By Pamela Dozois
Doniece Parson knows the history of Mother Hubbard’s in Buellton very well, since its opening in 1978. Much of it is her own story.
“Ed Andrisek built Mother Hubbard’s from the ground up, and he would not only greet customers when they came in, he’d turn around and go to the kitchen to cook up their breakfasts,” she said.
Her own history with the restaurant began when she happened to go into Mother Hubbard’s one Monday morning after spending the previous Sunday afternoon at Cold Spring Tavern with friends.
She had no idea that a chance meeting at the tavern would lead to her sharing ownership of the restaurant some 20 years in the future.
“On that Sunday afternoon I met a few new people, including Jon McDermott, who bought me a couple of beverages,” Parson said. “I found him to be a kind, intelligent man that was very motivated to be successful in his life. We parted ways and I almost forgot about him until I put up a one-line post on the Internet about how “a blue margarita sure sounds good right now!”
“This was almost 20 years after our chance meeting at Cold Springs Tavern and the Internet was in its infancy,” she continued. “At that time, people were very cautious about their identities and locations. Within a day a response was left, ‘You must be from Santa Barbara.’
“It scared the heck out of me that someone could be that close to the truth, and that led to a few emails being shared where he admitted that he had only had that drink at Cold Springs Tavern, when he was a Harley-riding UCSB student.
“After several months of getting to really know each other through emails, I knew that this was the same man that I had met so long ago. I learned that he had been very focused, and successful at his career and had moved around the U.S. a great deal for business. He had chosen not to have children, and I really thought it was over before it began, when I told him I had four sons. He was living between Dallas and Albuquerque, and I was here in Buellton.”
But as fate or destiny would have it, McDermott’s company sold and he decided to move to California. He wanted to start the next stage of his life with Parson and her boys. If their chance reunion after 20 years was not enough, destiny had even more surprises in store, as both their lives would shift in yet another interesting direction.
They bought a home in Buellton and settled in at a pace that was very different for McDermott, Parson recalled. She knew he needed to do something; he had told her that he had always planned on retiring in Mexico and opening up a small restaurant.
“Jon never really believed that we had met that Sunday afternoon so many years before, which annoyed me to no end,” said Parson “Finally, one day we drove up to the tavern and when he walked in, he remembered even where we were standing and talking. To this day there is a picture of Cold Springs Tavern hanging in the restaurant. Few people know why.”
Soon after their trip to the tavern, Parson saw a one-line ad in the local newspaper that read, “78-seat restaurant for sale in Buellton.” It was Mother Hubbard’s.
“We met with Ed, wrote a check and shook hands, and on October 1, 1998, we were the proud owners of our own business. Even though neither of us had ever cooked for a restaurant, or even waited tables, we somehow made it work,” Parson said.
“Our boys were old enough to work there, and it quickly became a dream come true — an amazing local, family business, one that perhaps one day, the boys could own and raise their own families here in paradise. The boys are fifth-generation Buellton family and very proud of it.”
On Oct. 1 this year, Parson and McDermott will celebrate their 20th anniversary of owning Mother Hubbard’s.
“At first, I fretted a bit about living and working with this man who I loved so much, but there has not been one day that I would have wanted to change a thing about us. Our customers are our family. We have shared in engagements, marriages, and the births of many new souls who keep coming back. Watching them grow and their families expand has been a slice of heaven for us.
“We have mourned the loss of some customers and have many stories to tell about things that happen within the walls of Mother Hubbard’s, such as our resident ghost, Joe,” Pearson said with a twinkle in her eye. “But those stories are for another time.”
“The staff at Mother Hubbard’s are the greatest men and women in the business,” she continued. “They love our place, as if it was their own. They get to know and care deeply about so many of their customers, and that only comes with long-term service. Our customer base is around 85 percent local, and without them, there would be no future stories to tell.
“Being able to support our community through fundraising events like our ‘Tip a Kid’ dinners can be exhausting, but oh so much fun! It’s hard for me to turn our business over to young people for a night, but the life lessons they learn and the money they raise is worth every fast-paced minute. We have been holding ‘locavore dinners’ the last Saturday of every month for the past eight years. They are really fun and there is no corkage fee.
“We also do benefit dinners to support organizations in need, for example the armed forces overseas care packages program. With all the recent changes and growth in Buellton and the valley, one thing remains true. Community is everything. We support each other any way we can when needed.
“I really don’t know how the last 20 years have blown past us so quickly. Four young teenage boys have grown into husbands and fathers. Five beautiful grandchildren have joined the family, and we hope that even though Buellton is growing at a rapid-fire pace, with new restaurants opening each year, that locals will remember the old days and continue to enjoy a meal or two with us so that the destiny that began over 40 years ago can continue for at least one more generation.
“Owning and operating Mother Hubbard’s isn’t just a business to us, it’s our own personal love story,” she said with a quiet smile and wet eyes. “We are so very grateful for our simple lives, and a business that brings us so much pure joy and love.”
Mother Hubbard’s at 373 Avenue of Flags is open daily, with hours posted on their Facebook page. For more information, call 805-688-3912.