Route 66 in the News
Blessed Mary's in Groom, Texas, Serves Divine Fare
Blessed Mary's Restaurant in Groom makes a righteous cheeseburger, and the enchiladas are heavenly. What distinguishes this spot on Historic Route 66 is that there are no prices on the menu and no cash register on the premises. There is only a big jar by the door and a sign asking you to pay what you can. Any profits are donated to charity.
My cheeseburger and fries cost $20 because I didn't have anything smaller and could not bring myself to dig change out of the jar.
Jim and Carolyn Moraniec opened the cafe off of Interstate 40 east of Amarillo four years ago this August. Jim Moraniec says most people will pay a fair amount for the food. "Some people will stiff me, and some people will take money out [of the jar], but God sees," he says in a friendly, low voice. "I know those are the ones I need to pray for the most."
Some days he won't have a customer and other days a tour bus will pull in. The word has spread about the tasty food and charitable deeds.
When Moraniec first rented the wooden building on old Route 66, it wasn't much more than four walls. "The only thing that worked was a slicer," he says. "And it didn't work very long."
The 71-year-old Michigan native is an engineer who retired after 31 years of working at the nuclear bomb factory in Amarillo.
The dining room with 15 tables is bright and cheery. The local "liars" club meets there in the afternoons to swap stories, talk about the weather and drink coffee. "No problem in the world too big for us to solve," says one of the members who has arrived early.
The group's solutions are probably inspired by the religious pictures and icons that decorate the walls. In one corner a big picture of Mother Teresa smiles down on the diners with word "Charity" in big, bold red letters across the bottom.
The overt religious messages around the dining room don't mean that Moraniec is hard-core evangelical. He is a willing witness for his faith, but he will talk for hours on just about any subject. His faith in a higher being is what inspires him to do good for his fellow man. He claims that many of his business decisions have been driven his conversations with God.
"I was going to replace the old walk-in freezer," he says, "until I found out it was going to cost more than $7,000. I had a dream, and a voice said, 'If it works, let it be.' I'm still using it. No telling how much longer it is going to work, but it's worked for four years."
One of just a few restaurants mentioned in the Texas State Travel Guide, Blessed Mary's has accomplished good even as Moraniec struggles to keep the doors open. He has helped others with groceries, rent and utility bills. He bought a mother with two children a car. Some of the money from the business goes to help maintain the 190-foot-tall cross by the interstate that can be seen for miles.
"This isn't the first time I've been broke," Moraniec says with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. "It's a blessing just being alive." The back of his business card says: Faith, Hope, Love, Don't Worry.
Blessed Mary's Restaurant opens 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. because the voice told Jim Moraniec to do so. Although reservations aren't necessary, he appreciates advance notice by large groups - just call him at 806-248-0170 before arrival - especially if they want the enchiladas. The cafe is at the western end of Groom near Exit 112 off I-40.
~Gerald McLeod, from theEagle.com