Dining With Denise Neil

Cheerful Wichita waiter’s tip: a new smile

Doo-Dah Diner waiter Brian Maixner, taking an order from customers Chuck and Debbie Hickman, was recently offered a new smile from a generous customer.
Doo-Dah Diner waiter Brian Maixner, taking an order from customers Chuck and Debbie Hickman, was recently offered a new smile from a generous customer. The Wichita Eagle

For years, Brian Maixner was the cheerful, smiling waiter that kept Ming’s, the throwback Chinese restaurant at 1625 S. Seneca, running smoothly. His customers knew him well.

Then, last year, Maixner decided he needed to spend more time with his teenage son, so he left Ming’s and took a job with daytime hours at the Doo-Dah Diner, the popular downtown breakfast and lunch spot at 206 E. Kellogg.

There, too, Maixner has become a popular presence, delivering Doo-Dah’s heaping, caloric plates of goodness with the same sunny disposition and cheerful smile.

His smile, though, is something Maixner has always been hesitant to share. His dental problems include missing teeth and painful infections that have kept him away from work. Maixner has always wanted to improve his smile but didn’t have the financial means.

Until Saturday.

It was early in his shift at Doo-Dah when Maixner was assigned a table of 12 that included Oklahoma lawyer Fred Boettcher. He was in town visiting his daughters, Courtney and Meredith, who both live in Wichita and wanted their dad to try the “immoral breakfast” at Doo-Dah.

Boettcher placed his order for a funnel cake waffle, but his attention was fixed on his waiter and his in-need-of-care smile.

“This young man, he just touched me,” Boettcher said. “I’ve had a couple of restaurants in the past, and I know how important your appearance is. He was a clean-cut young guy with a smile like an angel, and I thought, ‘I’ve got to help.’ ”

Boettcher got up from his table and approached Doo-Dah’s owner, Timirie Shibley. He told her that he wanted to pay for dental work for Maixner to fix his smile. Did she think he would accept?

It’s not the first time Boettcher has rescued a smile.

As a child, he said, he had some serious dental issues. He was in terrible pain, and no one knew what was wrong with him until his mother took him to the dentist.

Boettcher had an infected tooth, which could have seriously affected his health had it not been discovered. As soon as it was gone, he felt relief.

“I just never got over that,” he said.

Boettcher, who has had financial success both as a personal injury lawyer and as a real estate developer, said he feels it’s his obligation to use what he has to help when he can. Several times over the past several years, he’s encountered people with serious dental problems and offered to pay to help them. One was a client. Another was a woman he noticed just walking down the street.

“I can do it, and I should be doing it,” Boettcher said. “It’s all about kindness and generosity, and that fits everybody.

“Whether you’re atheist or Presbyterian or Catholic or Muslim, if you’re kind and generous, you’re going to get wherever it is you want to go.”

Maixner was surprised by the offer, he said, especially considering that all he’d done was take Boettcher’s order.

“It was kind of shocking at first,” Maixner said. “They hadn’t even gotten their food yet.”

Maixner was raised by a mother who was working several jobs, and there wasn’t money for regular trips to the dentist. As an adult, Maixner also didn’t have the money. He’s trying to get insurance now but hasn’t been able to yet.

“I’ve just been going tooth-by-tooth when they get infected or go bad,” he said.

Maixner and Boettcher traded information on Saturday. This week, Boettcher made arrangements with his dentist, Phillip Tyndall in Ponca City. Maixner now just needs to make an appointment.

Maixner’s customers who think he’s cheerful now have no idea what they’re in for, he said.

“I was like, ‘You just wait,’ ” Maixner said. “I couldn’t believe it.

“It’s kind of weird how a smile and your teeth can change your attitude. I used to be even more happy than I am now, and I’m already a happy person. But I used to have an ear-to-ear grin.”