Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Business hangs by thread

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SELKIRK -- It was such a great story. Too bad it wasn't entirely true.

If you've read a paper or listened to the radio or watched TV in the last couple of days, you'll be familiar with Selkirk's Marcella McAulay, pizza delivery driver turned Good Samaritan.

She's a single mom who left her restaurant post to aid a gunshot victim and was fired by a boss so cruel he should be twirling a moustache. She then told the world about her good deed gone wrong.

That's the part you heard. Here's what you didn't hear and what it means to two people who have been in business seven months and are now facing the loss of their restaurant. Here's what it means to the other five employees of Frank's Pizza who may also be checking out EI benefits.

McAulay, a part-time employee at the restaurant who had worked at Frank's under the previous owner, admits she had been told not to leave and drive around with her friends while she was on the clock. That seems a reasonable request by new owners who had piled their life savings into the 25-year-old business and had moved into new premises three days before their driver become a hero.

She was welcome to take coffee and lunch breaks at the restaurant.

On the night she came to the aid of an injured man, McAulay and a girlfriend had just left Tim Horton's where they'd gone for coffee. She was not on her lunch break, she was simply test-driving her car, which had been beset by mechanical problems. The restaurant had no idea where she was, or when she would return. She was still on shift and being paid an hourly wage.

Problem

Frank's co-owner Randy Saluk says this was an ongoing problem.

"She's been warned several times," Saluk says, adding it was never acceptable for his drivers to cruise around town when they were supposed to be working. McAulay, who defines herself as a "rabble rouser," admits she was warned, but says other employees took personal calls or visited with friends in the restaurant.

"It didn't happen very often," she says, adding that since she used her car to make deliveries she should be cut some slack. The 50 cents a delivery plus wage and tips she earned wasn't sufficient, she says.

Elaine Boyd, another Frank's owner, complained of other problems.

"She wouldn't wear a hair net in the kitchen. She wouldn't wear the apron that was part of the uniform."

While out at Tim's, McAulay's girlfriend got a call saying there had been gunshots heard near her friend's house. They rushed over to a stranger's place, six blocks from Frank's. McAulay, who has no medical training, entered a side-by-side home, talked to the people there and saw the gunshot victim. She asked for a pillow and blanket and stayed with the victim until police arrived.

"I'm a mother of two," she says. "That makes us tough, us women."

McAulay arrived back at the restaurant 2 1/2 hours after she left. She was told she no longer had a job.

Saluk, whose partner Jason Boyd fired McAulay, says he regrets the firing happened the night she helped the man.

'Bad timing'

"Under the circumstances it was bad timing," he says ruefully. "There's nothing we can do to erase this. We have five other people that work here. If we shut the shop, what happens to them? I've got a girl that's been here 10 years and she loves her job."

Demand for pizza has fallen considerably. Saluk said the negative national attention, combined with small-town politics, has made many Selkirk people avoid his business.

"People are afraid of what will happen if their licence plates are seen in our parking lot," he said.

Business this weekend will determine whether Frank's can survive.

McAulay, who has been too busy fielding media calls to look for another job or apply for EI, says she hopes her former co-workers don't end up on the street. She says an apology would go a long way to making things better.

"I'm not looking for pity," she says. "I'm hurt."

So is Frank's Pizza and the people who depend on it for their living. No one can deny McAulay was brave to help a stranger in need. It's true that the timing of her firing was terrible. Frank's owners know they messed up.

It's also true that if she'd been doing her job she wouldn't have been anywhere near the victim who was not alone and needed medical attention more than he needed a pillow.

But that doesn't make such a compelling story, does it?

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 13, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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