SPRING HILL –
The scenery is a major draw for any Hooters restaurant.
Beautiful women like 19-year-old Kaylie Kushmer greet you, serve you food and say “goodbye” as you walk out the door.
For a lucky few, they had a close-up view of a photo shoot – one that included the local Hooters waitress in a black, two-piece swimsuit decorated with sparkling rhinestones.
“The customers were coming in and they were getting a behind-the-scenes experience,” said a giggling Kushmer.
They might have had the closest look at the bubbly brunette, but they surely are not the only ones who were able to see her don the skimpy swimwear.
For the second year in a row, Kushmer has been featured in the annual Hooters Calendar. Her latest photo can be found at the bottom of the June page of the 2009 edition, which is on sale at all Hooters locations and online.
The tanned and slender business student stands 5 feet 9 inches tall. She has long curly hair and her bright eyes change color whenever there is a change in her mood, she said.
They were a grayish-blue on a recent afternoon as she gleefully talked about her calendar shoot, her fondness of Hooters and her future.
Kushmer is a full-time student at Pasco-Hernando Community College and plans to transfer to the University of South Florida next year. After that, she wishes to attend law school.
The Central High School graduate was born in Brandon and relocated to Hernando Beach while a sophomore in high school.
Her managers at the Spring Hill restaurant learned of her second consecutive inclusion in the calendar before she did. Instead of simply telling Kushmer, they threw her a surprise party and announced it then.
Up to 15 percent of the waitresses across the country sent photos to the calendar committee. The judges chose about 80 out of the thousands of submitted photos.
Kushmer was not the only one from the Spring Hill location who tried out for a chance to be in the calendar. The competition side was the one thing she found unappealing. Her smile vanished for the first and only time during the interview when she mentioned it.
“There are others here who tried out who should have made it,” she said.
Kushmer first applied at Hooters when she was 16 years old. To be a hostess, one must be 17. The minimum age requirement for a waitress is 18.
The hiring manager politely turned her away following her first visit, but as promised, she reapplied on her 17th birthday and was hired. One year later, on the day she turned 18, she worked as a waitress for the first time. It was a double shift.
She wore a sash that advertised her birthday to everyone. She set a personal record for tips.
Kushmer’s photo is seen by managers as an inducement for customers to spend more money – or at least buy more calendars. She laughs whenever they remind her.
“They try to convince us it helps sales,” she said. “They’ll tell us (before our shift), ‘You have to sell 500 calendars and there’s no excuse not to because Kaylie’s working today.'”
Her inclusion in the 2009 calendar also allows her to take part in activities with the other models. When the group visited Kushmer’s location for a recent appearance, they warmed her heart with compliments about her co-workers and customers.
“They kept saying, ‘That’s the nicest (restaurant) we’ve ever been to,'” she said.
She wasn’t surprised by the comments. She remains employed at the U.S. 19 location because of the comfortable atmosphere. When she attends school in Tampa, she might entertain the idea of signing on at a second Hooters, but she has vowed to continue waitressing in Spring Hill during the weekends.
“This restaurant is much different from the others,” Kushmer said. “It’s a lot more fun and easygoing.”
Because she goes to school during the week, most of her work hours are scheduled for the weekends. Football season is particularly busy and draws the most regulars.
She loves the chain so much she has hopes for a successful, lucrative career as a business attorney that would grant her the capital to purchase her own Hooters restaurant.
In the meantime, she plans to focus on her studies, relish her job and pile on more happy memories.
As long as future calendar shoots remain a possibility, Kushmer’s bosses do their best to ensure she doesn’t detach from her roots. Tampa might be bigger and the lights might be brighter, but Hernando County is home. Those reminders never stop coming.
“They keep telling me that under my name it had better say, ‘from Spring Hill, Florida,'” she said. “It will. I love it here.”
Reporter Tony Holt can be reached at 352-544-5283 or firstname.lastname@example.org.