Talking Shop with Sandy Ladd, owner of Sandy's Place

Monday, June 6, 2011
Sandy Ladd operates Sandy's Place restaurant at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. (Fred Lynch)

Since 2008, Sandy's Place at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport has been serving hungry customers who fly or drive to the restaurant. With help from some of her family, owner Sandy Ladd serves up Southern favorites like catfish, fried chicken and barbecue ribs to customers she feels are part of her family, too.

Question: How did you get your start in the restaurant business?

Answer: I have worked in restaurants since I was 15. My first job was in a restaurant. I did several other restaurants over the years in the Cape-Jackson area. Then I did manufacturing for 14 years and got laid off from there. While I was laid off, one of my neighbors had opened The Drop Zone restaurant [at the airport], and I started working for her. I worked for her 18 months and she was getting ready to move, so me and my husband, Tony, took it over. That's how I ended up here.

Q: What's it like working together as husband and wife?

A: When you think about it we're together every day. We ride to work together, we ride home together, but it goes pretty good.

Q: What's different about having a restaurant at an airport?

A: A lot of people are just coming through getting fuel. It's amazing sometimes where people are from. What they're doing, why they're flying, where they're going. And then we have a lot of locals, too. If they're not here on a Friday night, you're thinking well, so and so didn't come in tonight. I wonder where they are, because they're always here on a Friday night. It's gotten to the point where the customers aren't like just somebody in here eating. We've been here long enough now that we know them. We keep up with what's going on with each others' kids. It's like a big extended family.

Q: Sandy's Place received the Southeast Missourian's People's Choice Award for Best Catfish. Without giving away any secrets, what makes a good plate of catfish?

A: The breading. I just think you want a good, golden-brown catfish.

Q: Do you enjoy cooking?

A: I don't cook. Tony does all the cooking. I like to cook, but he does back there and I do everything out front. It's Sandy's Place, Tony's Kitchen.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering opening their own business?

A: Do the work yourself. Be there every day and keep up with everything. I'm here every day. Every once in a while something comes up where I can't be here for an hour or two. This is our job, and it doesn't end in 40 hours. Trust me. This is not a 40-hour-a-week job. I never dread coming to work. I always am ready to go. I enjoy what I do, I really do.

Q: In addition to your husband, Tony, how do other members of your family help out at Sandy's Place?

A: On Friday nights I have a lot of help. My parents have helped a bunch. They've been here a lot more than I think they want to be sometimes. Both of my sisters are here and my sons help also.

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