When Mary Haglund opened her first restaurant in Winston-Salem 17 years ago, it was unusual for women to do that - open a restaurant. It seems rather ridiculous today, considering the number of successful female restaurateurs who have seen mainstream success. Vivian Howard (Chef & the Farmer) in Kinston. Katie Button (Curate) in Asheville. Kris Fuller (Crafted) in Greensboro.
And before them - there was Mary Haglund in Winston-Salem. The owner of Mary’s Gourmet Diner remembers when people didn’t take her seriously. She was a mom and a housewife from Indiana without any formal culinary training. “I had very little support. It was still kind of that good ole’ boys system and having a woman own a restaurant was a little unusual in this town,” she says. “When I opened this restaurant, I was treated like - oh that’s so adorable, kind of condescendingly. Not taken seriously. The vibe was that ‘she wouldn’t make it.’ To me, that’s just a challenge.”
Haglund had worked in restaurants. And she knew good food. An early follower of Alice Waters, Haglund knew fresh, seasonal food was better long before there was such a thing as a “local food movement.” She was also willing to work very, very hard. “I knew I was taking a big risk, but the way I was raised, my parents made me feel like I could do what I wanted. I had a lot of confidence, and knew I always believed I could do it.”
Her way to do it - was to take breakfast and brunch to another level. And she did.
The first iteration of her restaurant, Mary’s Of Course!, drew a weekend brunch crowd willing to wait as long as it took to get a table. As long as they could sip a mug of hot coffee in the meantime. Mary’s Gourmet Diner on Trade Street still draws a weekend brunch crowd willing to wait. And it’s still worth it. Breakfast nachos are cheesey and messy and perfect for anyone needing such fare after a late night. Biscuits are fluffy and substantial. And the star of the gritz bowls - as it should be - is the generous portion of creamy stoneground grits from a local mill.
As her business became more successful over the years, Haglund recognized the importance of connectivity and support between business owners. “I started promoting other local businesses. I always eat at locally owned places and have been very outspoken that supporting each other is key to all of our success,” she says.
Last year, she also started Mary’s Mavens, a free support group for female entrepreneurs. The group, which meets monthly, aims to support, empower and educate women. “It’s something I have always dreamed of and really could have used when I was starting my own business,” she told a Winston-Salem Journal writer last year.
Triad Local First recognizes her contributions in this area with its Vibrancy Award this year. The award will be officially presented to her at its annual Community Table dinner and fundraiser on Oct. 1. "Triad Local First is very honored to present the 2017 Vibrancy Award to Mary Haglund of Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem! Her commitment to the success of independent restaurant owners, farmers, chefs and women entrepreneurs is welcoming and vital to the success of our local communities," said Mary Lacklen, Board Chair of Triad Local First.
Each year in October, Triad Local First hosts a Community Table dinner, which is our only major fundraiser of the year. The dinner features locally sourced foods, wines, beer and music under the stars. At this celebration we highlight the talents of local farmers and chefs, and we present awards to the person and/or business that makes our community unique and vibrant.
To purchase tickets to this year's event, click here