It all started rather simply, as a "thank you pie."
From there, the idea grew and launched Linda Gill into another chapter of her successful "food lady" career.
With 25 years of experience in operating three successful restaurants, the homemade, delicious goodies -- straight from Granny's kitchen -- seemed the natural thing to create.
The idea for launching Granny Gill's Yummy Desserts and Baked Goods started as kind of an afterthought, Gill said. A friend's husband came over to pick up the remains of a downed tree at her house in Goodman. As a thank you, Gill offered to make them a pecan pie.
The idea for offering from-scratch sweet treats was sparked. Gill decided to launch the in-home business and since Nov. 10, it's been "rolling like a snowball," she said.
People travel from as far away as Carthage and Grove, Okla., to buy and try her homemade cinnamon rolls, coconut crème and pecan pies, cherry cheesecakes and cookies.
Gill, who has been cooking since age 8, says she believes the business is taking off like hotcakes because people want home-cooked food. Most are too busy making a living to make dessert for themselves, or they may not know how, she said.
Gill started the business as a way of making a little extra income. She stays at home with her husband, who is on oxygen, and is his full-time caregiver.
Cooking for others is just a way of life for her. And making delicious delectables just seemed a natural path. She's always loved cooking and baking and learned to do so early in life. She was particularly close to her paternal grandmother, whom she called Granny, and used that name for one of her restaurants. In 1993, when she became a grandmother, she continued to use that moniker.
"I've always been Granny to everyone," she said.
Between baking up a storm and caring for her husband, Gill stays busy. It doesn't wear her down, though. She is organized, enjoys visiting with others and likes to make things happen.
At age 69, she still likes to "go, go, go."
"I feel like I'm 35," she said.
A hard-knock life
Gill's life has not been an easy one. At birth, Gill weighed only four pounds. She was placed in a shoe box -- not an incubator -- and survived.
Her parents were migratory workers, and she remembers picking strawberries in Anderson in the 1950s when the berries literally covered the fields.
The family also picked blackberries, and her father worked as a cotton farmer.
"I come from a family of hard workers and savers," she said. "My parents were from the Depression and frugal."
Gill learned to cook and bake at an early age, due to her mother's ill health. When Gill was 14, her mother died. She and her dad moved around a lot after that, shuffling from place to place.
One day, she saw her dad packing his suitcase. "Are we moving again?" she asked.
"Sorry, sis," he said. "This time it's just me."
At age 15, Gill found herself on her own. She had been working as a dishwasher for a steakhouse for 50 cents an hour. Until then, she had been a shy child, but after her dad left, Gill found the gumption to make a new start.
"I did a complete turnaround," she said.
The lady from whom they had rented an apartment took Gill under her wing. She let her help bake pies for folks, helped her earn extra money and reduced her rent.
In years to come, Gill would quickly understand how good food appealed to folks. Providing home-cooked delicious food was always a winner.
During her career, she launched three restaurants. In one 13-year stint, she worked six days a week, running the operation and working as the main chef.
A chef from Minnesota assisted her, and today, that's to whom Gill credits her butter rum apple pie recipe. "You never get too old to learn," she said.
Gill developed quite a following in the Gravette area. Many knew her well and frequented her restaurants throughout the years.
After selling her second restaurant, she earned a business degree from the NorthWest Arkansas Community College.
Gill met the love of her life through the love of the restaurant business. She met and married her husband, Benton, after two schoolchildren -- who helped her after school at her restaurant -- introduced their single dad to her.
After marrying, they moved to Las Vegas and managed casinos for nine years.
But taxes were high and the couple wanted to return home. They relocated to Goodman in 2001, and Gill took on a slightly different career path as a "food lady." She worked as a nutrition educator for the University of Missouri Extension, traveling to elementary schools in McDonald County and educating children about good nutrition. She served in that role for 11 years and continued her education through the University of Missouri.
Life has been hard but, through commitment and dedication, Gill has successfully ridden the wave of challenges she's encountered.
"I've had ups and downs, but mainly ups," she said.
She considers her at-home baking business a plus, allowing her to help others while caring for her husband of 27 years.
To launch her at-home baking business, Gill had to expand her shelving and refrigeration options. But the hard work and extra expenditures have paid off.
The business is turning a profit, repeat customers are calling and Gill realizes that offering good food is good for business.
"Having a clean operation, being trustworthy and standing behind your word, goes a long way," she said.
Gill advertises her business on Facebook. Customers call or message her for an order.
She plans ahead, stays organized and streamlines her operations. When she makes pie crusts, she makes big batches of pie crusts, seals them well and then freezes or refrigerates them.
To reward repeat customers, Gill also offers "Granny Bucks," which help customers save on their order when they refer a new customer.
It's hard work, career experiences and sheer determination that have shaped Gill into a successful baker and loving wife, mom, grandmother and friend.
"I've had a good life. I've had a lot of rocks thrown at me, and I've picked those damn things up and threw them back.
"I am a survivor."General News on 01/25/2018
Print Headline: 'Food Lady,' Restaurateur Launches New Chapter In Career