Mr D’s opens on Armory Drive

Published 11:20 am Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Alice Ellison, from left, Earva Sumblin, Douglas Sumblin and Lynnora Sumblin with Mr. D's Southern Kitchen and Catering. STEPHEN H. COWLES/TIDEWATER NEWS



FRANKLIN—Douglas Sumblin has blended three passions in his life — God, family and cooking – into one.

Wenesday, May 2, will be the city’s native’s soft grand opening of his new restaurant, Mr. D’s Southern Kitchen and Catering on 931 Armory Drive across from Armory Field at the former location of Simply Divine. He opened two weeks ago and is planning an extravaganza later this month.

“The hand of God made this possible,” Sumblin said.

On learning the building was available, Sumblin envisioned what could be done, but fear crept in, and hesitancy enabled someone else to get the site.

“I waited until the last minute,” he said, but vowed to follow through if God made the site or another available. The space in the building owned by Dr. Leon Knight became open again.

Sumblin also credits his Lord, as well as his family, for the gift to cook.

“My mother, Earva, said that one time when I was 5 or 6 years ago, I got up in the middle of the night and put pots and pans around me like I was cooking,” he said.

Initially she didn’t encourage the practice, but he watched her in the kitchen. When he was in sixth or seventh grade, Sumblin prepared a whole meal.

“Since then she’s pushed me forward. Lord, I thank you,” he said.

Though he’s had no formal training, lessons have been learned through repeated practice.

“I love to experiment,” Sumblin said, with his signature Mr. D’s Southern Drawl Pound Cake. “I put things together and voila.”

Though he refers to himself as a southern cook, some universal dishes, like spaghetti, have been challenging.

Sumblin laughs when he thinks about the repeated attempts at cooking the noodle as perfectly as his mother. Often his was either too thick or too watery. Finally, he got the knack.

“I do know how to make it now,” he added.

His youngest sister invited Sumblin to Atlanta, which he thought would be for one year, but ended up being 13 years.

He got into hotel management for places such as J.H.M. Hospitality in Greenville, S.C., and Wingate Inn and Suites in Atlanta. Later he became a general manager for Microtel Inn and Suites in Columbus, Ga.

Even while scaling back to work as a server at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant, Sumblin was recommended to become a corporate trainer of servers at new venues.

“I’ve been managing people all my life. I like to teach, train and help them take service to the next level,” said the 43-year-old. “It’s been very rewarding to travel. I’ve met wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful people.”

The importance of his family, and particularly that of his ailing father, Freddie Sumblin, compelled him to travel back and forth from Atlanta. But the trips were proving expensive, so Sumblin returned home in 2009 to help care for his dad, who died in December 2010.

In addition to his mother and sister, Lynnora, helping out as volunteer support, staff members are Alice Ellison and Justin Sumblin, a nephew.

Sumblin offers Southern fried chicken, fried fish, chicken tenders, pigs feet, ox tail, tomato pudding, lima beans and potato salad, to name a few. Desserts include banana pudding and cakes of zeta lemon, red velvet cake and triple chocolate with raspberries.

Until Monday, May 7, Mr. D’s is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday; 4 to 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. A new schedule will follow.

Reservations are recommended for weekend dining. Call 569-7544.