Simply Suzanne’s Café at Spencer’s Blue Ridge Airport is adjusting its hours for NASCAR drivers flying for races.
Regular cafe hours are 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, and 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. During the race, the cafe opens at 8am and stays open until the last plane leaves.
Suzanne Shemro has been running the cafe for about seven years. Customers are about 50% locals and 50% people arriving by air, she said. Although he gets clients from all over, there was a group from Connecticut recently. “We give them a place to fly their planes to…sit down, have lunch and go home,” Shemro said.
The cafe also has businesses flying into the area to order food to take with them on the flight home. This can range from cheese and cracker platters to sandwiches.
“Anything you can cook, I can relate to,” she said.
During NASCAR races, traffic for coffee is a little different, she says. It serves various racing drivers as they fly over the duration of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and the night hours of the race cause the late hours of the cafe.
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The presence of the pilots also brings their fans, she added. People come to the restaurant, even those who couldn’t attend the races, just to see the drivers, and the airport parking lot, terrace and lawns fill with fans trying to catch a glimpse.
In fact, the race car drivers, the jets and big planes flying through them, and all the pretty nighttime lights draw quite a few people, and “it’s kind of crazy,” Shemro said.
However, she said, she does not know where all the spectators will go this year as the airport is currently under construction with a new road, an elongated runway and ramp and a new building where a new restaurant will be set up. These renovations are being carried out under a federal grant.
Instead of worrying about a loss of business from a new restaurant, Shemro said, “it will be a good thing.” She added that the airport as a whole is the first impression for anyone visiting Martinsville, and that “the impression must be excellent”.
She said the upgrades and additions are a step in the right direction to make the area “bigger and better”.
Before her cafe, there were other people who tried to run a restaurant there, but they weren’t successful, she said. There used to be a buffet that operated on Fridays and Saturdays, but in 2010 Patsy Kendrick Quesinberry, who ran it, died.
Since then people have been in and out without success until Shemro, who was working at Chatmoss Country Club at the time, was asked to help.
She helped them, but then was asked if she wanted to take over because they “weren’t going to make it,” she said.
She added that “although it may have fallen on her,” she had experience as a waiter, worked in kitchens and had always enjoyed cooking.
She gave the reason for her success where others failed to her patience and willingness to make sacrifices to make things work.
This unique restaurant sits right against the airport ramp where people arriving by plane can simply walk to the restaurant. In addition to hosting race week drivers and teams, they also have party and catering calls.
Their menu includes: flounder, chicken tenderloins, burger steaks, barbecue, fries, tater tots and a special changing Sunday plate. Last week there was a Thanksgiving-inspired meal with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and this week there was beef brisket with roasted red potatoes.