April 24, 2013 Edition

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Burnsides to close out
their carhopping days

Terry and Sherry Burnside, shown here at a Sonic convention, have announced that they are ending their partnership with the Walnut Ridge Sonic as of April 30.

Gretchen Hunt

For nearly 20 years the names Terry and Sherry Burnside have been synonymous with Sonic in Walnut Ridge and Lawrence County.

"There are a lot of people who don't even know our names, but they know we are from Sonic" Sherry joked. "For a lot of the kids, we are Mr. and Mrs. Sonic."

The couple, who would have marked 19 years in the business in June, have decided to change directions in their lives.

"We don't know for sure what we are going to do, we just know it's time to go do something else," Sherry said.

They have no plans to relocate and though they have successfully worked together, they said this new chapter may result in them having separate occupations.

The Burnsides expressed appreciation for the support they have received during their years with Sonic.

"We've always appreciated the community," Terry said. "They've supported us well over the years and provided a good living for our family. We have built relationships with people we would not have come in contact with otherwise."

Lorra Whitmire, who served as festival committee chair for the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce for several years, said the Burnsides set the bar high when it comes to supporting the community.

"I am especially grateful for their support of the Iron Mountain Festival and Beatles at the Ridge Festival," Whitmire said. "They not only helped sponsor the events, they also participated by providing activities for children, participating in decorating contests and helping to promote the events. Their dedication over the years has been second to none."

Sherry also served as a member of the festival committee.

Terry said through the years Sherry has done a lot of the restaurant's community service work, which has allowed him to be able to focus on the business part.

"We've made a good team," Terry said. "I think that's why we've been so successful. We are a team."

Their son, Noah, has also been a part of the team. Already a member of the Sonic family, he worked for his parents for five years before leaving to work for Birdsong Peanuts in Portia.

"He started the day after he turned 16," Terry said.

The Burnsides' final day will be April 30, but the transition has already begun to the new partner, Diana Cox of Paragould.

Through the years

During their 19 years, they have overseen two remodeling projects, made the transition from checks to debit cards and changed from a road sign that had to be manually changed to a new LED sign. Terry said that when they started, minimum wage was $4.25 an hour.

Under the Burnsides' leadership, the local Sonic has won numerous awards through the years. The restaurant has received People's Choice, Top Mystery Shop, Consistency, Profit Club, Lowest Complaint and Operations Excellence honors.

The Walnut Ridge Sonic was also named to the top 12 in the nation in 2001, 2002 and 2004 and took the silver medal (second in the nation) at the 2004 Dr. Pepper Sonic Games. Local recognition has included Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year, Tie-Dye the Town exterior winner and Deck the Town with Songs of Christmas business winner.

In addition, Terry was named as an Operator of the Year in 2002 and then as National Operator of the Year in 2003.

"Team wise, finishing as runners-up in the National Dr. Pepper Sonic games was probably the highlight," Sherry said. "One place from being national champions - that was big! Terry winning National Operator of the year was big, too. That was amazing!"

They have enjoyed some travel through their role with Sonic, including winning a trip to the Bahamas from Coke. They attended conventions in Hawaii, Las Vegas, Florida, New Orleans and Texas.

"Probably the most memorable event, but not the most enjoyable was the ice storm," Sherry said.

James Junkin, president of DL Rogers Corp., the majority owner in the Walnut Ridge Sonic, said the Burnsides will be missed.

"We would like to thank our partners, Terry and Sherry Burnside, for their dedicated service to not only our company and the Sonic Brand but to the town of Walnut Ridge," Junkin said.

"Through their outstanding efforts over the past 19 years they have been a pillar in the community and our organization," he said. "Their help in making the Walnut Ridge Sonic Drive-in an outstanding place for all to visit is more than appreciated. We hope and pray the best for the Burnsides as they move to their next phase in life."

Helping others

Helping those in need has become part of Sonic's identity in Walnut Ridge - whether it be helping a young boy's wish come true through the Make-a-Wish Foundation, providing a place for organizations to raise money during window washes or raising money for local causes.

They provided food for volunteers searching for Sidney Randall and have helped raise money for flood victims, house fire victims, and most recently for Chris Sain, who was seriously injured when a tree fell and hit him while he was driving a tractor.

Lori Simmons, a close friend of Chris and Chrissy Sain, said she has seen Terry and Sherry reach out to those in need countless times.

"Their kindness, love and efforts to help others inspire and mobilize the rest of the community to do the same," Simmons said. "They don't just talk the talk, they also walk the walk. They put their love for others into action. They have been an extraordinary example for all of us and especially for the employees who have had the privilege to work for them."

Among the hardest times for the couple were when they lost kids who worked for them in accidents. Bryan Moore, Christy Munn and Chelsey Linebaugh will forever be remembered by the Burnsides.

Terry said developing relationships with the kids who have worked for them through the years has been the most rewarding part.

"They become like family after they've been here a while. You mentor them and hope you affect them in a positive way."

Sherry said after they announced their plans on Facebook they were overwhelmed by the comments that have been posted.

"It's emotional," she said. "We're happy, but also sad."

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