He has a charming smile, long ponytail and a razor-sharp memory

Although Hendry Budi, 35, has the local popularity equivalent to rocker Adam Levine, he only recently popped up on my radar. I was sitting with a friend when her phone pinged. She looked at the message then reported, “That’s Hendry. He’s got my beer.”

I was immediately struck by a couple of things. But primarily I was impressed by this guy’s mad customer service skills. Hendry Budi co-owns the convenience store at the Mobil gas station on U.S.1 at the top of Key Colony Beach with Yanet Gonzalez. He’s willing not only to stock specialty items, but to also personally notify his customers when what they want is available.

Do you know Hendry?

“Sure, he’s my buddy. He gets me these,” said a guy who calls himself Bolo, showing off a package of Uncle Bud’s Cajun Deep Fried Peanuts. “He got me hooked on these.”

Do you know Hendry?

“Yeah, he orders my Natty Light when I’m stocking up for a long fishing trip,” said Capt. Paul Ritli. “And he always saves me a couple of cans of Copenhagen. He’s the coolest dude.”

Do you know Hendry?

“He’s the nicest guy. He always buys the Hi-Chew candy in bulk for the Marathon High School baseball team. He doesn’t take any money up front, he just tells me when to come and pick them up,” said Nancy Ponzoa. “And don’t forget to put something in the newspaper about his boiled peanuts. Oh my gosh, they are so good.”

And it goes on and on. He knows each customer by name and knows whether they drink Diet Coke or Coke Zero.

“I just love people. I’m cool, down to earth,” Hendry said. “I keep smiling every day.”

Hendry was born in the Maluku islands of Indonesia and moved to the Keys with his parents when he was 21 years old to work for his uncle Saki, who he credits with showing him the ropes. Saki works the counter at the Fairway Market and his dad, Asep, works the Blue Marlin gas station next to Rob’s Car Wash. Hendry sells lotto tickets, beef jerky, boiled peanuts, hot dogs, snacks. The shop also has bits of fishing gear, sunglasses, hats and cases of water — all at pretty good prices.

“It takes me three times to learn somebody’s name. I think of my customers as my family, my friends. Then it’s easy to do business,” he said.

Apparently so. Long-time locals remember him from his three-year stint in the same location when it was a Citgo. Then he spent three years as an employee of the Chevron at Coco Plum. That’s where he met his business partner, Yanet Gonzalez, when they worked side by side before taking the plunge into ownership of one convenience store with plans to expand to another at some point. He is married and has three children — Kathlynn, Brendan and Mackenzie.

Oh, and Hendry speaks three languages — his native tongue Bahasa plus English and Spanish.

“Necesita tres-zero-cinco?” he asked an elderly woman, referring to the popular “305” brand cigarettes.

Hendry said his customers are the locals (although he’s just as polite to visitors gassing up before a fishing trip). He tries to stock the items they would normally drive to Publix or Winn-Dixie or Circle K to get. But it’s his friendliness that sets him apart.

“I want to make them feel happy. There’s no problem in here,” Hendry said smiling as he rings up some lotto tickets.

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  1. YES!..We know Hendry! We lived on Coco Plum Drive all summer last year in Marathon. He was working at the gas station where Coco meets U.S 1. In the 2 months that we frequented there….I felt like I had known him all my life. Great man he is. We live in Michigan and ALWAYS check on certain Keys websites. I was Soooo happy to see an article about him on Keys Weekly.com. “HENDRY!,….We’ll be back to see u my Friend!” Tim and Tracy from Bad Axe, MI.

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