By Colleen Mahoney

Keeping family together is important to Dawn Rowland, as is giving her community a place to gather. So much so, that she opened Rowland’s Country Kitchen in Great Valley.

In the same location as the former Sandy’s Bakery, Rowland’s Country Kitchen brings back a place for residents to come together while giving Rowland some much needed family time.

Staffed by Rowland, her husband Steve, and their three children, Steven, Clayton and Allison, the restaurant currently serves breakfast and a wide array of baked goods. Within the next few weeks, Rowland would like to have a lunch menu set and eventually offer a fish fry on Fridays. For now, however, she’s focused on building her new business with her family by her side.

“I wanted us to be together, to do something with the kids,” Rowland explained. “[My kids] play football and basketball, so there is a lot of running them around. We just try to get in a little family time.”

Of course, having her children working beside her has its benefits. Rowland said that while working in the new family business, her children are learning valuable life lessons, including real responsibility and money management.

“It helps teach the kids the responsibility of having their own money, having their own job,” she said. “It’s their personal choice … if they want to get their own job somewhere else, that’s fine. But I hope this does teach them something.”

Rowland spends her nights baking pastries and donuts after attending the children’s sporting events.

On Wednesday through Saturday mornings, she and husband Steve work in the restaurant, working around their full time jobs.

Thankfully, she said, the community has been very receptive to their hectic family schedule.

“I think they realize we’re just locals trying to keep things local,“ she said of her customers.

Rowland credits the previous proprietor, Sandy Rust, for getting Rowland’s Country Kitchen open. From working with her to get the building and teaching her a few recipes, Rowland said working with Rust was a big help. And the new business is still relying on the familiar feel of Sandy’s.

“We wanted to bring Sandy’s back – that local, small place where you chat with the folks at the table next to you,” Rowland said. “It’s just something simple, and our customers have said it’s nice to have it back.”

For the first week she was open, Rust helped Rowland with baking, and although Rowland has been on her own since, she has the OK to call Rust whenever she needs help.

At first, being on her own was tough, Rowland said, but she’s getting the hang of it.

“One day a shelf broke and all the plates fell into some icing I had made, so I had to remake all that,” Rowland laughed.  “There are quirky little things like that.”

In addition to some of the menu items, the interior decor is still looks like Sandy’s, which Rowland hopes will draw the locals back in. In the future, she expects to update the decor and flooring and add some “corny little things” to make it more her own.

“I have a lot of plans, like featuring a donut of the month, or holiday-oriented items — the kind of fun stuff that keeps people interested. Things will morph as we move forward,” Rowland said.

She’s also running some promotions to encourage people to visit the restaurant. For example, on the second Saturday they were open, football players and cheerleaders from area schools were given a discount.

Looking back, Rowland credits the loss of a job last year to helping her open her business (she’s since landed another job). A trip to Salamanca with her father-in-law prompted the idea, which then took on a life of its own. Nine months later, she opened Rowland’s Country Kitchen, which Rowland jokes is her “baby.”

“We named it that … because your kitchen is where you kind of do everything,” Rowland said. “You throw a gallon of milk on the table, have your coffee and talk. That’s what this is.”

Rowland’s Country Kitchen, located at 4707 Reacher Road in Great Valley, is open Wednesday-Saturday from 7- 11:30 a.m.