Sterling, Colo. -- About 25 years ago, John McMahon and a few investors bought the J & L Cafe in Sterling.

It was the definition of hometown eating with breakfast, lunch and dinner having a home kitchen familiarity, and the main "signature dish" a prime rib dinner. 

The family venture started with taking a chance and buying the established restaurant. John McMahon and a few others were at T.J. Bummers, another restaurant in Sterling.

"In 1998, probably before that, in 1997, in '96, my husband John worked for T.J. Bummers. There were a group of people at T.J. Bummers that bought the J & L., and John was one of that group. And then in 1998 on July 3, we bought, John and I bought it out," said Suzanne McMahon.  

She recalls the early days, learning the roles of business owner, restauranteur, parents of four young children and for herself -- a nursing student.

"We were young. We had four kids at home. We didn't know what we were doing, but John grew up in restaurants so, we went for it, and I'm so glad we did," she said.

Her husband John died a little more than a year ago from illnesses, June 2022. During the six months leading up to his death, his children ran the restaurant while Suzanne took care of him. 

Since his passing, three of the four children continue to work in the family business. Son Coby carries on the legacy from behind the serving counter, cooking and designing plates as his father John did. Meanwhile daughters Erika and Andrea deliver service to the patrons. 

McMahon says she can't guarantee the future. But she does enjoy seeing their children, and the staff who are treated as family, continue what John started.

The J & L Cafe is continuing one of the traditions started by John, but with a special emphasis. The annual free dinner this year is being held in celebration of the family's 25 years as owners of the J & L. The celebration will be lunch Sunday, July 2. This year, the barbecue tradition will be held inside.