RUSKIN — Dave Cribbs' night at the movies was much more than a good show.
He said the staff at the Ruskin Family Drive-In showered him and his family with amazing kindness and unbelievable generosity.
"That kind of service," said Cribbs, 47, of Riverview, "it just doesn't happen."
He wanted to do something to thank the drive-in and owners Ted and Karen Freiwald, something more than paying them back with a few kind words or a gift.
He got an idea from a book, The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone. He had to do something "over the top."
So from 6:30 to 8 on weekday mornings in June, Cribbs stands outside the drive-in with a sign to tout his wonderful night at the movies. His sign reads: "Amazing Experience Here."
"It was something uncommon," said Cribbs, who works as a sales trainer for car dealerships. "It deserved something uncommon in return. That's the way I felt."
On May 31, Cribbs, wife Dina and daughter Lexi, 9, showed up at the drive-in to see Heaven Is for Real. They had their car packed with food and snacks.
An employee stopped to chat and offered them a bag of cotton candy. A short time later, the employee returned to say hello with a bowl of homemade chili. Later, the staff sent over three Ruskin drive-in T-shirts.
"I told my wife we'll come back and we'll buy food here," Cribbs said. "I wanted to reward them for great service."
The next thing that happened made the entire family gasp.
The owners say a few words on a loudspeaker just before the movie starts. Cribbs and his family became part of the announcements that night.
The owners told the family in the yellow Camaro, which was the Cribbs' car, to come back June 27 for free tickets to see the new Transformers movie.
"That was over the top," Cribbs said, still amazed at the gift.
He couldn't believe the generosity. But, he was more touched by the way they were treated.
"It was all genuine," he said. "They really wanted to know who we were."
In turn, co-owner Karen Freiwald is amazed by Cribbs' actions.
They have given away candy, popcorn and other items in the past. People have hugged and thanked them but she can't recall anyone going as far as Cribbs has.
"I'm trying to figure out how to say thank you," she said. "What he is doing is so awesome."
The couple haven't had a chance to thank Cribbs in person because they spend long, late hours at the drive-in. The drive-in opened in 1952, and Ted Freiwald became its owner in 1976.
Karen Freiwald said they've received many new customers thanks to Cribbs' efforts at advertising. She appreciates the new business but is also proud of the message she and Cribbs are showing the world.
"If you're nice to people, someone will be nice to you," she said.
On June 28, Cribbs plans to bring friends and family to the drive-in theater. They'll all have signs praising the experience between 7 and 9 a.m. He encourages other fans of the drive-in to join them.
He isn't looking for more freebies. He just wants everyone to know the Ruskin drive-in is tops in customer service and people should patronize this business.
"That's it," he said.
Karen Freiwald said she is going to get up one morning and greet Cribbs at the drive-in. She thinks he might like a cup of coffee. No charge.
Monica Bennett can be reached at [email protected]