By Sheryl Oswalt
Family Affair Restaurant at 148 W. Main Street in Mendon is celebrating a first anniversary this month.
But the location is anything but new to Roxanne Underwood, who operates the business with her son, Steve Noel.
Roxanne graduated from Vicksburg High in 1981. From 1982 to 1996, she waited tables at Family Affair in the Main Street location while her mother, Val Cook, operated the restaurant. After Steve was born, the restaurant sometimes doubled as his daycare. You might say he was born into the business.
After the restaurant closed, Roxanne moved on to other employment, including working at Main Street Pub. It was there that she met Dianna Cardosa, who would become a waitress at the reincarnated Family Affair from opening day.
The site on Main Street had been vacant for years when Mendon offered $10,000 for façade improvements. This was the push that Roxanne and Steve needed to take on the challenge. What they expected would be a six-month project turned into three years, leading to an opening December 10 last year.
While Roxanne handles the business end, son Steve keeps the kitchen running smoothly. Roxanne was proud to say that her son Steve has always been a worker, starting with a paper route in 7th grade.
It was a job at Fink’s Butcher Shop & Deli in Vicksburg that got him interested in cooking and food preparation. While at Main Street Pub, Roxanne was able to get him a job in the kitchen, working his way into the position of kitchen manager for 10 years.
Also helping since his graduation from college is another son, Nolan Underwood, working as a server and dishwasher until he finds something in his field of study.
As we did our interview, the lunch crowd ran a little later than usual; Roxanne had to jump in to help. I overheard her conversations with patrons, all wondering about her health and asking how soon was her surgery. I had noticed her penciled eyebrows and black scarf but hadn’t wanted to pry.
I pried. Her response was heart-warming. She was recently diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. At first she kept her situation a secret, until her loss of hair was no longer something she could hide.
Having been so worried about what people would think if she didn’t have hair, she soon learned she had nothing to fear. She had built a family of patrons in Mendon that cared for her and didn’t care if she had hair or not.
The love and support of her clients has been so overwhelming, she said, that she hasn’t missed her hair or a day of work. Her positive attitude is very evident. She added that her friend and co-worker, Dianna, has been a great source of support; Cardosa will be celebrating 10 years cancer-free on January 10. Having a friend that has gone through the same thing has been very helpful and comforting for Roxanne.
You are sure to find the patrons and staff at Family Affair very friendly. Family Affair is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Breakfast is served all day and is a big draw. Round-table regulars and other guests can choose from set daily specials along with burgers, soup, salads, sandwiches, wraps and baskets. Something more unique is its flatbread offerings. Steve’s white chicken chili is something that people often take home. The restaurant has a strong carry-out business.
Family Affair will be celebrating its first anniversary on December 10. With surgery for Roxanne scheduled for December 7, how they will celebrate is still up in the air. But she wants to make sure it’s something that will give back to a community that has been so supportive of the restaurant and her family.