Many people in their 70s are winding things down. Not Gretchen Shoemaker. At age 74, she decided to fulfill her lifelong dream of getting into the restaurant biz. With help from her daughter Nika Shoemaker-Machado and son-in-law, Marlon Machado, she opened up Georgia’s, a soul food restaurant in Anaheim. The restaurant serves fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collards, peach cobbler. Some of her recipes — namely the coleslaw and the potato salad — date back to the Civil War.
Shoemaker was raised outside Philadelphia in a family of ten kids. Food played a central role. Shoemaker often helped her mother and grandmother serve food in other people’s homes.
At age 24, Shoemaker moved to California with her husband, George. She supported the two of them while her husband was in school through waitressing. Then she became a cook at Good Shepherd Lutheran Home in Orange County. Catering gigs also helped make ends meet.
Finally, she saved up the capital to open Georgia’s and now she’s a fixture at the restaurant. Catch a glimpse of her on the sweet potato float at Saturday’s Black History Parade in Downtown Anaheim.