Deciding on a name for her own diner was a family affair, according to Chellee Wiebe and her daughter, Janae.
“We wanted to name it after Grandma,” Janae said. “She was the most loving person ever.”
“Grandma” was Shirley Mae Higinbotham, who died four years ago.
Wiebe was born in Oklahoma, and her relatives there called her mother Aunt Mae, so that name seemed appropriate to honor her, she said.
Aunt Mae’s Café opened in November at the corner of Main and Freeborn streets in Marion. It is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week except for holidays.
“I’m taking every holiday off,” Wiebe said. “I haven’t had Mother’s Day off for 20 years.”
Wiebe has spent most of her working life as a waitress. Her first job was at Soda Jerking Establishment in Wichita at age 14. She later worked at Savutes for five years, where her boss taught her how to waitress and tend bar.
“I loved it,” she said.
After waitressing in various other establishments, she moved to Hillsboro in 1996 to babysit her daughter Jasmine’s two children while she attended college.
Most recently, she worked at Cindy’s Café in Marion. Four years ago, she became the cook after health problems sidelined the owner.
One day, her fiancé, Henry Ethem, asked her, “Would you work as hard for yourself as you do for everybody else?”
She eagerly said “yes,” so he bought the former Mom and Pop’s Café and turned it over to her. It seats 16 people.
“I own the building, but she owns the business,” Ethem said. “I have the littlest café in the county, but I have the best cook.”
Wiebe said she works at preparing healthy food from scratch. She uses olive oil on the grill and avoids canned produce, focusing on fresh or frozen vegetables. French fries are fresh cut. Every morning, she bakes pies and cinnamon rolls.
Daughter Janae is her main waitress, and Ethem is her handyman, washing dishes and helping wherever needed.
“He’s our ‘Guy Friday,’” Wiebe said. “He does it all.”
“I’m learning to cook,” Ethem added.
Wiebe said the business is doing well, although January has been a slow month. She plans to expand the menu in February.
“When I cook, I’m in my own little world,” she said. “Nobody tells me what to do. I just do my own thing.”
The couple plans to marry in April.