Roxzanna Duncan finds passion in restaurant and motherhood

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Roxzanna Duncan finds passion in restaurant and motherhood
Strawberry pie is a popular menu item at Duncan's Diner

Duncan’s Diner is known for its homemade pies. The strawberry pie is popular among customers.

Hannah Duncan, a junior at Prairie Home High School, was among 15 students who participated in a project with Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow Nico Gendron to learn about writing and reporting on their own communities. Duncan’s story was selected as a finalist in a contest among participants. Her photo story about her mother, Roxzanna Duncan, and two other winning stories are being published in the Missourian. You can read more about the project here.

In 2014, David Duncan took over the only diner in Prairie Home.

Roxzanna Duncan balance managing a diner with motherhood

Roxzanna Duncan co-owns Duncan’s Diner with her husband and is a mother to three children.

David Duncan had worked as a chef there for 19 years, so when the owner was ready to give it up, the landlord asked him to take over the business.

Duncan and his wife, Roxzanna, became co-owners. Not too long after they took it over, Roxzanna became the face of the restaurant. Roxzanna Duncan, 44, juggles the business and her responsibilities at home.

Roxzanna was the oldest of three children and set an example for her siblings. She got a job at McDonald’s as soon as she turned 15. Duncan used her money to help support the family, often paying the bills and buying groceries.

Roxzanna Duncan works in the kitchen of Duncan's Diner

Roxzanna Duncan is often found in the kitchen of Duncan’s Diner but also waitresses and welcomes customers to feel at home in the diner.

She worked her way to a managerial position and had a taste of being a leader and teacher of her trade.

At Duncan’s Diner, the kitchen is Roxzanna Duncan’s natural habitat. But in the diner, you might find her serving food one day and cooking the next. Regardless of her role, she is making an impact on her customers.

Roxzanna Duncan talks with customers

Roxzanna Duncan gets to knew her customers and makes them feel at home at her diner.

“Roxzanna is one of the most considerate people I have ever been around,” said Glenda Sells, a diner regular. “She always knows if I’m in a good mood, and she knows how to make me laugh. She knows what I want, and she is right there no matter what. I’ve seen her watch other people and is very alert on what everyone needs and is right there for them.”

Roxzanna Duncan manages five employees at the diner.

Mandy Winslow works with Roxzanna Duncan at Duncan's Diner

Mandy Winslow is one of five employees who works with Roxzanna Duncan at Duncan’s Diner. Duncan says Winslow keeps her going, even on her most tiring days.

“I like having my own business,” Roxzanna Duncan said. “It is tiring sometimes; it is stressful; but it’s always rewarding.”

Beyond her work at the diner, she is a mom to three kids — Mason, 23, Austin, 19, and Hannah, 17.

Roxzanna Duncan cuddles a stray cat

Roxzanna Duncan claimed to not want another pet — she already had three at the time — but she still took in an abandoned cat. “I was told there was a little bitty cat outside, and we weren’t supposed to have any more cats,” she said. “I went out to see anyway.”

“I love being a mother,” Roxzanna Duncan said. “Because there is nothing that can compare to the feeling of having your children around you, joking with them and helping them grow. Also, showing them the right way to be: a good, decent person.”

Roxzanne Duncan peels potatoes

Roxzanna Duncan peels potatoes for family dinner at home after a full day of work at Duncan’s Diner.

After working all day, Duncan comes home to cook and provide for her family. She takes time every day to be with her kids.

Roxzanna Duncan winds down with a book

Roxzanna Duncan reads a book in bed. “I have been reading since before I can remember,” she said. “My mom used to read to me all the time when I was little, before I was able to understand the words and my love for it has grown and grown. There is not a day that goes by that I am not reading as much as possible.”

“I enjoy both,” said Roxzanna Duncan about which she enjoys more, family or business. ”They are fulfilling in different ways. I get a lot of satisfaction out of my work making people happy and helping in the community; but I would give it all up in a minute to be with my kids and husband. They mean everything to me.”

Roxzanna Duncan goes to bed

Roxzanna Duncan heads to bed by 8 p.m. every night. Her alarm goes off at 4 a.m. to start her workday which usually lasts from around 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., though some days are much longer.

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