Restaurant is a family affair

By Ed Brock

Dallas Matthews and her sister Angela Loehne were sitting around watching television one night when they had an idea.

"We were talking about how nice it would be to have a business of our own, a restaurant," Matthews said.

And from that conversation was born in February 2002 "My Sister's Place," a buffet-style eatery on Stockbridge Road just a block off McDonough Street. Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and meatloaf are on the menu, served in a style al la grandma.

"They have good prices, too, for what you get," said Arnold Casey of Jonesboro who comes to the restaurant about twice a week.

"And the people are very nice," said Casey's wife Janet Casey.

Dallas Matthews, 43, is "Big Sister" and Loehne, 39, is "Little Sister," and their goal is to "redefine Southern cooking."

My Sister's Place is a family restaurant in more ways than one. The sisters live and work together and their mother, 63-year-old Betty Matthews, is the "quality assurance controller."

"Once you have children you never get through with them," Betty Matthews said. "And we have fun."

Loehne's two teen-age daughters and even her 10-year-old son Frank Loehne pitch in, too.

"They help us out with the cooking and prepping and at the register," said Dallas Matthews. "The idea is I want them to learn everything from the ground up so when they're old enough to make choices in life hopefully this will be one of their choices."

Frank Loehne has also learned to cook.

"His specialties are carrot cake and deviled eggs," Dallas Matthews said.

Dallas and Betty Matthews usually open the restaurant and start the cooking along with their 11 employees, including their manager Fletcher Miller. Loehne comes in the evening to help out.

"Mostly I do the paperwork," Loehne said.

Her daughter goes easy on the spices, Betty Matthews said, and they're especially concerned with maintaining a low-sodium menu. They strive to comply with standards set by the American Heart Association and the Diabetes Foundation.

This is Loehne's first venture into the restaurant business, although Dallas managed restaurants and lounges for 15 years.

"This is the first one where I'm paying all the bills," Dallas Matthews said.

The sisters grew up in Jonesboro and some of their customers are people they've known all their lives. Meeting new customers is Loehne's favorite part of the business.

"Most of them are people we've met since we opened the business," Loehne said. "You see them a couple of times a week and they're like family."

Kirk Bradford of Jonesboro found out about My Sister's Place from relatives and came in for his first lunch on Thursday.

"It was great. They're going to cater a wedding for us in May," Bradford said.

On Fridays Jonesboro singer Adam Gosdin performs during the evening to add a little extra atmosphere.

"We sit around drinking lemonade and listening to nice music," Dallas Matthews said.

Business has been good. In May 2003 they had to expand into a third unit in the small shopping center across from Ingles grocery store.

"We just want to work together, providing good food at modest prices," Betty Matthews said.