BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Friendship House is arguably one of the area’s most popular gathering places for lunch. And, one visit is all it will take to know why! Step inside and be greeted by the aroma of fresh coffee, smells of fresh soup, and the noise and laughter coming from friends eating together. Good food is all the better when shared with good friends and this happens each and every day at Friendship House. There is always something good to eat, it is consistent, whether it is the soup, or a loaded baked potato. There is something new at the restaurant, as of January 1st, Priscilla Strother and Arby Ryalls are the new owners.
Priscilla and Arby are thrilled to be a part of such a meaningful place that has long been an environment where family and friends meet to share a good meal and a few laughs. “We are just so blessed to have had the opportunity to buy from Brandi and Norma and are excited about the future,” says Priscilla. If the past is any indication, they will most likely enjoy a lot of success as Friendship House continues to be a Mena favorite.
Priscilla and Arby have been working together for over four years now. They worked together at Dr. Fox’s office over the last several years and it was during this time that the idea was born. “I’ve always wanted to open a coffee shop and Priscilla and I said that if Brandi ever wanted to sell that we should buy. I was kind of joking, but I was the serious one,” recalls Arby with a smile. The time came when Brandi and Norma decided to sell and posted it on Facebook. Priscilla saw the post and was shocked, she immediately called Arby. “I called and told her they were selling Friendship House and asked if she was still interested or serious about buying. When I asked, she said ‘sure’, explains Priscilla laughing. Just like that, an idea that came up one day at the office was now soon to be reality.
Once both of them decided they were on board, they began the paperwork and process of becoming the buyer the first week of November. “At first there were a lot hiccups, it was during the holidays that we needed to get most of our things done and we kept having to wait because so many people were already out of the office,” states Priscilla. Despite the setbacks, the ladies were fortunate that the process went as fast as it did. Their original plan was to start leading the beginning of January and it turned out just like they were hoping. “We have been really blessed in the process. Not only did it go faster than we expected, but we are just really thankful that Brandi and Norma would choose to sell to us,” says Arby thankfully. This dream to open a coffee shop, and specifically this one, is something that they have wanted and are thankful to have the support of their families. Priscilla explains with a grin, “Our families have been supportive. I think both of our husbands have kinda stayed out of it and wished us luck.”
Arby and Priscilla say that it is an honor to serve the people of Mena each and every day. “We haven’t been doing this very long, but already, we love the people that come in here. If it were up to me, I would just talk to people all day,” says Arby with a laugh. Both of the ladies are notably outgoing and clearly love people, their personalities are bubbly and full of joy, ensuring anyone that comes in to Friendship House is going to feel welcomed and like a dear friend. “It has been really neat to see how many ‘regulars’ there are each day. As I talk to people I get to hear their stories and that is really neat,” says Priscilla. In order to make those same regulars feel comfortable, Arby and Priscilla have left the drink and food menus exactly the same from before. “When we talked to Brandi about buying, our one condition was that the recipes stayed. We know how much people love the food here,” explains Priscilla. For anyone stopping by, they can rest well knowing that the things the community loves will stay the same. “We are appreciative of all the people who come here, their business means a lot to us and so we didn’t want to change what has made people so happy,” says Arby.
Friendship House is a great place to come and share a cup of coffee and laughs with good friends. It is an ideal coffee shop to come unwind and get lost in a good book. With the soups, salads, and sandwiches, Friendship House is sure to continue to be a favorite. “We are so thankful, beyond thankful, that people make Friendship House a part of their weekly routine,” says Priscilla. For more information on hours or the delicious menu, call 479-394-2385, or stop by the restaurant right across from the Mena Depot.