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Some sass with your biscuits?

Flo's celebrates 25 years of pouring on gravy and sarcasm

 

Emily Robinson is all smiles after 25 years at the grill. - Roger S. Lucas photo

Emily Robinson is celebrating 25 years at the helm of Flo's Cafe.

She describes herself as "sarcastic," but in reality, she is friendly and her customers, for the most part, love the insults she casts at them.

The cafe has gained some fame from far and near.

A New York Times columnist had dropped in at Flo's some years ago while in the area hunting. The reporter was captured by the rows of hunting caps and coffee mugs. This was all shared with Times readers.

"I had a reporter from the Portland Oregonian, who wrote that Flo's was a small town cafe that big cities try to emulate but can't," Emily says.

Her acerbic comments are just a way to have fun, she says.

"I tried one day to be very polite and said 'please' and all those nice things," she says. "And my regulars said, 'We want the other Emily back.'"

It all started 25 years ago April Fools Day, in 1990, when Emily and Pat Neiberbing, who waited tables together at the Wildlife Restaurant, decided to purchase Flo's Cafe from Flo Storey.

"Pat had asked me, 'Can you make soup?' I said 'sure,' everyone knows how to make soup. But I didn't tell her that I didn't know how to cook," Emily confesses.

She spent three days in the kitchen with Flo, and the rest is history.

After about five years, she purchased Pat's share in the business and still uses the same menu.

Emily likes to name certain dishes after some of her regulars. "These are pretty hot items," she notes.

The cafe has become quite successful. The term "regulars" might apply to those who live locally and show up at 5 in the morning (she opens at 5:30), but also to those who come to the area from different places to hunt and fish.

"I remember one little boy who started coming with his parents when he was about 5, and he's still coming," Emily says.

The menu hasn't changed much. And regulars help serve the coffee and even clean off the tables.

Look for a bit of sass, from the chief sasser, Emily. "I just have fun," she claims.

Once in a while the sass creates a problem, like once when a woman didn't like the gravy. "She was giving me a bad time at the counter, and I finally had to tell her to shove off," Emily recalls.

But most thrive on the bittersweet comments.

Her daughter, Molly Egbert, said her mother has always been like that.

The regulars might some day soon have to adjust to a different type of greeting. Emily has the business for sale.

"I want to take it easy, and someday sell my home and go to Salem so I can be close to Molly," she said Monday.

But it's celebration time at Flo's, 25 years of some kind of fun.

"We will start out next Monday with drawings for so much off of your meal, and continue this through Wednesday when we will have a cake," Emily says.

But the rule still applies to regulars, who pour their own coffee and help with the refills.

Some of her highlights include the time she made an offhand remark about shaving her head. The idea took root, and Emily said she would have her head shaved if the community would match her $2,000 for the Meals on Wheels program. The community did, several times over, and true to her word, the hair was eventually gone. It took about six months to grow back.

If she sells, the good times will only be memories. She will always remember her regulars, who at one time advised, "Don't piss her off, she's in a good mood," she says.

The whole idea of a 25th anniversary celebration was pushed by daughter Molly, who said she wanted it to be a surprise. But you don't keep secrets from Emily.

Wanted: A sarcastic person who serves good grub, and believes in treating customers right. Apply with money, at Flo's Cafe in Grand Coulee!

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