- Associated Press - Monday, February 3, 2014

CONWAY, Ark. (AP) - Tim Ester, Stoby’s general manager of 26 years, recalls his first time in the restaurant like it was yesterday.

“I can remember just walking in the door - this place had a buzz about it,” he said. “I remember sitting in a booth and the restaurant was pretty full and everybody looked like they were having fun. It felt like a community atmosphere - a family atmosphere.”

Ester came to Stoby’s that day for a job interview. He originally turned down the position over the phone, but was talked in to visiting the restaurant with the offer of a free breakfast.

“After I ate the biscuits and the strawberry jelly, I was convinced if for nothing else, the food, so I gave it a shot,” he told the Log Cabin Democrat (http://bit.ly/1n1mMQT ).

Twenty-six years later, Ester has decided the time is right for him to leave Stoby‘s. He doesn’t want to overstay his welcome, he said, and he wants to go out when Stoby’s is in its prime.

“If you’re going to go out, you want to go out on top, and I want to know I’ve done everything I can possibly do as far as putting the work in,” he said.

Ester first started working at Stoby’s as a breakfast cook in 1988 and went to being an assistant manager within three months.

Rheumatoid Arthritis limited Ester’s abilities to work at the restaurant, so Stoby’s Owner David Stobaugh brought Ester on as a bookkeeper for the Cheese Dip business and the three restaurants the Stobaughs owned at the time.

Stobaugh said Ester has really been an inspiration both personally and professionally.

“He’s had physical problems over the years, and I’ve never heard the man complain,” he said. “He maintains a Godly attitude 24/7.”

When the previous general manager left for another job in 1995, Stobaugh offered Ester the position.

“I think because there were a lot of different things he couldn’t do himself, made him a better manager,” Stobaugh said. “He learned how to get things done through other people.”

Debbie Patrom has been serving Stoby’s Original Cheese Dip for 18 years. She hasn’t known any other general manager, but Tim Ester.

“He couldn’t fire me because I wouldn’t leave,” Patrom said.

Patrom calls Ester family. “We’ll always be family,” she said, “even if he’s not here.”

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