Carrie Rengers

Wichita businessman surprises Hutchinson McDonald’s worker with a new car

The first time Vicki Anderson served Wichita businessman Chris Ellis in the drive-through at the south Hutchinson McDonald’s, she wondered if he might be drunk.

“He was crazy,” she says of how he addressed her like a trucker. “It was all, ‘10-4, good buddy.’

“Somebody doesn’t usually talk to you like that, you know what I’m saying? . . . I was scared to answer the window.”

Her boss suggested that Anderson have some fun with Ellis and give him back a little attitude, and a relationship was born.

That was the second week of November, and Ellis has been back regularly for early-morning hunting in the area.

“She was so friendly at the drive-up window,” he says.

Ellis says Anderson always is ready with a big smile and a laugh and that that’s something “if you can laugh at 6:30. It’s hard to do sometimes.”

“I looked forward to it every time.”

Ellis owns Ergonomic Solutions Inc. and started Kanai with his wife, Penny, before selling it three years ago.

He drove through the Lane Enterprises McDonald’s for lunch Monday, and Anderson asked him if he knew anyone who might have a cheap vehicle for sale.

Her car died this fall, and the $500 it would cost to get it fixed was more than the 1994 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra was worth, Anderson says.

“Fate looked me in the eye when she told me that story,” Ellis says.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about it. . . . I said, ‘I have to do something.’ ”

His son, Josh, had just bought a new truck and was planning to sell his 2009 Pontiac GS. Ellis was interested in buying it and asked his son what he wanted to sell it for. Josh Ellis said he’d offer a discounted price if it were for a good cause.

“He’s got a bigger heart than I’ve got,” the elder Ellis says.

Ellis said he’d pay the discounted price. Josh Ellis got an oil change, cleaned the car and had the tires rotated, and the two went to McDonald’s on Wednesday to surprise Anderson. She was in the back at the grill when she was told a manager needed to see her up front.

“Am I getting fired?” Anderson says she thought.

Then she saw Ellis and his son and that a manager was videotaping the moment.

“I didn’t know what to think.”

Ellis escorted Anderson outside and showed her the Pontiac and explained that it was now hers.

“I thought he was kidding again,” she says. “Who just does that? I mean really.”

Also, she adds, “I don’t have that kind of luck.”

Anderson, who said she’s in awe, asked how she could repay Ellis.

“Just pay it forward when you can,” he told her.

That’s something that Anderson — who often used to give rides to others who didn’t have cars — is hoping to do with her new car.

“I believe that’s what God wants us to do — to help one another,” she says.

Ellis says he knows he’s a lucky person in life, and to share a gift and experience it with his son was “awesome.”

“Maybe the best day of my life,” Ellis says, quickly clarifying with his wife, “Don’t take that personally, Penny.”

As much as it was a great day for Anderson, Ellis says he’s still on a high from giving her the car.

“It was amazing. It’s still amazing. I watched the video today and cried twice.”

Ellis says he believes Anderson will help others through the gift.

“I believe she’s going to make good with it. I really do.”

Carrie Rengers has been a reporter for almost three decades, including 16 years at The Wichita Eagle. Her Have You Heard? column of business scoops runs five days a week in The Eagle. If you have a tip, please e-mail or tweet her or call 316-268-6340.