Richie Henderson, an iconic Ukiah native son, is having his 15 minutes of fame.
Richie’s sweet face is emblazoned on a big billboard along the northbound lanes of Highway 101, garnering the attention of locals and travelers alike.
“Thank you, Richie,” proclaims the sign put up by Zach Schat in honor of his faithful employee of 20 years.
It is a moving testament to the small town values that Richie embodies, and his dedication to a landmark downtown bakery which is his second home.
“Richie is us. He is who we are, and why we live and work here,” said Zach Schat.
Schat put up the billboard to honor Richie’s two decades of work, a gesture that has moved more than a few locals to tears. It has prompted an avalanche of online comments from fans of Richie, and admirers of the Schat family.
“This is the greatest billboard ever, Schat’s. “Thanks for being that company,” said Joel Clark, a onetime wine leader in Mendocino County who now lives in Palm Springs. On Thursday, he saw Schat’s billboard sign posted on Facebook.
By the end of the day, nearly 1,000 people had clicked on Schat’s Bakery site where the Richie billboard was posted.
“I was there when he started. From the cameo performances at Christmas parties to his happy good mornings on his walk to work, Richie is one of the best parts of this community,” said Mary Ellen Chadwick.
Richie is an iconic figure in downtown Ukiah. For two decades he’s bused tables and greeted customers at the landmark Schat’s Bakery and Cafe with a smile, and warm personal greetings.
“Hi there,” says Richie. “How are the boys?” Richie still asks about the four brothers and other local guys that he use to trick or treat on Halloween with even though it’s been 30 years or more.
Richie is unfailing in his dedication to his Schat’s job, his love of Ukiah, and his passion for entertainment. Even at St. Mary’s School, and later Ukiah High School Richie was everybody’s child, and fun-loving friend.
Richie is the 42-year-old son of retired Superior Court Judge Richard Henderson, and former Ukiah Mayor Colleen Henderson.
“He is our son, but there is no doubt he is family to just about everyone in town,” said Judge Henderson.
Zach Schat posted online this about the billboard:
“Happy 20th anniversary, Richie. We are honored and grateful that you choose to work with us. You’re the BEST!”
Schat added a personal note, “Cheers to you, my friend. We love you, Richie.”
The whole town loves Richie Henderson, no doubt.
Congratulations Richie, I am so proud of you. Miss Paulette.