People of Winston: Mary Haglund

by Alison Shermeta
Get to know Mary Haglund, an original force behind the downtown revitalization and a stalwart on the food & hospitality scene.

“It has always been the main way I show love to people, is cooking for them. So I had this idea that I would love to have a restaurant.” 

Mary Haglund grew up in Indiana, where celebrations were spent with extended family, renting out a church with a nice kitchen where they’d stay all day. She remembers “the women did the cooking and the men cleaned up and if you brought a Jell-o salad, it meant you were pregnant.” Food and hospitality became associated with love, joy and family. When they moved to Winston, Mary worked in restaurants in town until she got the itch to have her own place. “I was never trained in culinary school, I can barely balance a checkbook. What I do have is an incredible work ethic, a love for food and people, and a great palate. Also, I’m kind of fearless.”

Just over 20 years ago, Mary opened Mary’s Of Course on Brookstown Ave, serving homemade comfort food made with local ingredients. Mary was one of the first in town to bring the farm to the table and her dining room was as eclectic as it was packed with customers, with walls decked out by local artists, retro salt and pepper shakers on each table, and vintage toys tucked away here and there. Years later, Mary transitioned to Mary’s Gourmet Diner on Trade St, where she packed in a crowd until the difficult decision to close its doors during the pandemic. “If you can’t come to Mary’s and stand in line or in my dining room where you’re bumping into people and my staff is kissing and hugging you, it’s not Mary’s anymore.” 

The tradition of having people over continues on for Mary, whose dinner table stretches to seat 12, and whose porch is lovingly decorated and ready to receive friends and family. Her home is as cozy, welcoming, and quirky as her restaurant; her salt and pepper shaker collection graces the top of her wall-to-wall cookbook shelves and it’s her grandmother’s worn cookware at the ready on her stove. She’s working now on a memoir-cookbook, a project she’s writing specifically for women who think they can’t live their dream. “I lived my dream; it went beyond anything I ever imagined. I know I can never give back to this community as much as I’ve been given, but I’ll try.”

October 21, 2021