On a recent Thursday afternoon, Marie Reeves sat at a wooden table in her tiny Dearing café, cuddling her 4-month-old granddaughter in her lap.
Her grandson, Tristan Reeves, 4, wandered around Ms. Marie’s Cafe, kicking the trash can and chattering about wanting to spend “lots of nights” with his grandma.
Meanwhile, a regular customer she called Dave promised, on his way out the door, to call before he comes next time to make sure she has bread pudding.
“For a long time he’s been wanting bread pudding,” she said. “I finally broke down and did some research to see if we could afford to make it at a decent price.”
That Thursday, she had sold out of it.
Many items make it onto Ms. Marie’s menu just that way.
A customer suggests she carry an item. Marie and her husband, Hugh, will research it to find out if the dish can be made and sold for a reasonable price. If it can, it will get about a six-week trial run. And she always listens to feedback from customers.
Dearing residents have been very supportive of the restaurant, Marie said. Local businesses are some of her best customers. Diners also drive from in from Harlem and Thomson.
Ms. Marie’s offers delivery because so few restaurants in Harlem or Thomson will deliver to Dearing. The service comes with a small fee to help cover the cost of gas.
Dearing folk aren’t the
café’s only customers, though. Many travelers passing through love to stop in and have a bite at the quaint small-town café, including some who are a long way away from home.
“We’ve had some people actually from England. That kind of blew my mind,” Marie said. “They were asking for tea, but they weren’t talking about my kind of (sweet iced) tea. So I kind of rigged something up for them and they seemed happy.”
Ms. Marie’s has been serving American favorites on the corner of Main Street and Augusta Highway for nearly four years.
After Marie worked several years at Axon’s Mini Mart and Hugh retired after 33 years at International Paper, the Reeves decided to try their hand at running a restaurant.
Dearing needed one, and family members had been encouraging Marie to start a restaurant for years.
They already had a location. The building has been in Hugh’s family for more than 50 years.
“I started out pumping gas here,” Hugh said. “This is where I made my first paycheck.”
The building, now owned by Hugh’s aunt, had been his uncle’s gas station and was converted to a café more than 12 years ago.
By the time the Reeves took it over, it had been empty for more than six months. The Reeves invested their savings into updating it.
They thought owning their own business would give them more independence, but they found out otherwise.
Marie said they spend six days a week at the restaurant, and on Sundays they are usually shopping for supplies.
“When you own your own business, you do not have a lot of free time,” she said.
But the perk is that the couple’s four children and six grandchildren can visit any time and stay as long as they want to.
Though owning their own business has been a challenge, Marie says they love it.
“It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of work, but it’s really worth it,” she said.