MACON, Ga. — Two years ago, Teresa Cohen packed her bags and left Atlanta.
She used to own a popular Warner Robins restaurant called Creative Home Cooked Meals. She thought taking her talents to Georgia’s capitol would be a success.
“I wasn’t used to the city,” Cohen said. “A lot of people there, they stole from me and I went out of business.”
In 2016, Cohen moved back to Central Georgia and decided she was going to stay for good. She says she prayed to find a good location with adequate parking for her next restaurant venture and she came across an available storefront at 1530 Rocky Creek Road, where Johnny V’s Restaurant once was.
“I said, ‘God, whenever you get ready to find the location that I should be at – send me to it’,” Cohen said.
On June 4, Cohen and her co-owner, Robert Jones, signed the lease for the building. Now, they are getting ready to open a restaurant on August 19. It's named “Ma Duke.”
Jones and Cohen met in February at a Chick-fil-A. Cohen says she told Jones about how she lost money after leaving Atlanta, but she was still interested in starting another restaurant. Jones, an Atlanta native, said he was looking for a new investment.
“I told him I said, ‘Well I’m cooking Sunday so if you want to come taste the food, you can taste the food,'” She said. “Once he tasted the food he was like, ‘That’s it. I always want to invest my money in something. Go find a place and I will invest.'"
Jones helped make the restaurant happen, Cohen said.
Cohen says one of her son’s friends nicknamed her Ma Duke when he came to her house and insisted he could smell her cooking from down the street.
“I stand behind Ma Duke,” Cohen said. “Come where the food tastes good, looks good, is good – and it is good.”
Cohen was raised in Macon and started cooking at age seven, helping her grandmother out during the holidays.
“I really used to be kind of a little upset because all the other kids were outside playing and everything, but my grandmother, I was the one who had to help her cook,” she said. “As I got older I really started enjoying it. I didn’t care about going outside anymore.”
She says she wants to “bring back” traditional Southern cooking to Macon – like grandma and grandpa used to make. That is why her restaurant’s sign has a vintage look to it.
“You can even look at my sign outside and you can tell what type of cooking. That it’s the old, traditional way,” she said.
Cohen says she plans to have breakfast start at 5 a.m. Seniors, 55-years-old and over, get a free coffee with the purchase of a breakfast. The restaurant will also have a lunch special from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $5.99. Dinner will end at 8 p.m.
“I want to make sure my prices are affordable,” she said.
Cohen says she is currently hiring employees. She says no previous work experience is required. Applicants must be over 16-years-old and come with a smile.
“Smiling faces because it’s going to be a happy atmosphere,” she said.
Cohen has 18 grandchildren and she says she would love to have those who are old enough work in the restaurant. All they have to do is keep up their grades and set up a bank account.
“To me, life repeats itself. The same thing, when my grandmother raised me. It seems like I’m doing the same thing she did with my grandkids,” Cohen said.
Cohen says the Chamber of Commerce will honor Ma Duke’s grand opening with a groundbreaking ceremony and ribbon cutting.
“That’s my passion,” Cohen said. “That’s my gift from God – cooking.”