Located just a few minutes from Truman State University’s campus lies a small, homey diner known as Pancake City.
While the wide assortment of freshly prepared, syrup-laden pancakes draws customers in, Pancake City is far more than a breakfast establishment in the eyes of Sheila Billington.
Billington has worked at Pancake City for 11 years as a supervisor and waitress. As a waitress, she puts away dishes, waits on tables and addresses customers’ concerns.
The friendships she’s formed throughout the years with customers and staff separates Pancake City’s work environment from other restaurants, Billington said. She’s made a lot of personal connections during her time at Pancake City, with some customers even traveling from her hometown of Milan, Missouri, to visit her.
“[My regular customers and I] talk about family, kids, experiences,” Billington said. “I can tell you what they’re going to eat or drink before they even get to the table.”
Billington said she tries to socialize with customers even if she doesn’t always know them.
“I like conversation and interacting with people, and you get that [at Pancake City],” Billington said. “While at [a fast food restaurant], it’s more of just like, ‘What would you like, here’s your food and go on’ … there aren’t really any challenges working here — I just enjoy making people happy.”
Billington said these bonds extend to the staff members, particularly the managers and owners.
“When you have family issues — your kids are sick or you need a day off — they’re all there for you,” Billington said. “That’s always nice to have that personal, one-on-one family.”
Even so, Billington jokingly said only specific cooking staff are allowed in the kitchen.
“I don’t do any of the cooking. [The cooks] are like, ‘That’s my place, you stay out!’”
The small-town atmosphere of Kirksville also plays a large role in Billington’s satisfaction with working at Pancake City.
Billington said when she lived in Springfield, Missouri, the atmosphere was completely different than Kirksville’s.
“I thought if you knew how to waitress, you could do it anywhere,” Billington said. “[Springfield] is nothing like my hometown of Kirksville.”
No matter where she goes in Kirksville, Billington said she’ll recognize people she knows, oftentimes her customers at Pancake City.
“You don’t get that in a lot of the bigger cities because there’s too much action going on,” Billington said. “I really like it in [Kirksville] that you can actually have one-on-one [conversations] with people. People actually care about a lot more than just themselves, which is nice.”