About 10 years ago when I first ate at the Steak ’n Shake on Sycamore Road, I was served by a man whose name tag read Johnny B. Ice. I asked if he also was a rapper with a name like that, and our friendship has continued to this day.
He is not a rapper, but has quite a story of success in business. Johnny left his native Chicago for his first job with Steak ’n Shake about 15 years ago when a friend in Coralville, Iowa, told him there was a job for him if he wanted it. Later, he moved to DeKalb when an opening occurred here, arriving about the same time we moved back here from California.
He now has three job titles with the company: operations specialist, corporate trainer and manager. Not only does he work at the DeKalb site, but he travels to provide support and training at new businesses opening around the country. In the past year or so, he has been sent to Virginia, California, Texas, Ohio, Kentucky and Colorado. He said they call his group of trainers the “Wings Team” because they fly so much. He has lots of frequent flier miles racked up as well as premium hotel perks.
The company began in 1934 and now has about 500 locations in 22 states and a few countries overseas. Johnny said he is waiting for the opportunity to go to Dubai, Italy or France, where restaurants have opened.
What he enjoys most about his multiple jobs is meeting new people, training them and when serving the public, “making people happy.” He said even though a person may not leave a big tip, they all deserve the same kind of attention and a friendly greeting.
He has five kids. His youngest attends Cortland Elementary, and two others are a freshman and senior at DeKalb High School. Johnny proudly mentioned that his son plays basketball for the Barbs, so he will be attending a lot of games. His two oldest daughters have graduated from Kishwaukee College and Alabama State. Although he doesn’t look old enough, he already is a grandfather, as one daughter has a baby girl. Johnny also mentioned that his grandmother back in Alabama just passed at the age of 103. His wife, Erin, is with the U.S. Postal Service.
He talked about how many mayors, state officials and even governors he has met at the company’s grand openings over the years. Knowing his outgoing personality, I can imagine they remembered him, and not just because of his name tag.