[caption id="attachment_166526" align="alignright" width="300"] Mrs. Lacy’s Magnolia House owner Faye Schulz.[/caption] What makes a visit to Grandma’s house so special? Is it the smells imprinted in our memories? The shelves
What makes a visit to Grandma’s house so special? Is it the smells imprinted in our memories? The shelves lined with antiques and framed snapshots? Or is it the fact that it’s there, in their carefully curated homes, that they pass down stories, lessons, recipes, and so much love?
Mrs. Lacy’s Magnolia House in Sanford feels just like Grandma’s house because owner Faye Schulz is a grandmother — and she named her popular lunch spot after her own grandmother. She turns into the driveway of the old Victorian house just before 5 a.m. It’s too dark to see the flowers out front, but in a few hours, diners will be greeted by the sight of blooming azaleas and the sweet scent of miniature gardenias. Faye’s husband, Tom, and grandson Chad Potts have already gotten started on today’s menu items. Tom is in charge of the sides, boiling the pasta for macaroni salad and prepping the potatoes for the beloved stuffed potato special, while Chad gets started on desserts.
Like any proper tearoom, Mrs. Lacy’s has an abundance of homemade sweets. With his blue “Lee County Cook-Off ” apron tied around his waist, Chad works on one of the stars of the 13-dish dessert menu: Hershey bar cake. He was 14 years old when his grandma first taught him how to bake the layered devil’s food cake finished with white icing and shaved Hershey bars. “After about two or three weeks of a couple failures, burnings, and being extremely slow icing the cakes, I started out doing about two a day,” Chad says. More than 20 years later, he makes 10 cakes in the two and a half hours he spends in the kitchen every morning. “Who else gets to say they’ve spent every day with their grandparents for the past 20 years?” he says. “You learn through example and watching others, and [my grandma] is the perfect example of that. I get to see these people go in and bust their tails every day and earn an honest living.”
Faye opened Mrs. Lacy’s almost 30 years ago with no restaurant or professional cooking experience. She was a medical worker on her way to the hospital when she noticed that the house at 405 Carthage Street was empty. A thought crossed her mind, one so serendipitous that it must have come from above: That would be a great place for a tearoom or a little lunch restaurant.
Having spent her entire life in Sanford, Faye knew the woman who owned the home. She paid her a visit that day. The two women sat on the porch — which is now, beneath sprawling ferns, the most coveted seating area of the restaurant on spring afternoons — and agreed that the 1902 building would be home to Faye’s tearoom.
Originally, her plan was to name it the Magnolia House, a nod to Faye’s childhood on her family’s farm, where she was charged with raking the magnolia leaves. But as she was preparing to open the restaurant, another serendipitous thought came to her: I’ve got to name it Mrs. Lacy’s, after Grandma. And on December 5, 1995, a line of people stretched from the porch of the charming white house all the way around the block for the first lunch at Mrs. Lacy’s Magnolia House — and has for practically every lunch since.
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In Sanford, Mrs. Lacy Jones Loggins is a household name. She was an early socialite, a member of the town’s garden club, and a volunteer at the Red Cross. She always dressed in furs, gloves, and heels, even sporting a mink hat into her 80s. Mrs. Lacy was a staple at Grace Chapel Church, which she helped start and where she taught Sunday school for 40 years.
Mrs. Lacy had 15 children and spent every Sunday with her family at church. Faye has fond memories of going to Grandma Lacy’s house for lunch after services. She looked up to her grandmother. Mrs. Lacy’s elegance, warmth, and faith were values that Faye admired and grew to embody.
With her restaurant, Faye is able to keep the memory of Mrs. Lacy — always pronounced Miss Lacy — alive.
In the Cameo Room, a glass case displays a collection of vintage teapots. Faye has found some of the pots, others — the ones with painted roses on white porcelain — were Mrs. Lacy’s. On the shelves below the teapots sit photos of regular customers who’ve died. Faye points to a picture of an older couple. “This was a pastor and his wife.” Then to a group of women in matching red sweaters, smiling for the camera. “This was a little ladies’ club with all of the prominent women in town. They came every year for Christmas.” Then to another couple. “This guy was a pilot, and so was his wife. They had their own private plane and flew everywhere, even to Europe!” Each photo has its own story, and Faye remembers each one.
As the owner of Mrs. Lacy’s Magnolia House, Faye is often mistaken for her grandmother, but she’s never been bothered by that. “She was a remarkable woman,” Faye says. “She walked with a bounce. She was always happy, always smiling. She had tons and tons of friends and the kids loved her.”
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Walk into Mrs. Lacy’s Magnolia House, and the first face you’ll see is Faye’s. Her rosy cheeks accentuate her bright smile, and her 5-foot-2 frame seems to fill the foyer of the house — and it is still a house, so don’t be surprised by the claw-foot tub in the bathroom. Servers wearing T-shirts with “Shortcake & Jesus” emblazoned on the back whip around corners balancing platters of chicken salad, quiches, and croissant sandwiches, but Faye’s attention is all yours.
“She always smiles,” Faye’s youngest daughter, Jamie Champion, says. “She always taught me to look at the positive.” If someone is sick, Faye sends them home with extra food. If someone is going through a hard time, she prays for them. And “if you want a hug, you get a hug,” says Jamie, who is almost as big a presence at Mrs. Lacy’s as her mother.
On Saturdays, little girls wearing dresses with tulle and matching bows follow their mothers into the tearoom. Chad, who helps wait tables on Saturdays, sets down a teapot at each table with a mother and daughter. Generations of women of all ages gather around the cloth-covered tables. Some are celebrating birthdays or other special occasions. Some may miss their own grandmother’s cooking. Some may have lost a loved one, and Faye will sit with each of them. It’s at these tables in this old house where stories are shared, lessons are learned, meals are savored, and everyone is loved.