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Monday, February 26, 2024

Local Legends: Steve Harris

Often when customers entered Western Sizzlin, Steve Harris could be found greeting you at the door or sitting at a table visiting with other customers. For Steve, life has always been about serving the people of Enid and the surrounding communities. The restaurant was simply a vessel to do this and an opportunity to show the love of Christ.

Steve’s heart for community came from being reared by Howard and Wanda Harris in the small town of Eros, Arkansas. He grew up on the farm as the oldest of five children. His dad was a farmer and dairy milk carrier and his mother worked in a medical products manufacturing facility. Steve developed a strong work ethic through the farm and his parents’ example. Something that was needed to run successful businesses for 42 years, 37 of those in Enid.

Photo by Wess & Jolene Gray Portraits

After graduating from Bruno High School, he studied agricultural engineering at the University of Arkansas. He served as the president of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers and as president of the local campus organization and the national organization of Missionary Baptist Student Fellowship. The summer before his senior year of college, Steve worked for his uncle, who owned several Western Sizzlins in Arkansas and Missouri. He developed a passion for the restaurant industry and pursued it full-time. He loved the energy of the restaurant industry: the people, the employees, and the day-to-day operations. He spent five years managing Western Sizzlins in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Joplin, Missouri, before moving to Enid in 1981.

With three other partners, Steve opened Western Sizzlin in Enid on December 15, 1981. By 1989 Steve had bought out his partners to become the sole owner-operator of the restaurant. During this time he also married his wife Brenda of 33 years while she was working for him. Together Brenda and Steve created a restaurant environment that taught their three children, Katie, Steffanie, and Isaac, a strong work ethic as they grew up working at “Western” until it closed. He took great pride in working alongside his family as his four siblings, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and nephew all worked with him at different times.

Photo by Wess & Jolene Gray Portraits

Steve served on many boards for the Western Sizzlin franchise throughout his career. He served as the president of the Advertisement Development and Research Fund and, for many years was the president of the purchasing board for Western Sizzlin. Steve thoroughly enjoyed bringing his kids to board meetings to spend extra time with them and teach them about business.

Since arriving in Enid, Steve was an active member at Emmanuel Baptist Church, serving as a deacon and participating on multiple boards through the years. He has been a lifetime supporter of FFA, 4-H, and the NRA organizations. His enjoyment came from serving the community by sponsoring various local events such as the rodeo, concerts, and sporting activities. One of his favorite events to cater was the Northwest Junior Livestock Show annually. Steve often bought animals at the auction and proudly displayed their portraits on his wall at the store. You can still find him there each year, volunteering and visiting with the community.

Steve would tell you that the Lord brought him to Enid. His purpose in the restaurant was not just to serve great food but to share the love of Jesus Christ. Steve has a strong relationship with God, as demonstrated in his daily life. He would donate food monthly to the Salvation Army or Our Daily Bread. He loved supporting many fundraisers or gatherings for local businesses or schools with food or financial donations. He was also known for picking up the meals for multiple customers daily to help them celebrate special occasions or treat them to a nice dinner. Nothing made him happier than to sit and visit with his customers and employees.

At the heart of Western Sizzlin were the relationships developed through the 37 years of business. Perhaps some of the most important relationships were those with his employees. Through the years, thousands of people have worked at the restaurant in some capacity. Many of these employees became like family. Many were employed by Western for 10, 15, 20, or 30 years, and some all 37 years. He wouldn’t hesitate to lend a car or money, provide food for holidays, or spend personal time with them to hear about their school or families. These relationships exceeded the typical owner and employee as he truly cared about and loved his employees as family.

Steve Harris continues to contribute to the Enid community and enjoys the friendships established through his days at Western Sizzlin. His devotion to his wife and children and growing family provide him supreme joy–knowing he had the good fortune to live a life far exceeding his expectations. Thank you, Steve Harris.


Robert Faulkhttps://enidmonthly.com
Robert R. Faulk is the Publisher and Editor of the Enid Monthly. Robert graduated from Oklahoma State University with a B.A. in Political Science and has his J.D. from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. He is originally from Oklahoma City, but is happy to have lived in Enid since 2004 and calls it "home."



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