If White Castle were to need ambassadors, Fountain Hills is the first place to look.
Not only is the community historically well-known to the company, but Fountain Hills is home to a couple who are members of the 2019 Cravers Hall of Fame. And the hall-of-famers are not your ordinary fans of White Castle.
These folks are serious lovers of the sliders.
Drew Schmitt and Jamie West also happen to be lovers of each other. Two of the nicest people generally, Schmitt and West could not speak highly enough about the merits of White Castle, the company. They do, however, also extol the virtues of the food served at the fast food restaurant.
Theirs is quite a story, from how they came to love White Castle to how they came to love one another.
Schmitt grew up outside of Columbus, Ohio, home of White Castle. He loved the place as a kid and he has returned to his Ohio home, never failing to stop at a White Castle store while there.
West’s story is a little more involved, but Schmitt loves her story as much as he loves her.
“When we were introduced at the Hall of Fame ceremony, I said a short thing then turned the mic over to Jamie,” he said. “She has the story to tell.”
West grew up in foster homes from the time she was four until she was 13. When she turned 13, she decided she could take better care of herself alone than the care she was given in those homes.
“I could tell you some really bad, ugly stories,” she said. “I don’t dwell on them, but I decided being a homeless runaway was safer than some of the things I went through.”
In her presentation, West credited White Castle with helping her survive her youth.
“Every time I walked in to a White Castle, I was greeted warmly,” she said. “No matter how dirty, I was offered water freely; if I had $1 or $3, I was gifted with as many spare sliders as they could afford to personally give me. I was able to feed not only myself but many, many other children with that food. I always tried to take care of other kids who were younger than me and those sacks of sliders fed hundreds…Every time you see a hungry, dirty kid come in to your store, I hope you think of me and my story. You truly have no idea the ‘cravers’ who are walking through those doors no matter how big or small they are.”
The speech was only part of the heartfelt gesture the couple made to the little hamburger business.
They camped out for 96 hours to be first in line at the newly-opened Scottsdale store in October 2019. And as they did at their induction into the Hall of Fame, they wore their royal finest. Both proud people of Irish-descent, Schmitt and West wanted to give White Castle some good attention when it opened locally.
Being first in line gave them plenty of press, but they were really happy the business got the publicity, as well.
The attention they received, and the attention White Castle garnered, resulted in their admission into the Cravers Hall of Fame. The couple expressed their gratitude for the honor, and talked about how wonderful the other honorees were.
“All the (White Castle) fans are family,” West said. “Everyone has a White Castle story. We enjoyed hearing all the amazing stories.”
The Hall of Fame honor may seem like the end of the story, but there is more.
Toward the end of Schmitt and West’s presentation, Schmitt said, “We are from Fountain Hills, Arizona. We used to have White Castle days,” he continued. “We would actually order them 100,000 at a time…We talked about this with the town folk, Mayor Ginny Dickey, the past Mayor Jay Schlum, other townspeople. We decided to do something that’s only been done one other time in our history. “
Schmitt and West presented a plaque to White Castle President Lisa Ingram. The statement on the plaque recognizes Fountain Hills’ role in popularizing White Castle in Arizona and congratulates the organization for its strength in building pride in communities all over.
Following the plaque presentation, White Castle Vice President of Corporate Relations Jamie Richardson asked West to join him at the dais and said “Welcome to the family.”
As he hugged her, there was something happening stage right.
She turned around. Schmitt, who was down on one knee, said in his best Irish brogue, “Jamie West, would ye marry me?”
After a stunned moment, West said yes. The couple kissed, and the audience gave them a standing ovation.
Now that is a memorable proposal. Schmitt and West have been together for 13 years. At press time, they had not set a wedding date. But they promised they would have a huge celebration in Fountain Park and serve, what else? White Castle sliders.