Clay Murphy has always been daring. You can hear it in the way he speaks today – proud and declarative and maybe even a little cheeky – and that confidence was certainly a trait he had already acquired by the time he was in his twenties. So maybe it wasn’t so shocking that one day in 1986, Murphy boldly announced that he was going to marry a woman within minutes of seeing her.
âI just knew,â Clay said, seeing Pam Weaver for the first time that day on Alley 3 in St. Augustine, Fla. At Sonny’s BBQ.
Speaking from one of two Sonny’s North Florida area barbecue locations they’ve owned together since 2008, Pam and Clay Murphy are all smiles. It’s hard to imagine they weren’t nearly stunned – as they’ve done so many times before, they recount how a chance encounter at a Sonny’s barbecue has resulted in almost 28 years of marriage to date. . Clay pauses and adds, âIt was all worth it. “
Yes, he was there that day, in 1986, when he sat down and a red-haired waitress named Pam started taking orders from him and his fellow truck patrollers. “And I had to bend down and look under her book to make sure she didn’t have a ring on her finger,” Clay recalls, laughing. “I made sure she wasn’t married before I made my intentions known, she was my future wife there.” That’s right – Clay actually almost immediately informed Pam’s friends and Cheri, Sonny’s BBQ co-worker, that he was going to marry Pam.
“I’m like, ‘Who does he think he is? Pam remembers laughing. But, âshe adds, looking at Clay with a playful wink,â a few months later we started dating. ”
In addition to finding a life partner and subsequently starting a family that now includes three children – many of whom work at Sonny’s – as well as grandchildren, the Murphy’s have also found a second home at Sonny’s BBQ.
âWe’re not just a restaurantâ¦ we’re a family. We just love what we do, âsays Pam, and you can feel a palpable sincerity in her voice as she delivers this message. Clay adds, who, after retiring from the police force in the early 2000s, joined Pam at Sonny’s: Amazing. Food binds us when we sit down and eat a meal. We experience it every day. We can make a difference.
The Murphys have also seen how Sonny’s fosters fantastic career development. In Pam’s case, during the 38 years she worked for Sonny’s BBQ, she rose through the ranks from cashier to waitress, then manager and now franchisee. Along the way, she says, she has developed impeccable management and mentoring skills; she even oversaw the entire development of building a new Sonny.
âOne of the things you can’t teach people is to see the things that need to be done,â says Clay. And he marvels at his wife’s ability to do just that. âShe has the ability to walk around a room and in ten seconds she sees everything that needs to be done. She has this incredible vision of operations. I can see her influence and how she drives others to be successful.
What Pam and Clay say they also recognized is how well Sonny’s BBQ adapts to the respective career decisions of its employees. âIf people want Sonny’s to be a home forever, we love that, but if it’s a stepping stone, we encourage it, too,â Clay says. âYou have to have a heart of service. And if you’re ready to learn, we’ll find a place for you. We have employees who have been here for over 30 years; one of our managers had been here for 33 years, âhe notes.
Hearing them, the Murphys feel nothing but grateful to meet through Sonny’s barbecue. And, in the restaurant business, together they have found a forever home that both merged their lives and fulfilled their passion for service.
âIt’s nothing short of a blessing,â Pam says of her time at Sonny’s barbecue. Clay adds with a loving smile, “It’s been perfect from the start.”