The summer before her senior year at Princeton High School, Susan Wark figured it was time to get her first job.
Sure, she had babysat while growing up in Princeton, but a new Subway sandwich shop was going up and that looked to be as good of a “first job” as any.
She was hired Aug. 29, 1994, by Mike Tauer, who has owned all or parts of six shops over the years.
She helped open that store and still remembers how the first paycheck she earned felt differently than any other money she ever held in her hands before.
Twenty-five years later, she still has that “first job,” working a few miles down Highway 169 at Tauer’s Zimmerman Subway location.
Wark has worked full-time at Subway off and on throughout the years, but mostly she has remained a part-time sandwich artisan - all while she has taken on other jobs and worked on degrees in child development and urban teaching as she wades deeper into employment within the early childhood education realm.
Along the way, she has been a bank teller and a sorter of junk mail, but always hung onto her paycheck at Subway.
When a friend of hers had a baby, she returned to her baby-sitting days and provided full-time child care during the day and moved her Subway shifts to the evening hours.
She did that for five years and that got her thinking about other opportunities.
She currently works every other weekend and will soon return to her job as a paraprofessional in the St. Louis Park Schools special education program.
She got an associate of applied science degree from St. Paul College in 2017 and is now finishing a degree in urban teaching of children from birth to third grade from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.
She likes to stay busy. Wark says it was never her intent to stay on at Subway for 25 years, but it just sort happened that way.
She didn’t head off to college right away upon her high school graduation, and once she got other jobs and did pursue postsecondary education, the extra money she made there seemed to be even more handy.
It has helped her pay car loans off and kept her pockets from being empty, she says.
Her hard work and dedication have been appreciated, so when Mike’s wife, Aunie Tauer, suggested an anniversary party at the store, he easily agreed.
“She treats the store like she’s an owner,” Mike Tauer said. “She takes great pride, leads by example and really sets a tone for the other workers.”
“Pride” is a word the Princeton woman used to describe her work at the restaurant and wherever she works. She said she likes working with the kids, noting there’s a good crew at the Zimmerman store.
When asked if 25th anniversary has a nice ring to it, Wark said it does.
“I feel good about it,” she said.
Jim Boyle is the editor of the Elk River Star News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org