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Story - News

Dec 4, 2012 3:33 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

'Queen of 114' Quits Job At Harbor Heights After Nearly 30 Years

Dec 4, 2012 4:41 PM

Donning a bunny suit at Easter time, waving an American flag during patriotic holidays, and always smiling and waving at motorists on the stretch of Route 114 in Sag Harbor as they sped past the Harbor Heights gas station where she worked, longtime employee Pam Kern was a hard to miss sight.

The quirky character with signature long, platinum blond hair became known locally as the “Queen of 114,” a moniker she says was given to her by a 5-year-old boy she once helped to raise donations for the Wounded Warrior Project to help injured service members.

The queen’s reign, however, came to a sudden end on Saturday, when she quit her post as general manager of the gas station. She stepped down after finding out that the station had been sold to the owner of an adjacent repair shop—someone with whom she had a tense professional relationship in the past—and that the new station owner had earlier that day fired her 25-year-old son, Dale Kern, who also worked at the station as an attendant.

Mr. Kern and the new owner, Gregory Miller, had been involved in a dispute after Mr. Kern used Mr. Miller’s garage without his permission. Ms. Kern said she quit after her son had been fired, but claimed his firing did not play into her decision to leave.

A lifelong Sag Harbor resident, Ms. Kern, 57, would have marked 30 years at Harbor Heights in May 2013.

In a tearful interview at her Carroll Street home on Monday, Ms. Kern said her former boss, John Leonard, had not told her he was selling the business. “He sold me out,” Ms. Kern wept, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. “I thought I did a good job, but I guess it wasn’t good enough.”

According to her account, she only found out on Saturday that Mr. Leonard was selling the business to Mr. Miller, who ran the Sag Harbor Service Station behind Harbor Heights for several years—and that the change in ownership was taking effect that day.

Reached by phone in Florida where he lives, Mr. Leonard disputed Ms. Kern’s account as a “total fabrication.” “She’s known for months there was going to be a change,” he said. “She just didn’t know who.” He had not revealed Mr. Miller’s identity as the new owner, he added, because “it wasn’t any of her business.” He noted that Mr. Miller would have kept her on at the station.

The new owner was reluctant to discuss the situation involving Ms. Kern this week, saying he did not want it “smeared” in the papers. But did say that she left on her own accord, and he would have let her keep her position.

“She had a job here, and she didn’t want to work here anymore,” he said. “She walked out of here. Nobody forced her. Nobody pushed her.”

As for Ms. Kern’s son, tension between he and Mr. Miller had been evident for months, and led to Mr. Kern’s termination. Mr. Miller said Mr. Kern was fired because he had broken into his service station several times and used tools and equipment—including driving a customer’s antique Ford Mustang—without permission.

Mr. Kern acknowledged that he had used equipment without permission, but said he had a key to the station and did it only twice in the summer, during emergencies, such as when a friend’s brakes locked up and he asked to use a lift. “I know I should have asked to be there,” he said, adding that he will now search for a new job, but is more concerned about his mother.

Though the business is now officially called G. Miller Enterprises, the “Harbor Heights” signs will remain up for the time being, Mr. Miller said, because he can’t afford to change it.

Arms folded as she leaned back on a counter in her home on Monday, a teary-eyed Ms. Kern said she was overwhelmed. “You think people appreciate you,” she said. “I know my customers did, and now I’m probably not going to see them anymore.”

But the newly unemployed mother, a former Sag Harbor School Board member, has a growing fan base online. A Facebook page called “Friends of Pam Kern” was started on Sunday by a self-described friend of Pam as a show of support and had 183 “likes” as of early Tuesday afternoon.

The page features a patriotic cover photo of Ms. Kern waving the Stars and Stripes overhead outside the gas station, which is decorated with red, white and blue balloons and a sign thanking those who have served the country, as an Army green vehicle rumbles by.

Several Facebook users posted words of praise for Ms. Kern. “No Pam at Harbor Heights is WORSE than a world without Twinkies!!” posted Judith Wyche, formerly of East Hampton. “Every time I come back to Sag Harbor, I love seeing her hard at work … especially in December in her Santa hat! She’s the only gas attendant I ever made sure I tipped! She’s a TRUE Sag Harbor treasure!”

