James and Donna Stroman are the owners of Café Sundaé in Cartersville. Café Sundaé is located in the West End Commons Plaza, a popular shopping mall Bartow County. The married couple however lives in Jonesboro and has operated their restaurant an hour and a half away from their home since June 2020.

As the couple contemplated their next move, a friend from church made an offer on a space he owned in Cartersville. This offer surprised the Stromans since they did not have the financial means nor experience to own a restaurant. 

In August 2019, the Stromans experienced a difficult transition in their lives. From James setting aside his musical passions to Donna undergoing a layoff from her job of five years.

Opportunity knocks

Excited and eager about the unexpected proposal, James said he instantly accepted the offer, but Donna had many reservations. After many conversations and a few alternatives later, the couple signed the lease in September 2019 and decided to transform the previous ice cream establishment into a cafe serving healthy food options to the public.

The couple’s decision to open a food service stemmed from their prior experience working in the food business. Donna managed restaurants for 15 years, working at Taco Bell and Applebees during her career, while James only had three months of experience working in a restaurant kitchen.

“Food is what I know [and] people are going to always eat. That’s a necessity,” Donna Stroman said about their idea for the business. 

The healthy food menu emerged from the area’s proximity to a fitness gym, physical therapy office, and restaurants that serve classical American food. The Stromans researched the type of restaurants in the area to get a sense of the community’s food preferences and which items they could implement into their menu.

“We were mindful of the area we were in and what’s going on in this plaza,” Donna said. 

The pair did not open their cafe until June 2022 due to the pandemic causing them to pay eight months of rent with no incoming revenue. However, when they opened their menu filled with smoothies, salads, sandwiches, black bean burgers and more, their food fit the current lifestyle changes people made because of COVID. 

“Now people are more aware of what they’re eating and being health conscious overall, (which) confirmed our idea, so everything kind of flowed together,” Donna said.

Despite the pandemics disrupting their grand opening, the couple made a mark on the community and continue to thrive and build their cafe with hopes of expanding to their hometown in Jonesboro.

“This experience will help us because I do want to put a cafe Sunday on the southside of Atlanta because that’s another thing, we need access to healthier food,” Donna said.