Shellie Sportsman, the owner of Jerry Bob's Family Restaurant in Oro Valley, is thrilled with the response her restaurant has generated from customers, many of them regular patrons of the breakfast and lunch eatery.
"We've become a place for a lot of people to have a daily breakfast or lunch," Sportsman said of the restaurant, which opened in March on La Cañada near Lambert Lane. "We have a lot of customers who are in here every day for a meal, and they tell us it's because they love the atmosphere, our specials and the friendliness of our servers."
Jerry Bob's specials are created through suggestions from various members of the staff, as well as from customers, Sportsman said. "Because I'm here 24/7, I get to know a lot of our customers and they'll often suggest things to me that they'd like to eat."
Among the specials, Sportsman said, her favorites are dessert-oriented.
"I absolutely love desserts," she said, "and love to play around with different kinds. Our baker, Molly Day, is a specialist in desserts, so we've been serving a lot of pies and cobblers like homemade pecan pie and cranberry apple cobbler."
One of her breakfast cooks, Salvadore Colanerero, came up with a special breakfast sandwich of toasted sourdough bread, cheese, ham and eggs, stacked high and served with home fries.
"We named it 'Sal's Breakfast Sandwich' and it's a pretty hard sandwich to finish," Sportsman said.
Holiday favorites have included homemade pumpkin and apple pies for desserts, and as breakfast specials, pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin-stuffed French toast.
"People just can't get enough of the French toast," Sportsman added.
Other specials include the Square Meal, a breakfast of chopped ham sautéed with onions loaded on hash browns and covered with melted cheese that's served with two eggs and toast or a biscuit; and chicken fried steak, which Sportsman called "the number one breakfast favorite of our customers."
As for lunch specials, the meatloaf holds the number one favorite place, followed closely by the pork tenderloin and French dip sandwiches.
The Jerry Bob's staff also has a sense of humor, decorating the restaurant in a 1950s theme for Halloween, and each staffer wearing a 1950s costume.
"That was when we had an Elvis special," Sportsman noted. "It was a honey, peanut butter and banana sandwich, served with eggs and bacon — just what Elvis would have liked."
When asked to compare owning and running a restaurant to her prior job as registrar at an area middle school, Sportsman was quick with an answer.
"I really like the restaurant business because I come to work every day and work beside employees who are like family members to me," she said. "And the customers who have become regular patrons of ours also are part of that family."
Sportsman's husband, Greg, formerly was in food sales, and the couple had always "kicked around the idea of owning a restaurant or getting into some type of business having to do with food," she said. Those discussions ultimately led to them opening their Jerry Bob's location, which will seat about 100 people.
"Folks tell us they come here for the comfort food and the country atmosphere," Sportsman said. "And we'll keep giving them exactly what they want."
Jerry Bob's Family Restaurant, Oro Valley
10550 N. La Cañada
5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily.