The Charleston Waffle House located off Savannah Highway was cramped with a line of people looking to get a hug from long-time Waffle House employee, Sharifah Johnson.

"It would not be 411 without her," said Brandon Rogers, Waffle House regional manager, citing the number for the restaurant.  

On Friday, employees and long-time customers gathered to celebrate Sharifah Day, a day recognizing the over 20-year employee.

Johnson, who was in tears as she walked through the restaurant hugging and smiling at familiar faces, said she wasn't even aware that the event was going on. She said if she had been aware, she would have worn more makeup. 

"I just want to hug everybody," Johnson said. "Just to let everyone know I love them for this." 

For a majority of the regulars, the name Sharifah instantly rings a bell. For others, they might recognize Johnson as the woman who served Anthony Bourdain when he brought his CNN show "Parts Unknown" to Charleston. 

Others might recognize her from doing the same thing during an episode of Stephen Colbert's "Late Show" when he came to the restaurant with country music star Sturgill Simpson.

Michael Scott Cohen, who grew up being a customer of the restaurant, looks at Johnson as family. As a teenager, he said that Johnson was always there with a smile, advice and enthusiasm. 

For him, that and more is why he organized the event to celebrate her.

"It's the least I could do, I wish I could do a lot more," Cohen said. 

During the event Cohen also gave Johnson a check for $6,300 that was raised from friends, customers, and co-workers.

"She deserves it," said Katrina Watson, Johnson's best friend and co-worker. 

Coincidentally, a few days prior to the event Johnson worked as an Uber driver for Cohen's brother, Austin Cohen. At that point Johnson said she had an idea that something might be going on, but nothing on this scale.

"I'm gonna get you," Sharifah Johnson said jokingly to Austin Cohen, when she saw him at the Waffle House.

For the 20 years Johnson has been an employee, she has mostly worked the late shift, never missing a holiday. One of her daughters, Cierra Wrighton, even took her first steps at the restaurant while trying to get a piece of candy. 

"We had to share Waffle House with her every holiday," Wrighton said. "She has a lifelong impact on people, that's beautiful to see." 

Those in attendance included several of Cohen's family and friends, employees of the store, Johnson's two daughters and the President and CEO of Waffle House. Most of them screamed "you deserve it" when she first entered the restaurant. 

"It's a big deal, she's a big deal," said Walt Ehmer, president of Waffle House. "I'm proud to be here for her." 

"I'm truly grateful," Johnson said.