"My job was to go into accounts and buy drinks with Red Bull and get people introduced to that brand. About a year and a half later, the economy went caput, and Red Bull laid off about 5,000 worldwide.
"They wanted to grow the urban market. They wanted to transfer me to California or Texas. I have nieces and nephews, and I didn't want to leave them. And my dad was having open-heart surgery. The timing just wasn't right. So I declined.
"I thought I would shake up my resume and went to work for Rock 105 in sales. It was the hardest job I have ever had, ever.
"I think God was looking out for me, because I went on a sales call to see Dick Barber at Budweiser. I said, 'If you are ever hiring, please let me know.' He was letting someone go the next day. I worked at Central Distributing selling Budweiser for about four years.
"That's how I met Robert and Sherri Wong, helping them with their beer lines. My girlfriend was the Bistro's general manger. She wanted to start a family and asked me to apply for her job. I kept saying no, because I knew it would suck the life out of me. I would never see my friends or my family.
"It took her six months to talk me into it. Robert said he let my résumé sit in front of him for a couple of months. He didn't want to hire another woman because he didn't want me getting pregnant and leaving.
"He interviewed me 10 or 12 times. He called it courting, like dating, getting to know each other. I started in 2010 on Valentine's Day. I'd found a home.
"The day Robert died, we had just came off Memorial Day break. That morning, after we did a few things around the building, he said he was going to play tennis and would see me in a couple of hours. That's the last time I saw him.
"I got a call from the Tennis Club about 1 p.m. They said he had collapsed. They couldn't find a heartbeat. Sherri and the boys were in Myrtle Beach. I went straight to the hospital, praying all the way that he would be OK.
"I got there and ... I'm sorry for crying ... they pulled me into a side room to tell me he didn't make it. I had to call Sherri and tell her. I had to come back and tell the restaurant employees we'd lost our owner. I pulled everybody in the back of the room. We closed immediately. Everybody went home.
"I sat in Robert's chair and said, 'What am I going to do without you?' I held his apron that he took off earlier that day. I held the cup he'd had his coffee in. And I said, 'I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to keep doing what he would want me to do.' I just kept the train on the tracks.
"Robert would always tell me, 'Sandy, I trust you with my kids and my wife, if anything ever happens to me.' Those words kept ringing through my head. He and Sherri hired me to be here and keep his dream alive.
"Sherri called and said Robert had given the gift of life and she needed me to be with him while they harvested his organs. So I was with him in the hospital all night so he wouldn't be alone.
"Sherri was the love of his life and his soul mate in life, but he was my soul mate in business. We saw eye to eye. I have so much respect for that man. I feel he wasn't finished molding me, but I like to think he would be proud.
"We are growing the company. We have food and beverage contracts at the Columbia Gas building and the Tennis Club. We have our food truck roving around town like crazy. City National has asked us to design their kitchen and dining room. We have a new facility opening beside the Marshall Graduate School. And there are some other things I have in my back pocket.
"I feel comfortable here, like I can make a difference with the community and touch more lives.
"I love making memories, creating birthdays and anniversaries. It allows me to help people embrace every moment, because you never know when your last memory will be or with who.
"The hours are worse than I ever anticipated. I put in no less than 12 to 16 hours a day. But it's better now that I've got this amazing assistant, Detrick Propes. He's a different breed. He doesn't do things the way he wants to do them. He does things how Robert taught me and how I've taught him.
"A lot of us feel like Robert is here in spirit, looking over us. I always hear his voice in my head when it's decision-making time.
"I have a passion for hospitality. I feel great about my life. I've got a good person in my life right now. I'm looking forward to building a future with that."
Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.