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Surprise for the 'Mayor of IHOP' | Community Spirit

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Surprise for the 'Mayor of IHOP'
Surprise for the 'Mayor of IHOP'

ROSWELL, Ga. -- At the end of the breakfast rush at the Roswell IHOP, server Gary Gardenhire still had energy to spare.

He thought 11Alive visited the restaurant to shoot a commercial for the morning show, but he had no idea it was a ruse -- for him.

Even if you haven't met Gary, you're already his friend. He'll talk to you about his wife, who he just lost last year.

"That's alright, I keep her right here, I keep her in my heart 24 hours a day," he said. "When you got a love as good as ours was, you can't go wrong."

Gary also has six children, 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He loves his job so much that during this past winter's storm, he walked five hours through the snow -- because he wanted to work.

In fact, he's so beloved that restaurant regulars call him "the Mayor of IHOP."

The Atlanta Alive crew heard so many great things about Gary and wanted to surprise him.

His customers said he is loving, kind, patient and gives great hugs. Vinnie's surprise started with a hug -- and a $200 gift card to Publix.

Tracy gave Gary $100 for Target, $100 for Home Depot, and dinner and a movie. Chesley presented Gary with two gas cards.

"My kids will love this because they're always like, 'Dad, you got $10 for gas?'" Gary joked.

Jaye gave Gary $200 of spending money, and then brought in the biggest surprise of all. Brian Horne with Georgia Family Restaurants, a franchisee of IHOP, arrived to meet Gary.

"For the last eight years, you have done so much here," Horne said. "For the eight years, we have something for you."

Gary opened his final surprise -- a check for $2,500. Horne, of course, got a hug for that.

"I might not let him go!" Gary said. "A lot of people think you work and you work and there's no benefit in it. I just love what I do. Thank you."

And the 11Alive crew left IHOP with their stomachs -- and their hearts -- full.