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Dotty's: She's back again

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Dotty's: She's back again

Dotty Manns has retired and said goodbye to Dotty’s Cafe twice in the past 20 years, but the love for her community and restaurant is what keeps her coming back over and over again.

“I love every single person that comes in the store,” Manns said. “They've made my life really full.”

Drawings by two boys in the neighborhood are taped on the front door of Dotty's Cafe

Drawings by two boys in the neighborhood are taped on the front door of Dotty's Cafe. The dad of the two boys worked at the cafe when he was younger. "That's a big change when you think how long ago it was that their parents were here working and now they're here with their kids," Manns said. "That's how I know I'm old. I don't feel old, but I am."

Manns is a cherished figure in Hartsburg for bringing more to the plate than just food. With her cheerful presence and the home-like feel of her restaurant, she brings comfort, family and community together all in one place.

Timothy Bullard, an Ashland resident, grew up around Hartsburg and still frequently visits Dotty’s Cafe after church on Sundays.

“It's not just good food and good service," he said. “The coffee and the conversation, sitting around family and friends and people coming and going is really the atmosphere that people come to Dotty's for.”

Dotty Manns stands in her kitchen while making food

Dotty Manns stands in her kitchen while making food Feb. 22 at Dotty's Cafe in Hartsburg. Manns has retired twice from running Dotty's Cafe, but the restaurant building hasn't sold. "I've leased it [for] a year, two separate times and with the option to buy because they thought they wanted it," Manns said. "But I was prepared if they didn't."

Manns and her husband, Jerry, opened her restaurant in Hartsburg in 1996. After a few years, the couple decided to close and retire so they could travel.

But when that didn’t happen, Manns wanted to open it again. So she did in 2004. Two years later they moved Dotty’s Cafe on 35 E. Main St., and the restaurant has been there since. 

Manns has leased out the building to her restaurant two separate times over the years. Yet when the renters didn’t buy it, she stepped up to the plate once again this year.

“I was prepared if they didn't,” Manns said. “So they left Dec. 31, and we were open Jan. 1st, and we were swamped.”

Sharon and Ed Bullard and their daughter, Cindy, sit after eating breakfast

From left, Sharon and Ed Bullard and their daughter-in-law, Cindy, sit together over coffee after finishing breakfast Feb. 23 at Dotty's Cafe in Hartsburg. "It's just a family owned restaurant and family environment," Dotty Manns said. "I want them all to feel comfortable and like they're coming to the house to eat."

But the restaurant’s reopening couldn’t have been possible without the help of Mann’s family members. Her daughter, Susie Barner, is a cook. Her niece, Sherri Lee Thomas, and Manns’ sisters, Joy Whitener and Katie Kingery, work as waiters and cashiers. Two of her grandsons, Lucas Chaney and Hank Johnson, are dishwashers.

“We were all really happy that she was back and we all jumped in and helped again,” said Lee Thomas. “She's like my second mother so I just do whatever I can for her.”

Susie Barner, left, and Dotty Mann's work in the kitchen of Dotty's Cafe

Susie Barner, left, and Dotty Manns prepare orders from the kitchen of Dotty's Cafe on Feb. 23 in Hartsburg. Manns said due to her age and health-related reasons she needs to sell the building to officially retire.

Manns’ previous attempts to retire come with a reason as she grows older and realizes she can’t keep this job forever. As her sisters admit they are getting older as well and everyone in the family, including them, have full-time jobs, the probability of Dotty’s Cafe staying in the family is small. Manns still has the building on sale for someone to buy. 

An unfinished puzzle lies on a table

An unfinished puzzle lies on a table in Dotty's Cafe on Feb. 23 in Hartsburg. Manns said they leave the puzzle out for customers. "They just come in and sit down and work on the puzzle, just for fun," she said. "Everybody is just like our family. We love them and we think they love us ... I know they love us." 

“It's hard for her to do that because of the support that she has from her family and the community,” said Whitner. “And it'll be a sad day for her again when she does it.”

Sherri Lee-Thomas, Dotty Manns niece, rearranges the chairs and tables

Sherri Lee-Thomas, Dotty Manns' niece, rearranges the chairs and tables after hosting a big group of customers Feb. 23 at Dotty's Cafe in Harrisburg. Lee-Thomas has been helping out Manns on and off since she first opened the restaurant in 1996 at the old location. This time around, "Dotty just said, 'Hey, we need somebody. Can you help?' I said, 'Absolutely. Always,'" Lee Thomas said. 

Until someone comes along to buy it, Dotty’s Cafe will stay open in Hartsburg during the weekends so long as she is able to do it, she said.

“I mean, I'm busy, but I still love it. I'm tired, but I love it,” Manns said. “And if I could be younger and start it all over again, I would do it all again.”

Dotty Manns and daughter Susie Barner laugh while cooking in the kitchen

Dotty Manns, left, and her daughter, Susie Barner, laugh while cooking in the kitchen of Dotty's Cafe on Feb. 22, in Hartsburg. "I love every single person that comes in the store," Manns said. "They've made my life really full."  

  • Staff Photojournalist, Spring 2019 I am a junior studying convergence journalism. You can reach me at savc59@mail.missouri.edu

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