TRENTON, Ky. — With each new day, Trenton Market and Café owner Yvonne Hope tries to offer something new for her customers.
Since buying the business, formerly Hoover’s Grocery, three months ago, Hope said she has changed the menu significantly. She offers certain dishes each day — mostly burgers and sandwiches — but has added daily specials that change each week and more entrees.
Hope cooks everything from scratch and has tried to put more vegetables on the menu, selling dishes made with locally grown produce. She serves a catfish special on Friday and fried chicken on Saturday, and hopes to add ice cream to the menu in the near future. She said she has also tried to improve the quality of the restaurant’s meat and bread for burgers and sandwiches.
“I’d like to keep modifying and evolving, changing whatever,” Hope, 58, said. “Everyone seems to like how everything is made from scratch. It’s fairly simple cooking.”
Hope does most of the cooking in the restaurant. When she first took over the business, which also sells grocery items, she had to work in the kitchen, wait tables and cash out customers at the main counter. She now has a few waitresses helping her out, mostly friends from around the area.
“If I didn’t have my friends, I don’t know where I’d be,” she said. “I was doing some long days.”
Hope worked previously as a cook at Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., but was laid off in May 2009. She looked for a new job for more than a year, but couldn’t find anything that suited her.
“The job atmosphere right now is just deplorable,” Hope said. “My age was the biggest factor. I would find something that was 10 hours a week or far away from me. I thought if I can’t find a job, I better take what money I have and buy one.”
Earlier this year, Hope, who lives in Ashland City, Tenn., with her husband, Roy, answered an advertisement on Craig’slist from Jerry and Arlene Hoover, the business’s former owners who were looking to sell. Hope traveled to Trenton to meet the Hoovers and see how the business ran.
“I thought the area had a lot of potential,” she said. “It isn’t a huge town and there are a lot of people moving through. The people seemed very friendly.”
Hope has already had a long career in the food business. She grew up on a farm in Maryland and learned to cook from her grandmother. She said she had a big family and had to cook many large-scale meals when she was young.
Hope went on to work in several fast food restaurants and later opened a restaurant of her own in Keedysville, Md. She also worked as a personal chef in Nashville.
Hope said she never went to culinary school, but has learned a great deal from having so many cooking jobs.
“I have worked under some great people so I learned a lot,” she said. “When I was that age, you didn’t go to culinary school. I wish I had.”
The business is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day except Wednesday, when Hope closes at 4 p.m., and Sunday, when she doesn’t open. She commutes an hour from Ashland City to open the shop, but plans on buying a house in Trenton soon. When she does, she plans on opening at 7 a.m. Hope has many new dishes she plans on cooking for the restaurant. She wants to keep trying new things in the kitchen and offering more options for customers.
“I get bored pretty easily,” she said. “If I have something that everybody likes, then you keep it. If you have something that isn’t going so well, then you move on to something else.”
Christina Bradberry, who works as a waitress at the restaurant and has for three months, said it is hard to get Hope out of the kitchen sometimes. On some days, Bradberry said, Hope will say she is going into the store’s office to do some paperwork. After a few minutes, though, Bradberry said Hope will still be hanging around, unable to tear herself away from cooking.
“She’ll walk around and say the same thing three more times and not go,” Bradberry, 32, said jovially. “I have to tell her to get out of my kitchen. So then she’ll go and get something done.”
Reach Dennis O’Neil at 270-887-3237