When you see the big purple sign, you’ve arrived.
Momma Martin’s restaurant, which opened in June along West Roy Furman Highway in Rogersville, greets guests with that purple sign and a front door decorated in artwork by owner Kayla Martin’s daughter, Skilyr.
Skilyr is Martin’s reason for opening the restaurant.
“In November, she bumped heads with a little boy,” said Martin, a Greene County native who earned a degree in criminal justice from Waynesburg University. “She started kind of staring off. We didn’t really know exactly what was going on. We ended up finding out in January that she was having seizures. She missed eight weeks of school last year; she was in and out of the hospital. I was having to take a lot of time off of work.”
Skilyr was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy, and Martin needed flexibility not afforded by a full-time job to care for her daughter.
Martin had worked for six years alongside her mother Natalie Amos and grandmother, Patricia Whitlatch, at Burns’ Delight ice creamery, and fondly recalled summers spent doling out soft serve. When Larry Anderson closed up shop at the end of 2021, leaving his building along Roy Furman Highway fully outfitted for a restaurant operation empty, Martin’s husband Nate saw an opportunity.
“My husband, whenever he saw that this was for lease, he’s like, you seemed a lot happier when you were actually dealing with people ... as opposed to just sitting behind a desk. He’s like, ‘I think that was your happiest, when you were doing that’,” Martin said.
She did miss the conversations that came with scooping soft serve, and needed a job her kids could come to, so the Martins took a leap of faith. Lucas and Skilyr named the restaurant - they, and now Martin’s staff, call her ‘Momma’ - and Momma Martin’s officially opened its doors June 5.
The storefront offers a convenience section for folks on the go, and local high school teams often place online orders for pickup after practice. Martin said a wonderful group of gentlemen stops by nearly every morning for coffee and camaraderie.
“We have our 9 a.m. coffee crew. They come in, they’ll sit here for what, an hour and a half or so. So it is a community thing,” she said.
Community is what Momma Martin’s is all about. Martin offers everything from the coffee bar and breakfast pizzas (she’s working to perfect her own specialty ‘zah) to hoagies and pulled pork sandwiches.
Whitlatch, who regulars call “grandma,” whips up homemade desserts most days, and her secret chili recipe is a Momma Martin’s classic.
“Grandma’s Chili is a big one. She homemakes the chili,” Martin said proudly. “Then, of course, you know, we run specials here and there. We’ve been talking about doing family meals in the evenings, like pans of lasagna, that if they place an order ahead of time we can prepare and things like that.”
The ice cream section of Momma Martin’s harkens back to the owner’s Burns’ Delight days, and features hand-dipped hard ice cream in a variety of flavors and several funky specials, including the Momma’s Buster and Momma’s Delight, which is smothered in hot fudge, whipped cream and warm brownies.
“The Momma’s Delight is one of those things that when the kids are being really bad and you just want to go in the closet and cry and just eat ice cream, that’s what it is,” Martin laughed.
Momma Martin’s aims to be an inviting space. It’s clean, airy and decked out for fall, and for her kids, it’s home away from home.
“My kids do spend time here after school. They always are doing arts and crafts that we hang everywhere,” said Martin.
She hopes the community will join her for some of the events swirling about in her mind. Martin hopes to host holiday dinners, so oil and gas workers away from their families have a place to enjoy Thanksgiving, and movie nights or other family gatherings that will bring Rogersville and surrounding areas together.
Martin is also considering selling local artisans’ wares in her storefront.
“I’m all about supporting other people. I want to help other local businesses get their names out,” she said. “When it comes to communities, we have to be in this together.”
The community has shown up for Martin, but opening a business toward the end of a global pandemic is not without its challenges. Supply chain issues and inflation have made the journey bumpy.
“I want to keep things low because of the community that we’re in. I don’t want to price things too, too much to where people can’t afford it,” Martin said. “But at the same time, I’m starting to realize that we have to adjust things to be able to stay open for the community.”
Stay open and, of course, raise awareness for epilepsy.
Staff shirts are in the works, and will feature purple, the color of epilepsy awareness.
“I really don’t think that we would’ve done this had Skilyr not started having seizures. I did like my job,” Martin said, but “it is all about my kids, honestly. So we chose purple just because of the awareness.”
Folks are welcome to drop by for snacks to go, or grab a table and stay awhile between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Momma Martin’s is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends.