When Schemika Manley’s father died, she wanted to give her mother a reason to get out of the house.

After years of owning and operating restaurants in Wayne County, Manley returned to the business with Mary’s Diner in downtown Goldsboro. She said it was a way for her mother to get out of the house, but it was also a way for Manley to return to the business.

Famous for serving up Southern home-cooked food, Mary’s Diner is returning to its roots.

A decade ago, Manley said the restaurant was known as Mary’s Drive-Through and was located on U.S. 117 in the Mar-Mac area and later on Berkeley Boulevard. Since then, Manley has found herself involved in the business one way or another. While the restaurant tried several different things over the years, there was one recipe Manley’s customers always wanted: steak sticks.

“Everywhere we would go, people would say they wanted us to bring the steak sticks back,” Manley said. “So, we decided to open another (Mary’s Drive-Through) on Berkeley Boulevard.”

“I’ve been asked so many times for the recipe, but we can’t give that out.”

Nearly three years ago, Manley said Mary’s Drive-Through closed for a period of time. It wasn’t until recently that Manley decided to get back in the business after her father died. In November, she opened Mary’s Diner on Walnut Street, where she works with her sister and mother.

Manley said she is glad to be back in the business and is happy to see some of her favorite customers. She said there are some people who have followed the restaurant since it was on U.S. 117.

Mary’s Diner is located at 115 E. Walnut St. and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant serves a variety of Southern home-cooked food, with daily specials ranging from fried chicken, smothered pork chops and country fried steak to baked goulash, chef salads and fresh, homemade burgers.

Rose Conley has followed the restaurant to every location and keeps coming back. She said she always loved the steak sticks and onion rings, which were a staple of the diner from its drive-through days. When the restaurant opened in November, Conley said she ate at the diner nearly every day.

“It’s always good food, good service and good people,” Conley said. “It’s prepared when you come here. It’s not sitting out under a light.”

Owning and operating a restaurant is not without its challenges, however. Manley said she knows she can’t please every customer but she tries her best to accommodate them. She said she has even considered moving, since there were some complaints about parking spaces and her customers are often older in age.

“I try my best to please everybody,” Manley said. “Everything is freshly cooked here. We don’t have anything just sitting out. I try to express that to my customers when they come in.”

“Customer service is everything in a business. If you don’t have great customer service, your business will not last.”

Manley said she has added a lunch menu for customers who are on the go and is even toying with the idea of implementing a breakfast menu. She said she wants to have something for everyone to enjoy.