Jonnie Flewelling, owner of the Seminole Inn in Indiantown.
Mother's Day grocery list looks something like this:
"Well, I don't like to run out," Flewelling
explains, "so I usually plan for about 100 more than they say are coming."
Which, this year, puts it at about 400 people. ("We've been trying to cut back," Flewelling
Considering crowds of years past, 400 is a feat for the general manager of the Seminole Inn
, the 77-year-old hotel and restaurant situated in the citrus groves and dusty brown cattle lands of Indiantown.
"I can't remember there ever not being a Mother's Day brunch," says 50-year-old Flewelling
, whose family has owned the inn intermittently for about 30 years.
In the past 11 years alone, she's
seen the celebrated event -- boasting roast beef, fried chicken and traditional Cracker fare -- grow from a mid-sized meal to a famed feast, drawing upwards of 600 people.
Flewelling recalls it like this: "All of a sudden, I'm not feeding 100 people, I'm feeding 200 people.
"There were some years we had people eating everywhere," Flewelling
says, "by the pool, in the lobby.We put tables in the gift shop.
"There were so many people, you couldn't see through them."
Were it not for warnings by a building restoration expert, Flewelling
says the brunch still would welcome the same amount of business.But the worn wooden floorboards creaked under so many feet, and the cast iron-pipe plumbing couldn't keep up with the demands of 600 diners.
"Finally, I had to say to the girls, 'Don't take more than 300 reservations,'" Flewelling
It proved an unpleasant surprise for many regulars, who called after all reservations were booked.
"Some of them were irate," Flewelling
concedes, "but I just told them, 'You have to make your reservations the year before, as you're leaving.'"
If the food is phenomenal -- and it is, says Flewelling
-- it's the result of plenty of preparation.
All produce is fresh, handpicked by Flewelling
herself and shipped in from Stuart, except for the blackberries and wild oranges, which her
young nieces and nephews pluck from trees on family property.
, at turns hostess, waitress and chef, is the first to admit it's not just the menu that draws crowds.
"Yeah, we have awesome food," she
says, "but that's not the magic.The mystique of the inn is that it's authentic and it's rooted in Florida and Crackers and Seminoles."
"It's not about pomp and circumstance," she
"It reminds people of when they grew up," Flewelling
says simply."It feels like home, that Beaver Cleaver feeling of what home is supposed to be." She
insists the brunch doesn't make much money for the inn, but she
says that doesn't matter.
"This town needs this, the people need it," she