Thursday, September 20, 2012
Aunt Effie’s Restaurant in Ringgold has been going strong for 27 years with the help of many longtime staff members.
The cooks and waitresses work like a family, with cook Nannie Lou Sampson, 89, being the longest-serving staff member.
“I’ve been cooking at Aunt Effie’s for 27 years,” said Sampson, adding that she joined the team two months after the restaurant opened and never looked back. “I retired from the textile industry and got a call from someone here asking me to come to work.”
Restaurant co-owner Jim Cox said he enjoys working with Sampson.
“Lou is very modest, but she is the backbone of the business,” said Cox. “I’d be lost without her. At almost 90 she is still working and will probably be here when I retire.”
Sampson works three days a week and fills in other days as needed, cooking in the kitchen from 8 a.m. until 2 or 3 p.m.
“I just feel like I can’t give it up,” she said. “Owners Jim and Janie Cox have become like family.”
Sampson’s daughter, Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce President Martha Eaker, said she likes to eat at Aunt Effie’s.
“Mother always says the key is to never stop,” said Eaker, adding that she is amazed at how healthy and active her mother is. “Mother loves working here. I don’t know what she’ll do when she retires.”
Sampson said she has always liked to work and loves working at Aunt Effie’s because the owners are good to the employees.
“I like making chicken and dumplings,” said Sampson. “It takes three and a half to four hours to make. I make peach cobbler all the time. We all make the vegetables together.”
She said the restaurant offers 12 homemade vegetables daily, including turnip greens, lima beans, butter beans, new potatoes with parsley, squash casserole, hashbrown casserole and more.
“I’ve always enjoyed cooking for family and friends at home,” said Sampson, adding that she also loves cooking with Stacy Harmon and Karen Clark in the kitchen at Aunt Effie’s. “I get up every morning at 6:30 a.m. I like to stay busy.”
Sampson said she eats mainly fruits and vegetables and walks a lot to stay healthy. She survived a heart attack in 1996 and decided to live a healthier lifestyle from that point on.
“My doctor really encourages me to keep working because it’s good for me,” she said.
Sampson will turn 90 Nov. 3. She still drives but said she runs on one tank of gas for three weeks since everywhere she goes is close to her home in Ringgold. Aside from her cooking job, Sampson is also an active member at Pine Grove Baptist Church in Graysville.