• 81°

A Family Affair

COAL GROVE — Connie Harrison fries a hamburger and passes it to her sister, Mary Delawder, who covers it in a paper wrapper for a waiting customer.

“You’ve got to hurry and get your customer’s (order) out,” Connie said. “People don’t like to stand and wait, so we’ve got to be quick.”

Over the course of about 30 years, it has been this way for the siblings who have worked side-by-side at L&J in Coal Grove. The women started working there as waitresses when they were teenagers.

“Most families fight,” Connie said. “We’ve never really done that. We don’t have that problem. We’re a big family.”

Besides the two sisters, their family includes eight other brothers and sisters.

For years, the two worked for owner Leroy Pauley, who also owned several others like it in the area. The sister’s remember Pauley as a pleasant, but strict man.

“He was a very nice man if you did your work but he would let you know if you didn’t,” Connie said.

Mary echoed Connie’s sentiment.

“Back when I started, if you saw him you started working hard,” she said. “We still catch ourselves talking about him sometimes.”

The two became business owners in 2008, after Pauley died. They, along with Mary’s husband Kenny, bought the dairy bar from Pauley’s daughter.

Mary said the decision to buy the business was easy because she had worked there all her life.

“We thought well, we’ll give it a try,” she said. “We knew it was a good business because it had been here all this time.”

Kenny Delawder remembers when his wife told him that she was interested in buying the business.

“She came home one day and said they’re going to sell it,” he recalled. When she asked what he thought about buying the business, it didn’t take him long to decide.

“I said, ‘Sure,’ ” he recalled. “I had her to run it. I thought it was a great opportunity.”

Kenny Delawder has worked at Iron City Hardware for about 20 years. Since becoming one of the owners, Delawder has started working at the restaurant part time.

One of the first things the new owners did was remodel the building.

New walls and siding went up and a new floor and menu board was installed.

“We basically just did a new makeover of the whole thing,” Connie Harrison said.

They also purchased new ice cream making equipment and a freezer.

The exterior of the building had been red and blue but the family switched it back to its original orange and white.

“It was really run down,” Mary said of the business as it was before.

The family has always added new dinner items to the menu. The business now serves hot dinner dishes like chicken and dumplings.

There’s a different dinner special for each day of the week.

While many things have changed about the dairy bar over the years, the family credits their customers for their constant support.

“You learn to know your customers,” Mary said.

The number of customers increased following the renovations, Kenny said.

“It’s really picked up,” he said. “We cleaned it up and people have responded and we sure do appreciate that.”