Longtime Employee Becomes New Owner at Poor Richard’s Cafe

For Sonja Ryder, every day she goes to work feels like a family reunion. She is the new owner of the beloved Poor Richard’s Café, an East Plano home-style restaurant that’s been around since 1973.

Sonja started her time at Poor Richard’s as a hostess 27 years ago, when she was just a teenager. She later became a waitress, then operations manager, and she just recently bought the restaurant with her father and brother.

Longtime staff members at Poor Richard’s, including general manager James Wills (second from left) and new owner Sonja Ryder (in the center) // photos Jenice Johnson Williams

Since 2001, the single mother of three children has driven to and from her home in Wills Point every day, at least an hours’ drive each way. Her passion and dedication for business ownership comes from a long line of entrepreneurs who gave her their full support in buying the restaurant.

“I decided after 27 years that if it came up for sale, I really wanted to do it. I didn’t want to do anything different. I’ve done this, I love this, and I didn’t want someone to come in and change things,” Sonja said, adding that new ownership sometimes means things get altered. “We’re not broke — there’s nothing that needed fixing. I wanted to come in here and do what we have always done and [what] the customers have always loved.”

And what they have always loved seems to be the friendly atmosphere, in addition to the home cooking. James Wills has worked as a general manager for Poor Richard’s for 14 years. He said customers always remark that coming to the café “feels like home.” Most of the staff has worked at the café more than 15 years.

“The food’s good and the people are good,” he said. “If you eat here very often, you make good friends.”

Marisa Corgiat, a waitress of 13 years at Poor Richard’s Café, laughs with fellow staff while picking up an order

And how about that food? Popular dishes include the Plano eggs, chicken fried steak, eggs benedict, chicken and waffles and pulled pork quesadillas. When you order the pancakes, you can’t help but think of birthday cake when you smell them coming.

Eggs Benedict Combo
The Big Tex Breakfast, including chicken fried steak, eggs and pancakes

The staff said they were excited when Sonja chose to buy the restaurant and happy to see that it will remain consistent. Gerri Mingus, a waitress since 1990, said everyone works together well. Co-owner Chelsea Scheel, Sonja’s sister-in-law, said they wanted to support her in her dream, so they all scraped together to make it happen.

Once long-time customers found out who was taking over the restaurant, they had a line out of the door, she said. And if you spend any time with Sonja, you will witness that encouragement yourself as customers give her hugs and congratulations for her decision.

“The support of staff and customers has been fantastic,” Sonja said. “I almost feel like a rock star!”

Poor Richard’s Cafe is located in east Plano

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