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meh
By C Law (354), Water Mill on Dec 4, 12 7:51 PM
Your right people do loose there jobs all the time, why make a big deal out of this case.
By RebeccaCain (3), on Dec 4, 12 10:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
631, try to learn how to spell and write, would you?
The story is of interest as the lady is a bit of a local landmark in the area. Did it hurt you to read it? Was someone offended?
You folks need to get a life.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Dec 5, 12 12:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
Pam is a local fixture, i assume you have never gone to HH no less for the last 30 years. I bet you were crying about your twinkles when you couldn't have them. Pam is a good woman and anyone who has worked anywhere for 30 years deserves recognition. She was a great asset to HH and It w as unfair of John Leonard to not let her know who the new owner was going to be. Pam, you will find someone who appreciates you, as for everyone up there , be nice, its the Holidays. If you don't have anything ...more
By Beed54 (4), Sag Harbor on Dec 5, 12 7:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
She was not fired, she quit. Her choice. Perhaps she didn’t think things through but it’s too late now and I agree with Obama45, what is her point? Wow unfair of Mr. Leonard not to let her know who the new owner was going be? Does she own a share of the business? He told her what she needed to know and that was that he was selling. The wise thing to do, would have been to secure new employment, prior to quitting. Or perhaps she is ready to retire..at the end of the day the Queen abdicated, ...more
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Dec 5, 12 1:30 PM
I love how the son used the adjoining service station, belonging to a separate business owner, "...only twice in the summer, during emergencies, such as when a friend’s brakes locked up and he asked to use a lift." Some "emergency". He should have been arrested for trespassing.
Sorry to see the Queens reign end, but it sounds like she left of her own accord.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Dec 5, 12 1:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
What? $22.00 an hr? to pumping gas? and if it is true then she must be so mad at herself not the owner, her son was disloyal by not asking permission to use the company's equipment, twice, just to say the least and she quits her job because she she didn't like the new owner, and she didn't feel appreciated, not a smart move, because thanks to her bashing and ranting she can't even collect unemployment because she wasn't laid off but she walked out ! and It's in the local paper and in her own words, ...more
By YXZ (32), Hampton Bays on Dec 5, 12 9:19 PM
I meant to pum pgas
By YXZ (32), Hampton Bays on Dec 5, 12 9:21 PM
It was ridiculous that she left, in the economic climate we are in. I guess she just has to get used to the world of minimum wage, just like anyone else.
By RebeccaCain (3), on Dec 5, 12 10:01 PM
Who cares. This is not news. People lose their jobs all the time. Boo frickin' hoo.
By **HBQueenBee** (46), Hampton Bays on Dec 6, 12 9:18 AM
why is this news? a person quits her job because her son was fired due to several bad decisions to enter property not his and was then fired? To bad this came bqack to hit her in her face?!
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Dec 6, 12 7:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
I always found here a little abrasive, Anyway you made you choice...Good luck to you.
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Dec 8, 12 8:24 PM
Went there with, heaven forbid, a $100 bill. Left feeling like she was doing me a favor !
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Dec 9, 12 6:07 PM
Why is this news? She left on her own? Should the new owner give her a raise? He is taking all the risk....She worked there.....get over it....Go find another job or develop a skill.....Sounds like the son is lucky he isn't in jail....Even better open up your own service station.....EVERYONE who thinks she was treated unfairly should go out and buy her a station...or give her a new job and make her son the manager...
By sag runner (24), Easthampton on Dec 9, 12 8:15 PM
I think I remember her not being to loyal to the past owners also, after they had carried her for years... anyone else remember this?
By BCHBUM11968 (81), SOUTHAMPTON on Dec 10, 12 12:56 PM
All I know is that the Christmas bonus they were gonna run only laster 2 days and no one gave to it, I guess when you leave on your own choice people dont feel to bad for a bad idea.
By RebeccaCain (3), on Dec 10, 12 10:34 PM