The first time Westminster resident Margaret Mary Case ate breakfast at M.O.M.S., the food was great. So she returned last week for the breakfast special, which that day was two eggs cooked to order, bacon, toast, juice and coffee, for $2.
"This is a wonderful place," Mrs. Case said.
The small restaurant and bakery -- its full name is Memories of Mom's Sweetness Old-Fashioned Baked Goodies -- is in a hard-to-find site at the rear of 69 W. Main St., behind Harry's Lunch, fronting on South Alley.
But customers have begun to seek it out, responding to their friends' descriptions of cherry, apple, sweet potato and shoofly pies at prices ranging from $5.50 to $8. Then there are the cheesecakes, pound, Texas sheet, double chocolate, carrot and red velvet cakes at prices from $8 to $12.
Owner Marie Dorsey had not planned to open a restaurant and bakery. She was busy enough managing a residential cleaning service with four to six employees and taking care of four foster children. The idea grew from a conversation with a young friend in Mrs. Dorsey's Liberty Street neighborhood.
"Miss Marie, why don't you sell this food?" asked 13-year-old Angie Groomes.
"Oh, Angie, nobody would buy what I bake."
Angie proved Mrs. Dorsey wrong. The teen-ager went out one weekend and returned with $200 worth of baked-goods orders.
Mrs. Dorsey said, "WHAT did you do?" Then she called her sister Patricia "Jackie" Diggs to help, got out the flour and sugar and turned on the oven.
Mrs. Dorsey's 31-year-old son, Tony, had always told her, "Mom,you could sell these pies."
Last fall, the timing was right. She had learned that some of the foster children might be returning to their birth mother. "So I said, I've got to do something. I threw myself into this," she said.
Mrs. Dorsey opened M.O.M.S. in mid-November. The name was to honor her mother, Florabelle Tyler, who taught her to cook when Mrs. Dorsey was a child growing up in Mount Airy.
Mrs. Diggs described her role in her sister's restaurant as, "She's the cook and I hand her the ingredients."
Mrs. Diggs also is the breakfast and lunch waitress. Angie helps wait on tables Saturday nights, the only evening the restaurant is open for dinner. Mrs. Dorsey's husband, Herman, who is disabled, helps with the foster children.
Mrs. Dorsey said she wants the restaurant to provide basic American dishes. She does some low-cholesterol cooking and can make sugar-free baked goods.
"I don't make things fancy," she said. "They won't come here and say, 'Look at that beautiful cake.' They'll say, 'I know it's homemade.' "
Mrs. Dorsey emptied her savings account to start the restaurant and bakery in a leased building. She has seating capacity for 13, and could squeeze in a few more customers but doesn't want to sacrifice the homey atmosphere that was part of her goal. She mixes cakes by hand because a new commercial mixer costs $2,900. A used mixer costs $900 to $1,000, but the few available go quickly.
Mrs. Dorsey's business is getting started as the Greater Westminster Development Corp. is working to revitalize city businesses.
R. Douglas Mathias, GWDC executive director, said he plans to meet with Mrs. Dorsey to "say hello and see if there's anything we can do to assist her."