For nine years, Frankie Wilson chased people to get them to pay their bills as a commercial collections officer with Jager Management Inc. in Jenkintown, PA.
“In a business like collections, every day you have to maintain a cheery attitude through the phone,” she says of her times talking to people who would be annoyed when they knew a collections company was calling.
Wilson, 49, was laid off in January 2009, as the economy continued its downward spiral.
“I had always loved to cook,” says the mother of three grown children, so she set about parlaying her talents in the kitchen into a business.
In September 2009, Wilson enrolled in the year-long culinary arts series at Burlington County College. The much-touted program, which last July moved to an expanded and newly refurbished $9 million facility in Mount Holly, offers students and prospective chefs formal training in the food industry.
Shortly after graduation, Wilson took a chef’s job at The Breakfast Nook on Bannard Avenue in East Riverton. For 16 months, Wilson whipped up meals and learned the pressures of working in a fast-paced restaurant.
“I gained the experience of what it’s like to head a kitchen,” the Burlington resident says. “But I knew I wanted to open my own place one day.”
Opportunity emerged when the previous owner of Tara’s Restaurant in the CVS Pharmacy shopping center on Broad Street in Riverton closed the eatery down.
On Dec. 23, Wilson opened Frankie’s Home Cooking. The space was already outfitted with an industrial kitchen and ample tables and chairs. Wilson painted the walls a virescent green and installed taupe carpets.
Wilson describes the meals she cooks as comfort food—dishes that make you feel good.
The first-time restaurant owner says her reputation for omelets—she's been endeared the “Omelet Queen”—followed her from The Breakfast Nook.
“People say I make the best omelets around,” Wilson says quietly with a touch of self-effacement. “I’ve been told they are very light and fluffy.”
She also gets many requests for her fried grits and her apple harvest hot cakes.
“Fresh apples, cinnamon and brown sugar are cooked inside the batter,” Wilson says.
Potatoes being the ultimate comfort food, Wilson's trademark french fries—smothered with gooey cheese, cooked onions and shaved steak—are another indulgent stomach-pleaser.
So far, she says business has been steady, with the busiest time on Saturday mornings and a “large after-church crowd” on Sundays. This spring, she is planning outside seating and adding a dinner menu.
Beginning a second career at this point in her life has been risky but exciting.
“My kids think it’s great,” Wilson says of her new venture. “I wish I had done it years ago."
Frankie’s Home Cooking is open daily from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m with a reasonably priced menu that offers specials.
“From my years of working in collections, I found that I liked talking to people everyday,” Wilson says. “That’s how I feel about the restaurant. I’m happy to see my customers.”