Christine Abney is living her dream along with the help of her cousins, Brooke and Timber, having opened Chrissy's Country Cousins Cafe in the Richmond Mall.
Born and raised in Dreyfus in Madison County, Abney describes her menu like she would describe herself -- country.
"We are country cooking, we are country as cornbread," she said. "I am country but I treat everyone the same."
Having worked as a cook at the Kingston Shell for the last several years, Abney says she got the structure of her menu from them, selling a lot of pasta, deli sandwiches and home cooked meals of the day.
At Chrissy's Country Cousins Cafe, comfort food lovers will find favorites such as fried potatoes, chicken and dumplings, breaded tenderloin and soup beans to name a few.
Everything they make is home cooked with Abney hand rolling her dough for the favorite chicken and dumplings.
"I just love entertaining, interacting with people and I like to cook," she said. "The way you love to eat food, I love to cook it and share it with people. My grandmother loved to cook and you never left grandma's without eating."
Before the family's cafe, Abney worked two jobs at the Shell and the furniture store inside the Richmond Mall and worked seven days a week for 10 hours a day.
"I was just tired of working all of it and this place became available and I have always wanted to own my own cafe. I just never thought it was possible to do that because it is so expensive to get up and get everything started," she said.
When the space became available, Abney started moving things around financially to make it possible to pay the down payment using her 401K to help finance her dream.
She took over what was formerly Mommy and Poppy's restaurant, which only lasted three months in the location.
"I hope to outlast that at least," she laughed.
When describing the process of opening her own business, she said it was "stressful" with all the high-priced documentation that comes along with it, having paid over $2,000 for licenses.
A round of inspections followed the permits with health inspectors and fire marshal visits.
After passing those, it was time to decide on a name, which she said she didn't want to be all about her.
"Because it isn't all about me, I couldn't do this all by myself," she said. "So my cousins agreed to help out and work with me and they have been a gem. I couldn't have done it without them."
And although the beginning was difficult to get it up and going, Abney's favorite part of opening her own business has been the people.
"I have met so many new people that I normally would not have come across and we have our regulars already which I love. I mean they feel like family," she said.
This, she said, prompted the cafe's slogan, "Greet you with a smile, and feed you like family."
Abney said one of their most popular items is the turkey club sandwich with turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise or ranch, colby jack cheese on wheat or white bread with a side and drink for $6.
"We sell more turkey clubs and hot ham and cheese sandwiches than anything else," she said. "The soups, which are served on Thursday, rotate and do something different 'cause we don't want them to be burnt out on anything."
The family serves $5 breakfast meals with options of pancakes, eggs, hash browns, fried bologna, bacon and omelettes.
For lunch, she has hot dogs, BLTs, cold cuts and build your own sandwiches that can be heated or toasted.
Most popular is the $7 lunch specials with a meal of the day. On Mondays, she serves breaded tenderloin with two sides and a drink. Other options throughout the week include meatloaf, chicken and dumplings, soup and tuna patties.
She said she set reasonable prices with all meals under $10 because other food options around were more expensive.
"When I was working here in the mall, you couldn't get a meal for under $8 or $10," she said. "Our meals are the prices of their kids meals."
The cafe is even hosting a Valentine's Day gift basket raffle with gift donations from other stores in the mall, including a manicure, a balloon bouquet and jewelry to name a few. As of now, the gift basket has a $150 value.
Chrissy's Country Cousins Cafe plans to set up a private dining area to giveaway a free dinner for two with lights, flowers and chocolate covered strawberries.
Each time a person eats at the cafe, they can put a ticket in the raffle for a better chance to win.
The raffle will run until Feb. 10 with the drawing to be held the following day.
Looking to the future, Abney and her family say they hope to continue to stay open and hope to add additional items to the menu.
But for now, Abney says she enjoys being her own boss and working alongside her family who she says gets along great.
"I enjoy it and I am my own boss, and we all get along great," she said. "We are family. Sometimes working with family can be difficult, but I am blessed and I have a great family."
Chrissy's Country Cousins Cafe is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are located inside the Richmond Mall at 830 Eastern Bypass Suite 328 in Richmond. For more information, call 859-358-5080 or visit https://www.facebook.com/pg/chrissyscountrycousinscafe/about/?ref=page_internal.