ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Not every community eating establishment has its own mission statement, but The Big Scoop in Marion does.
In fact, owners Luci and Amy Helmer display it prominently on the wall: “To provide fun, food and fellowship to our friends-those who now are and those who have yet to walk through our doors.”
But customers aren’t the only ones having fun. The Helmer mother-daughter team says they are, too.
The restaurant, located across from Central Park and the Marion Historical Museum and Central Park, is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday.
All items on the menu are offered for lunch or dinner throughout the day. For customer convenience, The Big Scoop has drive-through window service and take-out.
Amy said the favorite items on the menu have to be “the good old hamburger and cheeseburger.”
The deli sandwiches “like turkey or ham and cheese” and chicken salad are also popular, according to Luci.
The sampling of sandwiches offered ranges from classic hamburger variations to chicken, steak, cheese, pork fritter, fish, hot dogs and bacon-lettuce-and-tomato.
Sandwiches can be ordered individually or are available as a basket combination with french fries and a drink.
A variety of side orders are available, from cheddar crisps to breaded pickles. Hard and soft ice cream as well as shakes, malts, floats and banana splits round out the dessert menu.
Prices range from $1.25 for a single hot dog to $5.70 for a Double Bacon Cheeseburger basket.
But the printed menu is just the beginning of what this dynamic duo has to offer. Many other items and specials are available.
“We sell a lot of chef salads for $4.25,” Luci said.
Thursday’s special is Philly steak or Philly chicken; Saturday’s special is shrimp; and Sunday’s special is chicken-fried-steak dinner.
Amy’s journey as restaurant owner has taken five years.
“I started out when I was in high school, waitressing,” she said. “Then I moved to cook, then to manager.”
When the former owners of the Big Scoop offered the restaurant to Amy, she came to her Mom for help. Luci said she initially discouraged Amy.
“I’d never done anything like (running a restaurant),” Luci said.
But all the pieces fell into place and she agreed to buy it with her daughter.
“I figured God wanted it to happen,” she said.
The two steadfastly dealt with first-year problems such as equipment breakdowns and repairs.
They celebrated their first-year anniversary in April and happily report a smoother-running second year.
The customers are the ones who make the mother-daughter team smile. On any given day of the week, 12 cars are in the parking lot at 8 a.m.
“We’re closed at eight o’clock in the morning, but I’ve got all these guys who want to come for coffee,” Luci said. “So if we give them coffee, we might as well fix them breakfast.”
Each of the morning coffee-group members has his own coffee cup hanging on a rack in the restaurant.
“It’s home cooking-they eat what I cook and they don’t have a choice,” she said. “So every morning they come in. I cook something, they eat, have their coffee, have a good time, they leave and I lock the door.”
Luci chuckled as she recalled one morning, before the restaurant was open, when a stranger walked in because he saw all the cars parked outside. He sat down and said. “Well, I think I’ll have some pancakes.”
The coffee group stared at the stranger, Luci said. Finally, one of the members said, “Well, you can order pancakes, but it’s going to look like an omelette and it’s going to taste like an omelette.”
This same group returns to their table each day at 1 p.m for coffee. At 2 p.m., another group comes in to replace them. When they leave, a third group arrives at 3 p.m.
During the winter, the menu expands to offer homemade soup specials prepared by Amy. They also offer homemade pies years round.
“I’ve become quite the pie maker,” Amy said. “My home economics teacher would be proud of me.”
Amy’s three homemade pies- blueberry, cherry, and apple-are available daily.
The soup and pie recipes come from family or friends. Despite customer’s pleas, the Helmers won’t give away any secrets. Customers simply have to come back for more pie, and that’s all right with the owners.
A banquet room at The Big Scoop holds 25 to 30 people. If meals are catered by the restaurant, use of the room is free. For meetings, the charge is $15.
The present decor is eclectic 1950s style with tin signs adorning the walls.
As for the future, Amy hopes to redesign the interior to reflect a more traditional ’50s diner, including black-and-white-tile floors and chrome furniture.
Luci said she would prefer a “country” look.
The two joke about their differences of opinion and plan to change the interior when they agree on the motif.
Painting the exterior is also on the docket when they find the perfect color.
Treva Kerbs, Marion, is one of The Big Scoop regulars.
“We like the atmosphere and meeting friends down there,” Kerbs said. “Usually one (friend) comes in, and two come in, and there’s just usually a group of us that eats together.”
Another regular, Sylvia Winchester, also from Marion, said: “I love it down there. It’s all good food. I love the hamburgers and that salad they have.”
Luci is quick to say the best thing about their place is socializing with customers and having good employees.
“Our customers and employees are like family-they sit down and tell us their problems,” she said.