50 years and count­ing

Qual­ity, hos­pi­tal­ity and con­sis­tency are cred­ited for restau­rant’s suc­cess

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - SAN­DRA BRANDS sbrands@cov­news.com

The bis­cuits are han­drolled and pat­ted down be­fore go­ing into the over. Fresh chicken pieces or large pork chops are soaked in but­ter­milk, hand breaded and fried in small batches.

Fresh, tasty food served quickly, ei­ther by or­der­ing at the drive through or or­der­ing from fa­mil­iar staff at the counter. That’s what Jack Howard wanted when he opened Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuit 50 years ago.

Howard, who died in 2004, had worked at Gen­eral Mo­tors for 10 years as a plant safety di­rec­tor. He left in 1958, Phil Howard, Jack’s youngest son said.

“He was al­ways an en­tre­pre­neur,” Phil Howard said. “He would buy ‘brass hat cars,’ [cars owned by ex­ec­u­tives]. He would buy the cars and sell them. He got the first 1955 Chevro­let Bel Air in the United States. He kept it [hid­den] in the barn.”

Fol­low­ing his de­par­ture, he opened a restau­rant in Lake­wood Heights, but it failed. For a while, he went into the laun­dry busi­ness – and he started to make con­nec­tions.

In 1966, Howard met James and Sarah Ry­der, Phil said. “Sarah was Mamie’s daugh­ter. They operated that restau­rant un­til 1966. They told him they had a restau­rant for sale and I guess he wanted to do it again.”

So Howard bought Mamie’s, lo­cated at 968 Me­mo­rial Drive in At­lanta. Phil said the fam­ily, in­clud­ing his two broth­ers, Mike, the old­est, and Alan, the mid­dle child, worked at Mamie’s. Phil said he started at the restau­rant when he was 7 and was work­ing the counter by the time he was 9.

“Even­tu­ally, ev­ery­one worked in the restau­rant,” Phil said. Later, the Howard’s grand­chil­dren would also work at Mamie’s.

Howard, Phil said, had a plan. His idea was to keep our food the high­est qual­ity pos­si­ble and keep the price point as low as pos­si­ble,” Phil said. “He al­ways catered to the work­ing man — though we did serve other [peo­ple]. We served ev­ery­one from the gov­er­nor to ac­tors to pro­fes­sional wrestlers to coun­try western singers.

“My fa­ther said he wanted to take the same qual­ity food but with a fast food con­cept, with a drive-thru” he said. “We were drive-thru be­fore drive-thru was cool.”

Howard moved the restau­rant from down­town At­lanta to Litho­nia Plaza in late 1976, and it be­came a full ser­vice restau­rant, ca­pa­ble of serv­ing 250 peo­ple. He re­named the restau­rant Mamie’s Kitchen.

“I was work­ing some­where else at the time,” Phil said. “I left the com­pany I was work­ing for in 1977 and took over the restau­rant.”

For a while, Phil man­aged the Mamie’s in Litho­nia Plaza, be­fore his fa­ther sold the cafe­te­ria and opened Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuits on Evan’s Mill Road in Litho­nia in 1978. “It’s been here ever since,” he said. A SEC­OND STORE IN COV­ING­TON

The store on High­way 278 in Cov­ing­ton was opened by Howard and his son, Alan. When Alan died in 1991, Alan’s son, Adam, took over man­ag­ing the restau­rant. Later, Mike would take over man­age­ment of Mamie’s Kitchen. After Mike died ear­lier this year, Jack II, Mike’s son, and his wife, April, took over the store.

Phil took over the Evans Mill Road restau­rant in 1980.

“The one on Evans Mill Road is the old­est,” said Tammy Howard, Phil’s wife of 30 years. “The line is out of the door all day long. It’s a small place and it’s the busiest.”

Howard opened a sec­ond store in Cov­ing­ton — Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuits opened on Brown Bridge Road in Cov­ing­ton in 2000.

“The rea­son my dad named it Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuits, be­cause he wanted to dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from the [store] at Litho­nia Plaza. After that lo­ca­tion was sold, they opened the restau­rant in 278, fol­lowed by the Brown Bridge store,” Phil said.

Howard had opened a store in Cony­ers in 1982, which Alan and his fa­ther operated.

“In 1985, my par­ents bought a lit­tle piece of prop­erty in He­len,” said Phil. After Alan died, “my dad wanted ei­ther my brother Mike or I to move up to He­len, but nei­ther of us wanted to re­lo­cate. So he sold that restau­rant in He­len in 1991 and came back down and operated the Cony­ers lo­ca­tion. I was in Litho­nia and Mike was still in Cov­ing­ton.”

The Cony­ers store even­tu­ally closed, but Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuits is still go­ing strong in both its lo­ca­tions. CUS­TOMER LOY­ALTY

Tammy and Phil own the Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuits on Evans Mill Road in Litho­nia and Brown Bridge Road in Cov­ing­ton. It’s at the Cov­ing­ton restau­rant that Tammy dec­o­rated the seat­ing ar­eas, paint­ing the walls a dark red and adding art, knick knacks and plaques painted with mes­sages of wel­come.

Both Tammy and Phil say they are deeply ap­pre­cia­tive of their cus­tomers. Staff some­times rec­og­nize peo­ple pulling up in their cars and know­ing ex­actly what is wanted. Staff of­ten have the or­ders of reg­u­lar visi­tors ready to go even be­fore the visi­tor has en­tered the door.

