Pictured left-right: Angela Bradford and Cindy Metteauer
Photo by Katherine Gurley
Under the big blue roof
Many sky-high dreams come true
By Katherine Gurley
Angela Bradford and her husband Kevin rely on family traditions as much as they depend on fresh catfish to operate their Appleby Sand Mercantile Café. Angela runs the blue-roofed restaurant a mile north of Loop 224 on Appleby Sand Rd.
Open for dine-in or take out Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the restaurant also features a buffet on Friday evenings, 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
There’s a lot more than lunch and dinner available at this FM 2609 hot spot.
Cindy Metteauer bakes custom cakes in Grand Central Station Cakes. Calin Rodgers runs the High Maintenance Salon. Burl Evans claims a real estate office. Nearby is the Bradford’s self-storage rental facility.
“Kevin handles the storage facility business, but if asked what he’s up to these days, he likes to answer, ‘I’m the busboy for my wife at the café,’” Bradford said.
The Bradfords found inspiration from both sides of the family tree to begin and build on their diversified business plan.
“Kevin’s family has Nacogdoches roots going back several generations,” Bradford said.
Kevin’s father Earl Bradford managed J.B. White, a department store that was located on East Main St. between what Schmidt’s was then and JC Penney. He formed a partnership with Jess Morris to open Bradmor Fabrics in Corsicana, Paris and Lufkin. Earl also helped organize Security National Bank, now part of Regions Bank.
Angela Bradford’s vision of the Appleby Sand Mercantile Café came from her grandmother. “I wanted my restaurant to remind me of Sunday dinner at grandma’s house,” she said. To Bradford, the food she has served for eight years is a “going-home” type food that brings back memories. The café’s specialty is fried catfish. “We season and fry our catfish fresh,” Bradford said. “None of the food we serve here is pre-cooked.”
The café’s success has been the catalyst for more ventures in other locations. Bradford started the Arcade Blast – an old-time ice cream shop and pizzeria - in downtown Garrison three years ago. At the same time, she opened the Frontier Café in downtown Timpson, providing home cooking and gifts. “I plan on expanding with more restaurants,” she said, but not by creating a franchise. “I don’t plan on doing that. I still want to have that family atmosphere.”
Bradford said the café grows and changes daily. Once a solo operation, it now employs four. She takes pride in her success, but also keeps a level perspective.
“People said I couldn’t do it, but I knew as long as I put God first, family second and work last, I would be just fine,” she said. “I started with four tables, and now I have a whole restaurant and more.” And it seems she’s not done yet.
Bradford plans to open the Cotton Belt Bank Garden Café in Timpson in May. Situated in a 110-year-old building, the outdoor patio café will serve her popular fried catfish, grilled steaks and more home-style favorites. Also on the drawing boards is a café in Lufkin, set to open in June.
In addition to the restaurants, Bradford runs a boutique in the Appleby Sand Mercantile Café building. “I sell different items from the latest fashion to trendy jewelry,” she said. “Everything here is reasonably priced and is the same brands sold in town.” Bradford’s boutique items range from cowboy hats to jewelry to pocket knives. She sells Arbonne cosmetics and skin care products, as well as Advocare.
Bradford loves the relationships she has with her customers. “This is the most rewarding job,” she said. “I’m still excited to come to work every day, even after eight years. I wish everyone had the opportunity to love work as much as I do. I feel as if my customers are a big family.”
An honored customer’s praise can be the ultimate restaurant review.
“To have an 83-year-old woman tell me my cooking tastes just like her mother’s tells me I’ve hit a home run.”
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The Appleby Sand Mercantile Café is located at 6530 FM 2609. Call (936) 559-5151.