FOR CAROL RODENROTH AND HER TWO DAUGHTERS, SABRINA HENDERSON AND TONYA SWINT, THEIR DINER, SUE N CAROL’S, KEEPS THEIR FAMILY CLOSE AND THEIR CUSTOMERS HAPPY
by FERNANDA HERNANDEZ
For some, the definition of family extends only to blood relatives who perhaps share some of the same physical and personality attributes. For Carol Rodenroth and her two daughters, Sabrina Henderson and Tonya Swint, the four walls of Sue N Carol’s restaurant have kept their own family closely knitted, while also expanding the union to every customer who walks through their door.
Inside Sue N Carol’s diner, a family member is found in every person who arrives at this homey, Coca- Cola themed diner, sits in a bright red chair, and orders sweet tea along with a chicken fried steak, or perhaps a patty melt. The experience of dining at Sue N Carol’s begins as soon as one steps foot inside this quaint diner. The senses are awakened by the familiar chatter of friends and the delicious smells of a southern kitchen. However, the experience is merely beginning. Carol, as well as her daughters and employees, some of whom have worked here for over 20 years, pride themselves in treating every new and returning customer as if they were an old friend, taking care of them each time they visit their establishment. “Our customers truly feel like they are eating at home. Here you are not just a number, or just another customer. These people mean more to us than that,” says Carol.
This locally-owned Texarkana restaurant has withstood the test of time with the help of women who truly embody the definition of a family bond and extend that love and care to every single person with which they come in contact. This legacy which began more than 40 years ago is continuously carried out inside Sue N Carol’s diner. Once a customer has made their way inside the diner, not only can they expect a finger-licking good meal or a piece of freshly baked pie, but can also be sure to be greeted by the smiling faces of a family dedicated to preserving a family tradition and serving the community of Texarkana. It’s no surprise this charming diner has been described by customers as “a pillar of the community.”
Sue and Carol’s diner began as a vision by Carol’s mother Sue, who purchased a small restaurant in downtown Texarkana in 1974, and executed her dream into a successful reality. When she bought Dee’s Diner, she changed the name to Sue N Carol’s. “My mom asked me what we should name it, and I said your Sue, and I’m Carol, let’s call it Sue N Carol’s,” she recalls. Sue, a Fouke resident and southern cuisine enthusiast, dreamed of creating a place in which people could enjoy a delicious meal while still being welcomed as a part of a family. “She started out in a service station in Fouke cooking hamburgers,” Carol remembers. “She was a good southern cook.” Sue’s love for cooking and family led her to create a business that would allow her to cook to provide for her loved ones, while also being able to enjoy time with them, thus creating Sue N Carol’s restaurant, a family run operation which would allow her to do all three.
The debut of the diner began in Texarkana on East Broad Street. The success garnered by this first location allowed the family to move in 1975 into the heart of the town inside the popular Grim Hotel in downtown Texarkana. “Downtown was pretty cool back in ’75; during that time, there were still many stores to shop in, near the hotel,” recalls diner owner, Carol. However, because of the small kitchen at the Grim and customers wanting more lunch options, Sue decided to move to their current location on 938 North State Line in 1980. Carol’s mother was able to design the look of the diner, from every inch of the kitchen, all the way to the front door. The look of the diner has been updated through the years by Carol who has decorated in a Coca-Cola theme with decorations brought to her by customers. “People bring me stuff all the time, and I put it around the diner. It makes it really special,” Carol said as she pointed to a vintage Coca-Cola truck sitting on one of the red shelves in the dining room.
This family-operated business thrives due to the closeness of the family. “My daughters know how to keep this place running when I’m not around, and one day when I’m not here, I hope they will keep the place going, like I did for my mom,” says Carol. The restaurant has become much more than just a place that serves food; it’s created bonds between locals. Moreover, it has created an atmosphere in which Carol’s family can feel at home and share time and meals together. Grandmother of eight (#9 is in the oven!), Carol, shares meals with her family at the diner. “In the past, we did a Christmas potluck here every year, and we all got together,” says Carol as she looks through old photographs. Though the diner is only open to the public Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., this family is able to use their restaurant to make long lasting memories.
Sue N Carol’s diner which evolved from merely a vision, into a fruitful business, serves freshly prepared food to the community of Texarkana. As the years pass, and the pages fall from the calendars, a few aspects of the diner remain unchanged: the love with which each meal is prepared, the hospitality once you enter the door, and the bond of the family who keeps the wheels spinning. “I lost my mom two years ago, and with her gone, it is hard. But, I want this place to succeed because I feel like I am honoring her, and continuing something she started and built for us,” says Carol. “I love working with my daughters.”