The cou­ple is also proud that their em­ploy­ees stay with them. “We have some­one who has been here for 22 years, an­other for 20 and one for 15. Some (servers) come and to work. Two of them (staff mem­bers) have been work­ing at Mamie’s for 35 years, on and off,” Tammy said.

“It’s our em­ploy­ees,” she said about their restau­rants’ suc­cesses. “Cus­tomers come look­ing for some of our em­ploy­ees. Peo­ple come to see cer­tain em­ploy­ees be­cause they know their food. They want to come where peo­ple have been work­ing a long time.”

Phil agrees. “I think it does some­thing for the psy­che of the cus­tomer when they see long-term em­ploy­ees. Peo­ple want to come in and be treated nicely with good food.”

“Peo­ple have told us it’s changed their day, Tammy said. “We’ve had cus­tomers tell us that the only hug they get is when they come to Mamie’s. Some have said the only good morn­ing [they’ve] got­ten is at Mamie’s.”

“We’re hu­man; we’re not per­fect, but we’re con­sis­tent,” said Phil. “Peo­ple know when they come in the qual­ity will be A plus.”

Some cus­tomers, Tammy said, ate at the Mamie’s in At­lanta. Now, “their kids eat here. We’re watch­ing gen­er­a­tions come through.

“When you have folks who eat with us for so long, their food is ready as soon as they walk in,” she said.

There are some who en­joyed Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuits so much, they ask Phil and Tammy to have Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuits serve chicken and bis­cuits at funeral ser­vices.

“We even had one cus­tomer whose son put a chicken and bis­cuit in his cof­fin,” she said

Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuits, Tammy said, be­lieves hos­pi­tal­ity, long-time em­ploy­ees, great food and a de­cent price point are what makes Mamie’s a place peo­ple come back to all the time.

They also try to buy as much of their in­gre­di­ents as they can lo­cally. “We buy our break­fast meats from Holy­field Farms [in Cov­ing­ton]. “They make our sausage spe­cial for us.”

Phil and Tammy have been mar­ried 30 years. Phil, who had been a wid­ower when he met Tammy, had a daugh­ter, Amy, who was 3 at the time her mother died. To­day, she is 33 and lives in Chicago. The cou­ple had two more chil­dren – Me­lanie, 27, who lives in Win­ston-Salem, and Philip Ju­nior, 24, who lives in Ashville.

“They’ve all worked here,” Tammy said. “They’ve wiped ta­bles for ex­tra money.”

Though none of their chil­dren are in­volved in the busi­ness, Phil says Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuit is a typ­i­cal fam­ily busi­ness. “That’s why some of our em­ploy­ees have been with us for a long time. We love our em­ploy­ees.” CEL­E­BRAT­ING 50 YEARS

In honor of Mamie’s open­ing 50 years ago, the Howards – Jack II and April, who own the store on High­way 278, and Phil and Tammy – have held cel­e­bra­tions. Last week­end, DJs from Q92.3 ra­dio were on hand, and cus­tomers could en­joy free hot dogs and face paint­ing.

At the Brown Bridge Mamie’s Kitchen Bis­cuits, Tammy has al­ready had cus­tomer ap­pre­ci­a­tion events and will host more. The staff had also spent the first six months of the year cook­ing for a home­less shel­ter.

On Valen­tine’s Day, cus­tomers were given valen­tines that, when opened, re­vealed prize give­aways.

Spe­cial menu items are of­fered on some days. The day of the in­ter­view, the restau­rant had straw­berry cob­bler as well as the tra­di­tional peach cob­bler, and of­fered free vanilla ice cream.

This fall, Tammy said, “we’ll give away cuzzies [can in­su­la­tors], mugs, hats, shirts. “We ac­tu­ally started in Jan­uary, then Mike died and ev­ery­thing got crazy,” she said.

Give­aways, roll­back prices and other spe­cials and events will be an­nounced on Face­book at https://www.face­book.com/search/top/?q=M emies_20k­itchen_20bis­cuits.

“We have the shirts, and we rock!” Tammy said.

Phil laughed and said, “We’ll do an­other [cel­e­bra­tion] on our next 50 year an­niver­sary.”

San­dra Brands | The Cov­ing­ton News At Mamie's Kitchen Bis­cuits on Brown Bridge Road in Cov­ing­ton, An­gela Stan­ley hand rolls and flat­tens bis­cuits be­fore bak­ing them. The restau­rant is cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary this year.

Pho­tos by San­dra Brands | The Cov­ing­ton News

TOP: Mamie's Kitchen Bis­cuits cel­e­brates its 50th year in busi­ness. Own­ers Phil and Tammy Howard, back row far left, are proud that so many of their em­ploy­ees and cus­tomers have stayed with them over the years. The staff at Mamie's in­cludes, front row, from left, Daphne Mont­gomery and Brenda Phillips; cen­ter An­gela Stan­ley; and back row, Phil Howard, Tammy Howard, Ann Vines, Mariah St­inch­comb, Wil­lie Bask­ins and Cassie James. ABOVE: Mamie's Kitchen Bis­cuits built its rep­u­ta­tion on its hand-rolled bis­cuits and fried chicken.

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