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Joe Momma’s Kitchen closes doors in Marietta

Sara Sauls shows thank you notes Wednesday morning that the restaurant received after delivering meals to seniors during the COVID lockdown last year. (Photo by Michele Newbanks)

MARIETTA — Marietta’s Joe Momma’s Kitchen shut its doors Wednesday, but not without hugs and thank yous from customers.

“The great service, the great food, the friendly smiles, I could go on and on,” said long-time customer Brenda Watson of the restaurant and its staff.

Lowell residents Sara and Eric Sauls opened the restaurant in 2014 at the Christian school in Oak Grove and moved to the Frontier Shopping Center three years ago.

As customers trickled in, Sara made sure to thank each one and give them a big hug.

“We can’t put our finger on one thing,” she said of the closing. “It’s a combination of a lot of different things.”

She said the biggest thing is that they haven’t been able to get to the point where they pay themselves enough money.

“We’ve been struggling and struggling and trying to pay ourselves a little more and trying to pay our employees a little more, but we can’t get enough ahead,” she said. “I think that’s our biggest reason.”

She said right now, it’s hard with COVID and not knowing if they would be shut down.

“We are kind of paycheck to paycheck and knowing we’d have to close, that was hard on us,” she said. “I’m not saying that’s an unreasonable expectation. I know we have to keep everyone safe. That was another hurdle for us. After you jump so many hurdles, you just can’t jump anymore. So that’s kind of the place where we’re at.”

The Sauls have several catering events scheduled through the end of October, then they will be hitting the job market.

“I’m a nurse, but I’m not 100 percent sure I’m going to work as a nurse,” Sara said. “We’re just waiting to see what God has in store for us.”

The couple made sure to help the community, even when things were difficult for them. During the six weeks of lockdown last year, they would deliver dinners to seniors around the area.

“It started and took off so wonderfully,” Sara said. “We had so many volunteers that would come in and pick up the meals and deliver them. We went as far as Parkersburg, Barlow and Bartlett and outlying areas.”

She said Jeremiah’s Coffee House started helping and then the O’Neill Center got involved.

“We had the three groups and between all of us … there were 6,800 (delivered dinners) for Joe Mommas and 10,000 between all three,” Sara explained. “That was one of my best memories here. It’s sad something negative has to happen for us to see something so positive. It was an amazing experience for Eric and I to see so many volunteers use their own cars to deliver and were willing to make a difference in our community.”

The servers also gave all of their tips to organizations for causes such as suicide prevention, Alzheimer’s and cancer awareness.

“We even helped purchase a dog for a girl who has autism,” Sara said.

They gave to a different organization every month until COVID started, donating about $45,000.

“Thank you. I’ll miss you! Thanks for coming in today,” she told a departing customer.

Two Marietta College students stopped in for a hug and a carmelita before the doors shut for good.

Mercede Webb, 21, of Beverly, said her mom works at the courthouse and always talked about the restaurant.

“Since the first time she brought me in here, I’ve been hooked,” she said. “We worked at Ely Chapman’s summer camp and we’d come in here every day. We love this place. The staff here knows everyone.”

Carlee Kernodle, 21, of Chicago, agreed.

“I originally came here. I play on the lacrosse team at Marietta College and the coach worked with Sara and we came in as a whole team one night to eat. It was just our team and it was really fun. We could get to know her, and the staff here. We hung out and ate food and it was fun.”

Sara said one of the things she struggled with on their last day is not seeing long-time customers as often as she has.

“They’ve all become such an important part in our lives that it’s sad,” she said.

Sara showed a large frame containing more than 100 hand-written notes. She said they were from senior customers and their families who wanted to show their appreciation for the lockdown deliveries.

She explained it was a “cool thing” for them to get the notes, but getting a hand-written note was special and meant something more.

“It’s been a great experience,” Sara said.

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