just of the results of the business, but the way you’re growing with the people and growing with the community. It makes us really proud to wear our Sonic shirts each time we come to Orangeburg,” said the Boom Inc. director of operations for South Carolina Sonic.

In a few weeks, Farmer and his family will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico with other Boom Inc. Sonic operators receiving recognitions.

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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