A table full of baked goods in to-go containers at Sheila's Place in Marshfield.
The grab-and-go selection at Sheila's Place in Marshfield features cookies, pies and cobblers made from scratch. (Photo by Sheila Davis)

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When Sheila Davis was in third grade, she’d stand on a Hiland Dairy crate at her parents’ ice cream shop to take orders at the window. The restaurant industry has been in her blood ever since.

“My grandmother had (a restaurant) and my brother had one and it seems like I have never been able to escape it,” Davis said.

Sheila’s Place in Marshfield, her namesake, celebrates 30 years in business in 2024. The casual eatery is known for its homemade pies and cobblers, hand-breaded fried chicken and cashew chicken, one of the best-selling items.

Sheila turns 60 this year and downsized her operation during the COVID-19 pandemic. She went from 32 tables to only 8, thinking she wouldn’t be as busy. But she’s still plenty busy. Not to worry. If you stop in and there are two free spots at a table, people will usually invite you to sit down.

When you walk in, you might see a farmer, a lawyer from across the street and a law enforcement officer, says Davis. This is the kind of place where you get to know your neighbor or a total stranger. If you like to keep your distance, this friendly establishment may not be for you.

But if coconut meringue pie with homemade crust or a thick slice of made-from-scratch meatloaf (her mama’s recipe) is what you crave, then this Marshfield restaurant is worth a visit. As longtime customer Sarah Lowe puts it, “It’s like you’re going in and eating with friends.”

The early days and the Dairy Princess

An old red neon sign with an ice cream cone and the words "Dairy Princess" painted on it in white letters
Sheila Davis' parents owned the Dairy Princess in Seymour for years while she was growing up. That's where she got her first taste of the restaurant business. (Photo by John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Growing up, Sheila’s parents owned the Dairy Princess in Seymour for years. But once the highway was built around Seymour, it changed everything. Her dad sold it and got a job in a steel plant.

When she was in high school, her brother opened a restaurant in Marshfield.

“He had it for a year and a half,” Sheila said. “My mom ran it during the day and he ran it at night when he got off work. I had another brother killed in an accident, and when that happened it took the steam out of everyone, so we closed it.”

Starting over in Elkland

In 1994, she had been married for two years, was ready to get back into the business and opened Sheila’s Place in Elkland, a small rural community in northern Webster County.

Sarah Lowe has been coming to Sheila’s Place ever since that first location. Lowe still loves and is nostalgic for Sheila’s “great big cinnamon rolls” covered in either maple or cream cheese frosting.

“She makes everything from scratch, so naturally they are amazing,” Lowe said.

It wasn’t long before Davis realized she needed a larger market and moved to Marshfield, which is where Sheila's Place has remained, although in different locations.

Sheila Davis sits at a desk
Sheila Davis has run Sheila's Place for 30 years. She started in Elkland before moving to Marshfield. (Photo by Sheila Davis)

Most of what she knows, Sheila learned from her mom, who baked everything from scratch.

“My mom taught me how to make pies,” she said. “I was never professionally trained. Baking is my favorite.”

Making lots of pies — and 288 no-bake cookies — every day

A coconut meringue pie from Sheila's Place in Marshfield
Coconut meringue pie is available every day at Sheila's Place in Marshfield. (Photo by Sheila Davis)

At the restaurant, they have coconut, coconut meringue and chocolate pie every day. The crusts on the pies and cobblers are all handmade and Davis has been using the same crust recipes for decades. It wasn’t her mother’s, but instead came from a woman in Springfield who Davis worked for at one point. It’s a no-fail recipe, which is important in this industry.

“We make the crust and put it in the fridge and bake 6-12 a day for the next morning,” Davis said.

There are four prep cooks trained to make pies, which is an art that goes by feel and experience.

There are also always three fruit cobblers on the menu, with peach being the most popular. They sell by the slice and have lots of grab-and-go dessert business. Her homemade carrot cake is another popular dessert, and so is the banana pudding made Southern style with cream cheese. Despite her reputation for amazing pies and cobblers, her no-bake cookies fly off the shelves.

“We package them by the dozen and sell more of them than anything, because people grab a dozen and take them home,” Davis said. “We make a batch of no-bakes — and one batch is six dozen — and some days we make three to four batches a day.”

That’s 288 cookies a day.

Google reviews have been kind to her, and Davis says people pull off Interstate Highway 44 to eat at her establishment.

COVID-19 changed everything

Cinnamon rolls from Sheila's Place in Marshfield, Missouri.
Sheila's Place in Marshfield is known for its homemade pies and cobblers, cinnamon rolls, hand-breaded fried chicken and cashew chicken, one of the best-selling items. (Photo by Sheila Davis)

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sheila’s Place was located on State Route A. She had 26 employees at the time. She never closed and didn’t have to lay off a single person.

That location had a drive-through window so people could call, place their order and pick it up. When consumers couldn’t get groceries, she was innovative and packaged groceries such as flour, because she had massive quantities.

“People couldn’t get spaghetti, but I could get big bulks of it,” she said. “They would call and say ‘I need 5 pounds of hamburger and some spaghetti.' We were just doing enough to pay our people. Marshfield was supportive. Sometimes people would be lined up down the street and people were so patient. We survived because of local support.”

That support meant so much and is the reason Sheila Davis has survived for three decades in business. That support was a two-way street.

“During COVID, my husband wanted ham and beans and I couldn’t find beans anywhere,” Lowe said. “Sheila sold them to me at cost. She helped a lot of people through a hard time.”

New location offers slightly scaled-back menu

Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and a roll from Sheila's Place in Marshfield, Missouri
Sheila Davis had hoped to scale back on her menu and mostly offer sandwiches at her new location, but customers wanted her hand-breaded fried chicken. Davis now offers it for lunch on Mondays and on Friday nights. (Photo by Sheila Davis)

Once they got through the worst of it, Davis decided to downsize and relocate to the Marshfield square. Today, she has 13 employees but needs 16. Like all restaurants, she struggles with staffing. Davis said she is fortunate to have a handful of employees who have been with her for years, but it’s harder to attract young talent.

“I try to be competitive with pay but cannot compete against corporations,” Davis said. “Restaurant work is hard work. It is hard to find people, young people in particular, that want to work that hard.”

She has scaled back the original menu, but not as much as she’d like. Originally, Davis wanted the smaller location to mostly serve sandwiches. But customers wanted her hand-breaded fried chicken, which she now offers for Monday lunch and on Friday nights. She’s closed on weekends but ends up catering a lot. In a given week, she can have nine or 10 catering orders.

She makes 20-30 pounds a week of her mama’s meatloaf, and Davis can’t believe how popular chicken livers are. She makes Mexican food on Tuesday, then there’s bourbon grilled pork chops and homemade mashed potatoes. Cashew chicken is the number one seller at lunch. For such a small space, it is a full menu. Davis said she makes sure not to work every weekend because it robs her of family time.

Davis plans to work for five more years and then reevaluate. Sheila’s Place has been her home for 30 years — and a second home for many folks in Marshfield. Davis says the best part is all the amazing people she’s met.

Locals appreciate her, too.

“She has been a huge part of the community,” said Lowe, Marshfield native.

Juliana Goodwin

Juliana Goodwin is a freelance journalist with experience covering business, travel and tourism, health, food and history. She is a former Food and Travel Columnist for the Springfield News-Leader, a former business reporter for The Joplin Globe, and has written for USA Today and Arkansas Living Magazine, among others. More by Juliana Goodwin