A business risk pays off for this favorite Chester hangout.
Nearly 15 years ago, Connie Hissam was looking for a bigger kitchen for her catering business when she—and her bank—took a chance on a restaurant venture in her hometown of Chester.
Hissam approached the owner of a downtown restaurant about a partnership that would allow her to use the kitchen facilities. She knew the space already. Years before, she had been a waitress at a previous iteration of the restaurant. Hissam also knew the owner was struggling to make ends meet.
The arrangement worked so well that Hissam ultimately approached the owner about buying the space outright. “I went to the bank and I borrowed the money on my reputation alone,” she says. “And I took a big chunk of money because this is on a big corner lot. I can’t believe that they gave it to me.”
But what may have seemed like a risky business move at the time has worked out for Hissam. She rebranded the restaurant Connie’s Corner, and it has become a local favorite for its made-from-scratch food and a still-booming catering business.
Hissam describes her restaurant as one of the few places around that still peels its own potatoes. “We do everything homemade here, everything comes from scratch.”
The restaurant’s most popular item is its soups, with kitchen staff making 40 to 60 gallons of three soups each day. “We make it year round,” Hissam says. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s summer, winter. We’ll sell soup no matter what. People call every day and ask, ‘What soup are we having today?’”
And then there are the sandwiches. There’s standard fare like turkey, roast beef, and meatloaf, but if you’re feeling especially hungry, try the triple-decker Connie’s Club. It’s topped with ham, egg, cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. “It’s a very well-liked sandwich,” Hissam says
The menu also features a selection of appetizers, fresh salads, and chicken and fish baskets. It’s all served on brightly colored Fiestaware—made just down the road at the Homer Laughlin China factory—with a side of local charm. “We have locals, locals, locals all the time,” Hissam says. “It’s just like everybody talks and everybody’s family. That’s just the way it is here. Everybody knows each other. We have the same people that come in every day and everybody looks forward to seeing everybody.”
This spring, Hissam plans to celebrate paying off that bank loan. “Fifteen years later we’re almost ready to have a mortgage- burning party out on the sidewalk,” she says. “The catering business just took off. And it grew and grew and now it’s phenomenal, and the restaurant does fine. It’s still a small hometown restaurant where everybody knows everybody and it just worked.”
256 West Carolina Avenue, 304.387.0770, “Connie’s Corner” on Facebook
written by Lori Kersey
photographed by Nikki Bowman