Kamara Heier stood at the front podium of SunShine Cafe Muncie. She watched customers come in and helped them pay out. The cafe wasn’t new to her; she’s been working on and off there for the last 14 years.
She’s also not the only one in her family who does. Her mother, fiancee, sister and niece work there too.
“I always call this home,” Heier said. “I’ve branched out [to other jobs] and ended up not liking it. Couple of other times, I left and tried to do other things, and [it] just didn’t work out.”
Her mother, Ronda Sweat, has been working there for 18 years and is the head cook. At first, she just needed a job, Sweat said, but she has stayed because she likes the people working there and gets along with them, especially owner Jarrod Buck.
Buck was originally a mechanic but took over at SunShine Cafe Muncie when his dad wanted to retire. His dad wanted to hand the business over to someone he could trust and knew the cafe was going to be taken with care.
“My dad did an amazing job here,” Buck said. “I mean he worked his butt off and built relationships with customers, and that kind of stuff gives good service.”
SunShine Cafe Muncie sits at 3113 N. Oakwood Avenue and started in 1972 as a Waffle House. Twenty-five years ago, Buck’s father made the decision to change the Waffle House into SunShine Cafe Muncie, and the cafe has been in the same location for 50 years. Buck said the decision to change the name came from wanting to get more people for lunch and dinner.
At a table in the front corner of the room at 1:18 p.m., Sandra Ellis and Dallas Ellis were eating the Monday special — a plate of cornbred, ham and beans. They come here a couple times a week, oftentimes on Mondays.
They’ve been coming, “since it existed,” Sandra said with a laugh, “because I love it.”
She described several things at the SunShine Cafe Muncie as wonderful: the people that wait on you, the food and the service.
“And we all hug and kiss our customers,” Cheryl Schut, a waitress, said as she rushed toward the table, giving Sandra a hug.
For Gayle Skowronski, another customer, Schut is her favorite waitress because she has “great compassion,” Skowronski said via email. Schut is often referred to as the “crazy cat lady” due to her love of cats.
Skowronski comes in one to four times a month, she said via email, and she found the cafe while driving around Muncie.
“[It] just feels like a comfortable, welcoming place,” she said via email.
Skowronski’s favorite thing about the cafe is the “friendly” staff and manager.
Sandra agreed. She said the wait staff is friendly and doesn't make you wait longer than you have to. When the food comes, she said, it is how she wanted it.
“It’s our favorite Muncie restaurant,” Skowronski said via email, “and when we take our grandkids out separately, two say it’s their favorite too.”
On their Facebook page, the cafe has 1,300 likes and 1,400 followers. It showcases food items including beef and noodles, french toast, breaded tenderloin, pancakes, waffles, country fried steak, BBQ pulled pork and fries, spaghetti bogo and other items.
Their rating is a 3.9 out of 5 on Facebook, a 4.5 out of 5 on Grubhub and on MenuPix, it is 4.8 out of 5.
The Muncie Visitors Bureau describes SunShine Cafe in Muncie as “a well known breakfast and lunch hotspot with a wide variety of home cooked meals. [It] feels like Mama comes there everyday just to cook for you, down home cooking and family friendly.”
Ball State students get 10 percent off of their order at SunShine Cafe Muncie.
When asked what makes SunShine Cafe different, there was a slight pause between Sandra and Dallas.
“Well, they take your stupid jokes,” she said to Dallas across the table, referring to his sense of humor.
Dallas also agreed SunShine Cafe Muncie is a good place to eat.
“The employees’ attitude[s have] a lot to do with it,” he said. “They’re usually really nice, joke with you and everything.”
For Heier, she said there is a bond built with customers at the SunShine Cafe Muncie, with the employees aware of what the customer wants.
“We’re very family-oriented … We’re really into customer service …,” Heier said. “We always want to make sure [our] customers are taken care of.”
Customers are what makes a business, Buck said. At SunShine Cafe Muncie, it’s not just repeat customers. He said they have parents bring in their kids, who then bring in their own kids. Buck referred to it as “amazing.”
At one point, a customer near the door joyfully came up to Buck and shook his hand, with Buck recognizing the person and engaging in the exchange with the same enthusiasm.
“We’ve been here so long that a lot of the employees know a lot of the customers … and we will call them by their name, and they will call me by my name,” Buck said. “… It’s just knowing people, like that personal connection, you just don’t get that at a regular restaurant.”
Contact Elissa Maudlin with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @ejmaudlin. Contact Angelica Gonzalez Morales with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @angelicag_1107.
The Daily News welcomes thoughtful discussion on all of our stories, but please keep comments civil and on-topic. Read our full guidelines here.