Community Business of the Week
Some people are said to have a real passion for cooking. These people often say that they were born to cook. One such person is Sheila Hill, owner of Big Bone Takeout.
Sheila was born and raised in Columbia, SC. A 1995 graduate of Eau Claire High School, and she enrolled at Midlands Tech while doing hair on the side. But from an early age, cooking was her passion.
“I have always been cooking since I was 9 years old,” she said. “I was an only child. At an age when most kids would be outside playing, I was in there cooking and cleaning. I learned how to cut up yams and collard greens, and shred cheese. I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal at age 11.”
“My mom suffered from gout, so I ended up doing most of the cooking and cleaning. I just love it. It puts me in a different state in my own zone. It makes me happy when I have other people enjoy my meal or say my food reminds me of their mother and they cry.”
Eventually, Sheila got a chance to show the world her culinary skills. A close personal friend, who she refers to as Sugar Bear, encouraged her to begin catering.
“We were the best of friends,” Sheila said. “He took me to different places to cater events.”
Friends and family began telling her that she should open a restaurant. Eventually, she gave in to the idea.
“I was home, taking care of the kids and doing all this cooking,” Sheila recalled. “He (Sugar Bear) had a building with a barber shop and a restaurant together.”
Although she was initially afraid to take the plunge, Sugar Bear encouraged her and told her that he believed in her.
Sheila opened her first restaurant, Fancy Skillet, in 2000. She loved the fact that she was able to do something she loved and take care of her special needs daughter at the same time. In addition, her mother worked with her as well.
“She did breakfast, and I did lunch and dinner,” she recalled. “My mom helped me until her diagnosis got weaker and she couldn't help me anymore.”
Sheila shut the restaurant down after four years.
In 2012, Sheila began working for National Healthcare as a dietary manager. She worked long hours, and was unhappy because she was unable to spend as much time with her kids as she wanted.
In March 2019, Sugar Bear died. In October 2019, Sheila visited his gravesite and asked, “Sugar Bear, what should I do?”
The answer came a short time later through a conversation with her current boyfriend. Sheila kept noticing a building whenever she drove down Beltline Boulevard. She mentioned it to her boyfriend, who happened to know the owner and offered to introduce Sheila to him if she was serious about it.
She said yes, and less than two hours later he showed up at her job with the key to the building. So in October 2019, Sheila was suddenly back in the restaurant business.
Sheila spent two months renovating the space. She didn’t even tell her closest friends what she was doing. The new restaurant, named Big Bone, opened on December 19, 2019.
“My girlfriends call me Big Momma, but someone already used that name,” Sheila recalled. “I thought of the Flintstones and Fred always having a big steak. So I said I am just going to name it Big Bone.”
Big Bone specializes in good, southern-style cooking. Popular items include baked chicken, baked turkey wings, smothered pork chops, fried chicken and fried pork chops. Popular side items include collard greens, cabbage, yams, macaroni & cheese, string beans and cornbread.
Popular lunch items include cheeseburgers, hotdogs, fries, pork chop sandwiches, chicken wings and pig feet.
Big Bone is especially busy on Sundays. That is the day that Sheila prepares special items.
“My Sunday special now is BBQ ribs and potato salad,” Sheila said. “Every now and then I do oxtails and chitterlings for $13. I usually post what I am having for Sunday dinners on my Facebook page.”
Big Bone has become famous for great taste and generous portions.
“I am heavy-handed with my portions,” said Sheila. “That’s just me. I just want to make sure people have enough.”
She especially wants to make sure her customers that rely on her for their home-cooked meals have enough.
“I have a lot of customers that live by themselves,” Sheila said. “I had two elderly clients, and their family members would pay me $100 a week and pick up lunch and dinner on the days I was open. They wanted to make sure their family members got a home-cooked meal. They trusted in me to make their food.”
Sheila says that having people trust her to prepare their meals is very satisfying.
“I'm so overwhelmed,” Sheila says. “I'm so thankful for our people to believe in me. I have regulars. I have people that hits me on Facebook or in the streets. I just get so teary-eyed because I have only been open since December 19. Everybody in the neighborhood has been so good to me.”
When asked about the secret to her success, Sheila says “The man above, because without him I wouldn’t be here.”
Big Bone Takeout is located at 3908 West Beltline Boulevard. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. To place a takeout order, call (803) 888-7495.