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For Co-op member Mary Hecker, mornings are full of possibilities. Before many of us have even gotten out of bed, Mary is entering her restaurant — Tony’s Sausage House in Dover — welcomed by the ding of the front doorbell and her devoted staff, all eager to get into the kitchen and begin preparing for the day ahead. They can count on the usual breakfast rush, when the restaurant will be packed with the familiar faces of their regulars stopping by for a cup of coffee and Tony’s signature dish — a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich. Lunchtime promises a busy time, too, with people stopping in to take a break from their daily schedules, grab a bite to eat and say “Hi!”. Most days you would also find staff coordinating pickups for numerous catering orders they have received. The one thing you would see no trace of is boredom.

People start their own businesses for a variety of reasons. Those beginning careers in the food industry may have a passion for cooking or enjoy the challenge of a demanding work environment. For Hecker, the desire to have her own restaurant was  practically a family trait.

“My mother is one of 18 children, and most of her siblings run restaurants, delis, ice cream parlors or catering halls, so as I was growing up, I was always helping,” Hecker says.                                                             
Her time spent in various kitchens owned by family, as well as working in restaurants as a teenager, fostered in Hecker a love for work within the industry, along with a dream of opening a shop or restaurant of her own. The end goal was a coffee house — a venue that would serve as a hub within its neighborhood. After working at the University of Delaware for 18 years, Hecker decided it was time for a change, and her pursuit to make her dream a reality found its opportunity when the building and business for Tony’s Sausage House came up for sale. In purchasing Tony’s, Hecker reaffirmed her affinity for the restaurant business, but also found an added bonus in meeting and creating long-lasting connections with many of her patrons.                                                                                                                                            

“My favorite part of the job is getting to know people,” Hecker says. “Although I am definitely a people person, I did not necessarily expect that to be my favorite part. I originally wanted to have the feel of a coffee shop. It’s kind of like Cheers, where people know you.”

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