Nonnah's, the mother-daughter-ran restaurant known best for its pastry kitchen, and especially its cakes, closed on Monday.
Shannon Syrbe and her mother Maggie Groff started the Gervais Street restaurant more than 23 years ago. Syrbe says the duo are tired and ready to move on.
"My mom's 74 and she wants to retire," Syrbe tells Free Times. "I can't do it without her. She runs a business and I make cakes."
She emphasizes that in addition to she and her mother's desire to move on, the restaurant faced a Columbia restaurant scene that has grown a lot since Nonnah's arrived on the scene. Those expanded options include a variety of dessert specialists, such as Kaminsky's Dessert Café, which opened across the street in 2015.
"The volume of options is so much bigger," she says. "When we opened, people would walk from Main Street to the Vista for lunch. Why would they do that now? There's so many great places to go."
For about two years, Nonnah's housed Chayz Lounge in its event space, but the smooth jazz joint moved to West Columbia in April.
Syrbe and her mother started the restaurant largely on a whim, she says. The family had been in the neighborhood and thought that an "after-dinner spot" would fill a hole.
In opening the business, they leaned on Groff's business experience (she was working in human resources at the time), Syrbe's husband's then-job at Capital Wine and Beverage, and her past experience in restaurants.
They flipped Syrbe's first name, Shannon, backwards to find the name.
"The next thing you know, we're signing a lease," she says.
The restaurant moved across Gervais Street from its original location 17 years ago. In its latter, larger space, the business relied on specialty services like hosting events or special-order cakes.
"We had to have a lot of balls in the air to make it work," Syrbe says. "You just kind of get to a point where you're like, 'Do I want to keep working my butt off all the time?'"
The family brought together the restaurant's 15 staff members on Monday afternoon to announce Nonnah's closure and share a drink. The team is mostly made up of college-aged students and Syrbe says she is hopeful they will find another gig soon.
While Groff is retiring, Syrbe is uncertain what her future holds. She expects to try something outside the restaurant business or, maybe, travel.
"I'm starting to see a different chapter, and that's kind of exciting to me," she says.