For Jenny Bennett, what's now known as Jenny's Cafe has pretty much been a lifelong place of employment.
She started there back when it was Waffles n More and she was 16 years old. Over the years, the business name changed, but she stayed, working in management as much of the staff stuck around, too.
Then one day a little less than 20 years ago, she got a fax informing the restaurant that the owners were going to close it up in a week.
"When they were closing, we had very little warning," Bennett says, "so it was one of those, 'Let's just try this and see what I can do.'"
She took over the business and turned it into Jenny's Cafe, and since that time around 2002, it's become a breakfast and lunch staple in Spokane Valley, known for its heavy-handed portions and friendly atmosphere.
Inside is decorated with a mishmash of vintage items Bennett has collected over the years to create a homey feel. Drinks are served in Mason jars, and the wall decorations are swapped out fairly regularly.
"It's kind of like if you were going to your grandma's house, all the dishes are mismatched, and there's no real rhyme or reason to it," Bennett says. "It's a bunch of cool old stuff."
From the time she opened Jenny's Cafe, Bennett knew she wanted it to offer large, tasty portions, with all-you-can-eat hash browns, fries and pancakes, depending on what you order.
"At that point in my life I wanted to go somewhere where my kids could eat, be full, and not be broke," she says.
Because of that, you'd be hard pressed to leave Jenny's hungry. Their senior/kid serving sizes, starting at $6, are more like the size of a Denny's or IHOP serving, she says. The normal breakfasts, which range from $11 to $16, are easily big enough to feed you twice.
"Usually we're like the home of the to-go box," she says. "They usually get two breakfasts out of one."
Plus, they're easygoing: If there's something that's not on the menu, they can work with you.
"It's easy for substitutions," she says. "Until 9 in the morning I don't think most of our customers order off the menu."
Bennett chalks up the longtime success of the business to their drive to keep things affordable and local — the hash browns come fresh from a local farm, as does much of the other produce — and thanks her loyal customer base, many of whom eat there twice a day.
The cafe is open daily from 7 am to 2 pm, but some of the regulars who've been coming for years will often get there before she does each morning to start the coffee, meaning things tend to open a little closer to 6:30 am.
"If you're out there and see us in, come on in," she says. "It's one of those things where when you come in, you join part of our family while you're there." ♦
Jenny's Cafe • 9425 E. Sprague, Spokane Valley • Open daily 7 am-2 pm • jennyscafespokane.com • 928-8055