Williamston’s Sunnyside Cafe makes it on Food Network

“I thought to myself, I know this place can be something more, I’m just not sure we can get past this hump.” said David.
The Ellsworth family is determined to keep their dream alive and continue serving the community they love.
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 10:46 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Nineteen years ago, Jeanette Elsworth and her family had a dream. The dream was to open a restaurant and what they knew was that they wanted their business to feel like you were sitting around the dining room table at a family meal.

“We wanted to work together as a family,” said Jeanette, “and it took years but finally, we took the jump and we found this location.”

Right in the small town of Williamston, they achieved that dream with the Sunnyside Cafe.

“Williamston was so supportive from day one,” gleamed Jeanette.

She said the people they serve are not her customers, they’re her family, and that’s one of the first things she makes sure her staff understands.

“I say this may be a job to you, that you’re coming in at, but as you get to know our regulars, you’re going to come to adore them and you’re going to be a part of their life,” said Jeanette.

When COVID-19 hit, it completely shattered Jeanette’s world. On top of losing friends and family, Jeanette was struggling to keep herself and her business afloat.

“Physically, mentally, sometimes you get in so deep, you don’t even see what you’re doing to yourself,” Jeanette said reflecting on the past few years.

She lost many employees during the pandemic, whether that was moving away to college or leaving the industry entirely. Jeanette was cooking, waitressing, cleaning, managing, and much more.

“My daughter contacted me and said, ‘That’s it, I’m turning you into Food Network,’” said Jeanette.

Later she was asked to be a part of “Restaurant Impossible.”

“So I thought, you know if it will save sunnyside and keep the doors open, then I’ll do it.”

Jeanette’s son, David, said he always had a love for Sunnyside Cafe and wanted the best for it. However, when he saw how much the business was struggling, he was not sure they would be able to make it through this time.

“I thought to myself, I know this place can be something more, I’m just not sure we can get past this hump,” said David.

So Jeanette met with the host, Robert Irvine. She described her experience as therapeutic. She said with Irvine’s help, she was able to come to terms with why her business was not hitting certain standards.

“You could see all of our conversations come together. So, when they hand you your restaurant back, it’s your restaurant. They listen to you, so now I know when I see the show and I see that owner open their eyes, this is everything they’ve talked about,” said Jeanette as she got emotional.

Jeanette said she has love for every member of the Food Network she met. Although she could have never prepared herself for what she faced, she says she is forever grateful for the help she received.

However, her new renovations have encouraged her to work even harder. After all, Sunnyside Cafe is her home.

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