If you need catering for 8 or 800, Lori Metcalf, owner of Lori’s Eats and Sweets, is the go-to person in Gilmer, Longview and just about anywhere in the East Texas area. “I can’t remember a time in my life when I was not fixing food for people or helping my mother,” says Metcalf. Lori’s mother, Ann Brown, began her career in catering by creating beautiful cakes and treats for weddings. As the desire for more elaborate food became vogue, Lori began to help, and eventually, her own catering business evolved into the successful business it is today. Metcalf states, “I have been in the food industry my whole life. In high school, I worked at Dairy Queen and after graduating, I worked at Piccadilly Cafeteria, which used to be in the Longview Mall, as the salad manager.” From the cafeteria job, Metcalf became the Gilmer Junior High cafeteria supervisor. While working at the school, First Baptist Church of Gilmer approached her about working there as the director of food service.
“I’ve loved every job I’ve ever had,” said Metcalf. “Food is a very social and important part of our lives,” she goes on to say. “It can bring people together and is usually the centerpiece of celebrations and meaningful gatherings. I love being part of that. I love feeding people.” It was this love of food and people that prompted Metcalf to open Lori’s Eats and Sweets. “I was not cooking every day at the church and felt led to do more - to feed more people,” she said. So, on Labor Day of 2007, Lori Metcalf opened Lori’s Eats and Sweets. The business took off so fast, that she could no longer work at the church and run the restaurant and her catering business. Although she still cooks for the church when needed, she decided to fulfill her dream of feeding people every day at her restaurant.
According to Metcalf, the building on Titus Street was once a Christian Book Store, owned by Larry and Debbie Lansdale and prior to that was a TV repair business, owned by. Larry Lansdale’ father, Junior Lansdale. At one time, Lori’s father, Richard Brown and Larry Lansdale worked together at Goodyear. Metcalf laughingly mused how everyone is connected in a small town. Shortly after purchasing the building, the 30’ x 40’ catering kitchen was added so that food for events could continue to be prepared while lunch was being served. Metcalf’s catering company, now boasts 3 delivery trucks, 2 of which have warmers, enough ovens to cook sixty large trays at a time and caters up to eight hundred people on a regular basis. She explained the logistics of catering for that many, and said she has figured out how to get everyone served in less than 20 minutes. She goes on to say that she also caters for small groups, sometimes even using the client’s own kitchen.
“When I first started cooking for big crowds like that, I had to store the food anywhere I could! I would use my friend’s freezers and refrigerators and local businesses’ refrigerators. Before I was able to purchase my big ovens, I would get up extremely early and use the church and school’s ovens before they started preparing for breakfast! Luckily, I was able to purchase my own walk-in cooler, because it took almost as long to round up the food as it did to prepare it,” she recalls.
Lori’s Eats and Sweets has become a regular stop for lunch for most people working in Gilmer. The food is served cafeteria-style and is always homemade. It is open from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm Monday - Friday. Metcalf employs 5 people daily at the restaurant and up to 60 for large, catered events.
“As many people know,” says Metcalf, “my building is currently for sale. I will continue to do exactly what I am doing, and will even leaseback the catering kitchen until I decide what my future holds.” Three years ago, the Metcalf’s grandson, who lives in Dallas, was diagnosed with leukemia. Lori makes frequent trips to the metro-plex to care for him or her other 2 grandchildren while he takes his treatments. “I want to be flexible.” she says, “I think any grandparent would do the same under similar circumstances. I am not going out of business. I will continue to serve lunch and to cater just as I have been, but if someone wanted to own a building with a successful restaurant, I would definitely sell. I love what I do, but in the end, my family comes first.”