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Last May, the Chrisman Cafe celebrated four years in business. David and Donna Mattingly bought the building that previously was an insurance office. David tore out the inside of the building and reconstruction began.
“We have several people come in on Wednesday just for the livers. Fish is a big thing on Friday Night. Our seafood buffet is catfish, Pollock, shrimp and clam strips” Nancy Denbo said.
Nancy, the mother of owner David Mattingly, began working for the business when it first opened. “I worked here for a short while, then I left for a while, then came back about two years ago,” she said.
The Cafe opens up at six o’clock in the morning for the farmers, then closes at two everyday, with the exception of Fridays. The cooks come in at five-thirty to get coffee started and bacon frying in the pan. “There’s not a whole lot to do first thing in the morning. In their downtime, they can go ahead and prep for lunch,” Nancy said.
The restaurant has grown so much that one cook isn’t able to handle the workload. Kim Adams and Amy Whitlow are the main cooks. Kim’s daughter Karlie is a waitress, but has helped with the prep. “They all have their specialty things they make,” Nancy told us.
When COVID shut down many restaurants, the Cafe remained open. With no one able to come in to dine, a middle window was taken out and customers could put their order in. At first, the cafe was just open from seven to two, then people began wanting the fish.
“We stayed open on Friday night, served it out of the window and it went really well. The community was great. They supported us and did more than their share making sure we were ok, leaving extra tips” Nancy said.
Once restaurants were able to have customers inside, business started off slow with people not sure about getting out. The community was just happy to have their favorite gathering place open.
“People were so grateful,” Nancy said. “We tried to put the chairs so far apart, but they didn’t care. They just wanted to sit together. They started coming back in slowly and it’s been better than it was before.”
Recently, the prices of food has skyrocketed. The cafe was paying seventeen or eighteen dollars for a five gallon jug of oil. It’s now thirty-two dollars. Fifteen dozen eggs are now twenty dollars as compared to eighteen two years ago. A thirty pound box of bacon was eighty-nine dollars, now it is one hundred seventeen dollars. Ground beef is now one dollar twenty-nine cents more than it was a year ago.
The prices might not seem like much of a hike, but to a small business, it means a lot.
“We’ve increased prices no more than we had to,” Nancy said. “I have two choices. I can either raise the prices or I can shut the doors.”
The price change also has an affect on what can be served on the menu. The cafe has all home made items, but have made the adjustments. The cost of food also affects how many people can be hired.
“We have one cook, one dishwasher and one doing prep. After nine in the morning, there’s usually three people until we close,” Nancy said.
If you would like to try the Chrisman Cafe, head over to 132 Illinois Street in Chrisman. The cafe is open Saturday-Thursday from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Fridays 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Wednesday is Chicken Livers and Friday is the Seafood Buffet!