Thursday at Red and Maes, Sandra Sink stepped away from packaging a take-out order of 56 spaghetti plates lined all up and down the counter to take Ruby Davis and Ellie Craig their lunches.
Sink joined David Reynolds back at the counter to assemble a few more packages of spaghetti meals and then turned around to take Mike Price, Billy Shilling and Adam Turner their plates. Despite the hectic pace of the kitchen, customers and staff of this venerable restaurant in Bassett kept up a lively banter.
That’s because it was a Thursday, the regular fundraiser day for Red and Maes, organized for the past three years by proprietor Kim Mason. Customers could order the spaghetti plate, where $4 of the $7 cost would go to the charity, or anything on the regular menu.
Red and Maes is that small house-like structure in Bassett that serves down-home favorites six days a week (except Monday) to a loyal group of customers who often fill its two dozen tables — and double that amount, in the summer, with the state park crowd.
And if it’s Thursday’s it’s “charity day.” It’s closed Mondays, and closes at 3 p.m. Sundays, otherwise open until 8 or 9 p.m.
Price, Shilling and Turner were from T.R.A.S.H. Ministries, where Price is the pastor. The fundraiser was for their friend and fellow church member Cliff Smith, and as well as supporting this fund-raising event, they also were were hoping to sell some raffle tickets.
Smith “is a great individual,” Price said. “He’s got cancer. Any family that’s ever had cancer knows how bills pile up.”
T.R.A.S.H. Ministries is raffling off Smith’s 2008 Harley Davidson Street Bob, with tickets at $20 each. The drawing will be on July 18 at Red and Mae, with Southern Gentlemen performing.
However, competition may be stiff: “We’re all hoping somebody at our plant will win it — because we want to be the one to give the bike back. A vice president gave $200” for tickets, said Joey Martin of West Rock in Ridgeway.
Martin had just arrived to pick up the order of 56 meals to take back to work.
West Rock makes point-of-purchase displays. Martin said he works in the maintenance department with Smith, whom he calls a friend as well a coworker.
“We have a very small maintenance team, and he’s a critical part of it,” he said.
Red and Maes employee Sandra Sink said they had a good, early start on the large lunch order. She had arrived around 7:15 a.m. to find Mason already at work.
“We’re doing this and trying to get our regular orders out,” she said as she filled bags.
At their booth by a window, Craig and Davis were talking about Mason’s fundraising.
“She’s amazing. She really is,” Craig said. “She’s always wanted to help.”
The pals eat about once a week at Red and Maes, where they say they love the atmosphere and the food. Mason “changes the decor, changes for the seasons — she’s a very involved business owner,” said Craig, who also praised Mason’s experiments with any recipes people suggest.
“It’s our second time this week,” Craig said. Davis is a fan of the breakfast buffet, especially the scrambled eggs, and Craig loves “the omelets, and their tater tots with the special sauce are the bomb.” The friend also raved over the marinated sirloin and the chicken salad club.
“It’s fun when we come here,” Craig said. “Everybody is uplifting. It’s almost like a family thing.”
Mason and her children Joey Garza, 13, and Olivia Mason, 14, live nearby on Valley Drive. “My whole life I keep ending back in this little area,” she said with a laugh.
Red and Maes is at 82 Saddleridge Road, just off Stones Dairy Road, near Fairystone Park Highway, and when Mason was a teenager, she said, she lived nearby and walked past the restaurant every Wednesday to go to the church gym at Fairway Baptist Church.
“Now my kids go to that church gym,” she said.
Before she took over the restaurant in November 2015, she had been the social room manager of the Fraternal Order of Eagles’ lodge in Collinsville.
That fall of 2015, she met with the owners of the building, and “off of a handshake and a business plan and $600, they let me start it up,” she said.
Red and Maes had been operated by several different people during the years, with “nobody [lasting] over a year. Our first year was super rough, too,” she said.
So rough, in fact, she bought a food truck, thinking she needed it to stay afloat. As soon as she did that, “the business started coming in.”
The food truck has been neglected in her driveway ever since.
Because her focus was on pure survival the first year, she said she didn’t start doing fundraisers until the second.
In 2018, the Startup MHC and Grow MHC programs helped the restaurant purchase a grill that is three times the size of the previous grill, she said.
Before the new grill, the restaurant would fill with customers “but we couldn’t get food out fast enough,” she said.
As well as helping with the grill, the Startup MHC and Grow MHC programs “was such an excellent program,” she said. Patrick Henry Community College President Angeline Godwin “does the lectures on it. At the end of a 3-hour class, I just wanted to keep on listening. She’s a brilliant woman.”
Through the years, Mason has enjoyed trying out new recipes, she said. She’s willing to give anything a try as a daily special, whether the idea comes from her or a customer. Specials that are particularly well-received earn spots on the permanent menu, such as cheeseburger clubs, barbecue clubs and barbecue nachos, all of which came from customer requests.
“If I see a weird recipe, I’ve got to try it,” she said laughing.
Milkshakes, now regular on the menu, came to the restaurant by request of summer visitors to Fairy Stone State Park, she said. From October through February, the diners are mostly locals, but during the summer season, about half the customers come from the park.
She bought the property, the building plus 4 acres, last year, and she said she has been thinking of ways to expand — perhaps with mini-golf or an outdoor wedding venue.
David Reynolds is a tremendous help with it all, she said. “He won’t cook a lick,” she said laughing, “but if I need anything — he does all that” is needed.
Mason became experienced in fundraisers from her time at the Eagles, she said. “Their motto is, ‘People helping people.’ They gave me the liberty to do that stuff. It was a great place to learn how to get people together and how to take what you already have and help them with it.”
She has a fundraiser every Thursday, giving $4 of the $7 price of each spaghetti plate to the recipient.
The Thursday fundraisers have earned between $12 and $1,800. To help her be prepared with ingredients, she requests that large groups let her know their orders ahead of time.
Anyone is welcome to request a fundraiser, she said. Upcoming ones will be for the MHC Warming Center on Thursday; Larry Wood’s funeral expenses on Feb. 20; and Peter Robinson, whose wife, Cynthia, died when their house was on fire, on Feb. 27. Feb. 13 is a rare Thursday off, because Valentine’s Day the next day will be a big day for the restaurant, she said.
The spirit of the fundraisers is infectious, to hear her talk. “Once people know there is a need, the amount of people that come out of the woodwork” to help someone is amazing, she said — not just coming to the fundraiser, but helping that person in other ways.
“Our community’s awesome about addressing that need.”
Said Shilling: “Kim has a very big heart. Before she started this” weekly fundraising at her restaurant, “she was the manager at the Eagles Club and always got involved in community fundraisers.
“She’s always one of the first ones to holler, ‘Hey, I’ll help.’ If she thinks she’s doing something for somebody, she’s all about it.”