Laura Dean Bennett
The Miller family knows how to do things the old-fashioned way – from building their own house and renovating an old church, to putting food on the table the way our grandmothers used to do.
The Millers also built a new life for themselves here in Pocahontas County, and are now starting a new business here –Mim’s Kitchen – literally from scratch.
You’ll find Mim’s Kitchen at the intersection of Stony Creek, Jerico and Woodrow roads in the former Stony Creek Chapel, just across the road from the old log church.
It’s taken a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but Mim’s dream of having a restaurant is finally coming to fruition.
Mim, her husband, Bill, and their son, 12 year old Kane Miller, moved here from Westminster, South Caroline – near Clemson – where Bill ran a successful excavation and construction business. After the recession, they decided it was time for a change.
“We liked Pocahontas County right away,” Bill said. “There was so much open space and freedom here, and we really liked the people.
“We’re simple people and we felt like we fit right in.”
So, 18 years ago, Bill and Mim bought 30 acres on Stony Creek, the former site of the “old charcoal plant,” and made plans to build a house.
While he was building their house, which sits behind the restaurant, Bill had two serious health scares which threatened to derail their future.
But as soon as he was able, Bill got back to it, and six years ago, when he was beginning to work on the house again, the Millers were offered the little piece of property on the corner of their place, where the unused church sat among an overgrowth of shrubbery and weeds.
The church was built in 1928, and the Millers found that it “had good bones.”
“And it’s so beautiful,” Mim said, “we didn’t have the heart to tear it down. We wanted to do something with it and give it another life.
“It’s always been Mim’s dream to have a restaurant, so that’s what we decided to do,” Bill explained.
Renovating the old church became a family affair.
The Millers have two grown children who live away from here, so it was just Bill, Mim and Kane doing all the work.
“We’re so proud of this place,” Mim said.
“We hope to please people with good food and a homey atmosphere.”
When you walk into Mim’s Kitchen, you’ll be feeling pleased right away.
The place has a dramatic, but cozy feel, with its 17 foot ceiling, a wood burning stove set before an impressive rock wall, original tongue and groove walls decorated with blue willow china with added touches of mountain laurel.
A graceful balcony seating area overlooks the restaurant below.
Original schoolhouse light fixtures added to Mim’s handmade light fixtures and artwork makes the space a one-of-a-kind design.
And all the work was done by the Millers.
The family does everything, makes everything and builds everything they need.
“All the wood in here, we cut ourselves on our own sawmill,” Bill explained. “And we gathered the mountain laurel for the stairway from the woods.
“Whatever we can’t make, we don’t have.”
Looking closely at the metal work in the heavy gate swinging from the front door and at the sign over the buffet, you’ll see Bill’s fine workmanship.
The metal is from the kilns of the old charcoal plant.
The 60-seat restaurant includes balcony seating for 10-12 and an upstairs “party room” which will seat 20 people for private gatherings or can be used for overflow when the restaurant is extra busy.
Mim’s Kitchen will also accommodate special groups on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday when the restaurant is closed.
Mim has 40 years’ experience in the restaurant business and, besides, she was raised on a farm so she knows what hard work and “home cooking” are all about.
People in Pocahontas County have gotten to know her cooking and baking skills over the last several years. She’s been cooking for Teacher’s Week every year, and IGA customers have been enjoying her elaborately decorated cakes for more than four years now.
Mim and Bill both stress the fact that all the food will be fresh and made from scratch “with no processed meat,” Mim states firmly.
And it will be served buffet-style.
There will be real mashed potatoes made with chicken broth and garlic, baked potatoes and baked sweet potatoes, soups served in bread bowls and shepherd’s pie.
The buffet will always have two soups to choose from and a specialty sandwich of the day.
Depending on the day, there’ll be delicious offerings such as French dip or barbecue sandwiches, or Mim’s famous chicken salad.
The salad bar will offer interesting toppings and all the salad dressings made from scratch. All of the breads and rolls will be baked on the premises by Mim.
There will be plenty of temptation in the dessert department – cookies, cheese cake, carrot cake, German chocolate cake and Mim’s famous pies.
Guests will register when they visit, and once a month, there will be a drawing. The winner will receive free lunch or dinner for two.
“People have been stopping by to see what we’ve been doing for a long time now,” Bill said.
It’s been a long time coming, but the family can finally say that Mim’s Kitchen is a reality.
“The way things have worked out, we think this must have been meant to be,” Mim said.
“It’ll be nice to see this old building smile again.”
The Miller family hopes to have Mim’s Kitchen open just before or just after Easter.
If they’re open in time, they will serve Easter dinner.
They will also do special events. With the old log Hamlin Chapel just across the road from Mim’s Kitchen, this corner of the world is a perfect spot for a wedding and reception.
But you don’t need a special occasion to visit Mim’s Kitchen. The Millers encourage people to drop in for coffee and a chat.
Mim’s Kitchen will be open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Reservations are recommended for large groups.
Call 304-799-2240 for directions or reservations.
Watch for updates on page 2 of The Pocahontas Times.