“All of us, but especially my mother, would stand by the door every night at opening and introduce herself to every customer that walked in,” Higdon says.By then, Sonya Livingston and Higdon were helping their mother out whenever there was a break from their thriving dancing careers.Others scoffed at the idea of a steakhouse when there were already three in town. She had an eye for seeing potential in worn, abandoned restaurant buildings, thanks to her quarter-century of restaurant management experience and strong business instincts.Her ex-husband had taught her the importance of keeping her overhead low — finding cheap rent, not going into debt buying equipment, and keeping labor and food costs down.She spent a lot of her time in nearby Dothan and, after graduating high school, decided to apply for a job at a new, popular barbecue restaurant. He tells me that ‘my partner and I don’t hire people we date.’ Well, I didn’t know we were dating! As the wife of one of the owners, Livingston filled in as manager and hostess. “It was like having guests over every day,” says Higdon.One of the co-owners of Dobbs Famous Bar-B-Que, Bill Livingston, decided that he needed to meet this applicant personally and asked Livingston if he could come to her house for lunch. ” She didn’t get the job, but they did date — and eventually got married. “She’s tried to bring that sense here, too.” A Department-Store Dropout After her daughters had moved to New York City, one dancing for the famous Radio City Rockettes and the other dancing for Holland America Cruise Lines, Livingston’s marriage fell apart.
Livingston intended to use recipes she was familiar with from not only her ex-husband’s restaurant, but also from a steakhouse her sister had opened.
After her divorce, she moved to Birmingham, Ala., because she liked the city and decided to apply at the upscale department store Parisian.
In the application, she left the salary-requirement line blank.
When she first moved to Tallahassee in 1991, Livingston was warned against opening a restaurant just east of Capital Circle Southeast on Apalachee Parkway, where Old Mexico is now.
“They told me that building was jinxed,” Livingston says.