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story.lead_photo.caption <p>Democrat photo/Michelle Brooks</p><p>Jackie Heather retired as owner of Nic Nac Cafe after 20 years as owner and another 21 before as an employee. The new owner, David Wyatt, a former Sonic manager, plans few changes but a few updates in the coming year.</p>

The homestyle menu at Nic Nac Cafe will remain, though all of the seats are now smoke-free with the change of ownership Jan. 1 from Jackie Heather to David Wyatt.

For the last few weeks, Wyatt, formerly the manager of the local Sonic store, has been in the kitchen learning the business and recipes, particularly learning how to bake the signature pies.

The pie recipes have passed to Wyatt from Heather, who learned them from the late Gertie Leonard.

At age 16, Heather started waitressing for the Nic Nac Cafe in the fall of 1977, through a school-to-work program at Tipton High School. Katherine Sack owned the business, established in 1961, at the time, when it was just a handful of chairs at the corner of Oak and Buchanan streets, where KRRL radio is today.

"I've never had another job in my life," Heather said.

A very shy young lady, she said it didn't take her long to move from the tables to the kitchen.

In the spring of 1978, Doris "Tiny" Walters and Blanche Hartman bought the business from Sack. They relocated the business in 1984 to the current location, which seats more than 100.

Hartman died in 1993 and Walters sold to Heather in 1999.

For 20 years, Heather ran the local landmark, today the "oldest still operating cafe left in town," she said.

The business has regulars but also draws customers from Jefferson City and Eldon, folks looking for the homestyle meal or all-day breakfast.

"I like to think of the place as family-oriented," Heather said. "I will miss the people."

Although she doesn't have immediate plans, one thing is for sure. She will enjoy sleeping past her normal 2:30 a.m. wake-up time to start the pies and open the restaurant six days-a-week. She also will spend more time with her family, Mason, 15, and mother Lois Heather, Clarksburg

"I'll still come in; but sit down and relax and enjoy a meal, Heather said.

The fresh-made burgers and the broasted chicken might be some of the most popular menu items, she said. But the people keep coming back for the atmosphere and tradition, as well as the food, Heather said.

During her years, Heather said the business returned support to the community as much as it could, through meal coupons or donating pies. Wyatt, who made a point to be involved in the community through Sonic, said he hopes to grow the cafe business so he can continue to help the community.

Wyatt and his family, including wife Danielle, arrived in California nearly three years ago. They are fond of the town's laid-back atmosphere that matches their own disposition, he said.

After 15 years with Sonic, the College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, graduate said he had been looking for a new, more personal restaurant management opportunity.

"The biggest difference here is people are not looking to get their food in three minutes," he said. "There's more of an art to the food and more ownership in the food going out the door."

Wyatt's philosophy revolves around customer service and food and customer safety, he said.

He likes that the Nic Nac is an established community gathering place. But he does have plans to make some updates in the future.