Wednesday Apr 29 2009
Doris Flocchini is one gutsy woman with a great story
By: Carol Feineman
Sometimes our neighbors have amazing stories, just waiting to be told. For example, 82-year-old Doris Flocchini’s life could easily be made into a movie. Picture the year 1945, a time of new beginnings as World War II finally winds down and the country returns to a state of normalcy. Many Americans were finally able to get on with their lives. However, it wasn’t a time that 18-year-old women traveled on a Greyhound bus for three days to relocate halfway across the country with just their best friend beside them. But not everyone is Doris Flocchini, who had the courage to move to a city she never heard of until her friend mentioned a aunt located here. And, the 82-year-old Lincoln resident recalled this week, she wasn’t scared about leaving her childhood home, her mother and six brothers and sisters. Rather, Flocchini was worried about finding work so she could regularly send money to her widowed mother and her siblings. Flocchini figured wages were higher in California than in her small farm town of Lockhart, Minn. She didn’t have to worry about securing an income. Within days, the two friends were picking and cutting peaches at the local cannery. And when the cannery temporarily closed because of a fire, Flocchini immediately found another job at the only bakery in town. She also had stints working as an aircraft mechanic for McClellan Air Force Base, being a secretary, serving as the Lincoln Municipal Court clerk and waitressing at Uncle Pete’s Restaurant in Lincoln. Never mind that Flocchini didn’t have the skills already in place for this smorgasbord of jobs. As she said this week, “I didn’t know what a peach was. I came from a family of poor potato farmers.” What Flocchini lacked in experience, she made up for with grit. And the ability to learn quickly. Flocchini was also very happy with her adopted city. “Once I got here and settled on a job, I couldn’t see moving on. I’ve always liked the country and small towns,” she explained. In her early Lincoln years, Flocchini had fun by attending dances at Beale Air Force Base (“We had a chaperone that rode with us to the base,” she reminisced). In those years, she’d also attend a movie theater located where the present Bank of America is (“It was so full of fleas, we’d end up scratching too much,” Flocchini added). Eventually, Flocchini married Bob Flocchini in 1960. She had four daughters. Even with the full-time responsibilities of raising four children, Flocchini wasn’t about to give up working outside the home. Deciding the town of less than 3,000 residents in 1975 needed a new bakery, Flocchini opened Pastries Plus Bakery with her daughter, Coleen Coffey, off of Highway 65 in Lincoln. Three years later, Flocchini opened Sandwich Alley at 648 5th St. in Lincoln because “the town needed another place besides the hamburger restaurant across the street on Fifth Street.” She ran Sandwich Alley until another daughter, Diana Burke, bought the restaurant in 1991 (renaming it Simple Pleasures Restaurant & Catering). Flocchini’s life story could definitely make it to the big screen. It’s an inspirational family story, no less. “I’ll tell you what, she’s one gutsy lady,” Burke said. “My mom always had a hot breakfast for us when she had the bakery and court job. And she’d still have a family meal for us at 5:30 p.m. She baked midnight to 6 a.m., come home, see we had breakfast, then go to her court job.” And Flocchini still works today at Simple Pleasures Restaurant and Catering. She didn’t leave after her daughter took over. “I’ll be here every day they keep me. I work in the kitchen. I make salad. I do the dishes,“ Flocchini said, smiling. Since it’s a family restaurant (her daughter works with her son and grandchildren), Flocchini isn’t going anywhere. Plus Flocchini still makes the restaurant’s specialty, which is a secret potato-salad recipe handed down by her mother in the early 1930s. “We peel hot potatoes for hours. They have to be hot. We sport calluses, making the potato salad,” Flocchini added. And today, Flocchini and her daughters are launching another family and business milestone, one the 18-year-old Minnesota transplant could never have imagined happening as she boarded the Greyhound bus 64 years ago. Her daughters, who have worked closely with her at the restaurant and former bakery, have created a new company, Mom Likes Me Best!, which launches today. The company showcases the matriarch’s several homemade sauces and dressings. As of now, the products are available at Simple Pleasures Restaurant and online at www.momlikesmebest.com. By mid-May, Burke said, the bottles will be in stores across the country. And each bottle features a vintage photograph of Flocchini, as she appeared in 1945. Sounds like another scene to add to a remarkable movie-like story. Judging from how I saw customers fondly interact with Flocchini this week at Simple Pleasures this week, I’m sure Lincoln residents would agree.