''Cooking is all I've ever done,'' said Veronica Walters, owner of Vern's Place on Jamestown Street in Randolph.
She started her food service career working in a fast-food restaurant after graduating from high school.
''When I was 20 I started working at Randolph Legion waitressing, tending bar and cooking,'' she said. ''When I was 29, my daughter was born and I stayed home with her.''
Veronica Walters, owner of Vern’s Place in Randolph, shows off three of her favorite recipes. From left are her harvest salad, stuffed green pepper and farmhouse French toast.
Photos by Beverly Kehe-Rowland
When her daughter was in her second year at St. Bonaventure University, Veronica's mother passed away after being ill for seven years.
''I decided it was my time. I've always wanted something like this,'' she said as she looked around the diner. ''I drove by, saw this building for rent and called the owner.''
''When Sue Fisher had this as an ice cream store I always thought it would be a cute diner. I signed the lease Dec. 1, 2010, and we opened March 1, 2011,'' she went on to say. ''My crew is amazing. This place literally went off without a hitch. Bonnie Hinman was the first person I thought of (when looking for staff). She does a ton of prep work and makes salads and sandwiches.''
''My cook, Rindell McKay is awesome, but I'm not going to tell him,'' she said. ''He has a lot of ideas. He makes the best chili in the world. He is really good and never gets frustrated, as crazy as it gets.''
Karen Koniak, Shawn Terry and Jessica Meacham round out the staff, with Veronica's daughter, Shelby, helping during college breaks.
''We've all gotten really, really close,'' Veronica said. ''It has always gone smoothly from the beginning because of good help.''
''Joanie Greenwood of Maplevale Foods has been with me from ground zero,'' she added. ''She spent tons of time with me to get ready (to open). Our harvest salad was Joanie's idea. It happens to be most popular with men for some reason.''
When asked how she became interested in cooking, Mrs. Walters responded, ''I came from a family of nine kids and whenever you were big enough to see over the counter, you were helping in the kitchen. My mom always just dropped things in when she was cooking. She never used a recipe and I cook the same way.''
''When Mom made bread and rolls, she would kick us out of the kitchen,'' she said. ''I still can't bake bread.''
She says the chicken and biscuits, chicken soup, potato soup, and bean soup that she serves are as close to her mother's recipes as she can get.
''My mother always made beef-barley soup, but with no recipe I had to really play with that one, but I think it's close,'' she said. ''A lot of people said if I cooked like my mother, Helen Marsh, I'd be fine.''
Everything, except for the bread, is homemade at Vern's Place.
''We make our own mashed potatoes, cut our own lettuce and make our own soups. We even make our own ranch dressing,'' Veronica said. ''The apple fritters were Rindell's idea. We can't keep the cinnamon twists in the house.''
''I am constantly reading recipes in magazines, watching cooking programs and looking at recipes on the Internet,'' she said.
She is married to Howard Walters, who is the owner of Randolph Auto Supply. Besides their daughter the couple has three sons - Brett, Brandon and Brad. They have a horse farm and she goes with her daughter when she shows quarterhorses.
''She has shown for 5 years,'' Veronica said. ''We do the local shows. She was always in 4-H. I still want to be able to do all of those things.''
Vern's Place is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m, Monday through Friday, and from 7 a.m. until noon on Saturdays. Breakfast only is served on Saturdays. They are available to cater small affairs, such as business meetings or woman's groups.