Sandwich serving and salvaging furniture: Two Olney sisters’ restaurant

Sisters’ Sandwiches & Stuff is owned and run by two local sisters. Most of the food is named after their family members or friends. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

By Marlena Chertock

March, 2012

Some people do everything to avoid their siblings. But two Olney sisters who opened a restaurant and restored furniture store two years ago work together to provide homemade food to local patrons.

Kim Carlson and Tammy Prestipino, the sisters who own and manage Sisters’ Sandwiches & Such in Olney, Maryland, talked to their husbands for years about opening a furniture store or restaurant, according to Prestipino.

“They said, ‘Just do it already,’” Prestipino said.

So they did, opening up the store in the historical Higgins Tavern on Georgia Avenue in June 2010.

Sisters’ Sandwiches & Stuff offers fresh, homemade familiar sandwiches and a nice atmosphere to customers, while also providing unique restored furniture and signs, Prestipino said.

The store is decorated with furniture and signs the sisters, in their fifties, painted and restored. Sandwich and salad names line the chalkboard behind the register.

Sisters’ Sandwiches & Such is built in the historical tavern structure of Higgins Tavern, which was built in 1823, according to a plaque outside the store. The tavern was owned by two women, which was uncommon during the 1800s when mostly men were allowed into taverns and bars, according to the plaque.

Customers often eat sandwiches, salads or sweets, all priced $9 and under, on the patio outside.

“The upstairs room is also nice because you don’t get the traffic noise,” said Albert Hartley, a frequent customer who enjoys Trish the Dish’s Roasted Veggie sandwich since he is a vegetarian.

Most of the sandwich names were inspired by family or friends, like Ruth’s Tuna Salad sandwich, their mom’s favorite, or the Great Albert Reuben, according to Prestipino. They cut fresh tomatoes and bake cupcakes every day, she said.

Carlson and Prestipino wanted to open a restored furniture store but needed to attract customers, so their family members suggested including food, Prestipino said.

“The food was an afterthought and that just exploded on us,” she said.

Her sister agreed.

“We’re happy, we’re just overwhelmed,” Carlson said. “We’re literally in the kitchen everyday.”

The restaurant business is physically draining for the sisters, who work in the store for about 60 hours a week, according to Prestipino.

Fewer customers come to the store in the winter, but Sisters’ Sandwiches & Stuff also caters for Christmas parties, schools, funerals and other events, which helps to keep business steady, according to Prestipino.

Customers often ask about the restored furniture and knick-knacks and the sisters wish they had more time to paint and make salvaged furniture, according to Prestipino.

The sisters hope to lessen their hours and instead manage the store more and work on restored furniture, according to Prestipino.

“We were always people who would walk into a place and say, ‘Well, I could make that,’” Carlson said. “It’s very rewarding to take something for $20, spend time on it and sell it for $200.”

Their love of sewing and decorating and motivation to create the store came from their mom, who loved to paint and passed away in February 2009, a year before Sisters’ Sandwiches & Stuff opened, according to Carlson.

Carlson and Prestipino faced a learning curve when they opened the store, according to Prestipino. Before opening Sisters’ Sandwiches & Such, they both worked with their husbands and at home, according to Prestipino.

“After knowing we could do this, we could never just go back to being a soccer mom, a housewife,” Carlson said.

Working with siblings can be difficult, but the owners of Sisters’ Sandwiches & Stuff said they won’t allow the business to come between them.

“It’s not worth it,” Carlson said.

They never expected to make a lot of money through the store and said they don’t need to because their husbands are the breadwinners in their families, Prestipino said. But the sisters are happy they’ve been able to provide jobs, according to Carlson.

“We call it our mission work,” she said.

Carlson and Prestipino said they’ve talked about expanding Sisters’ Sandwiches & Such to two or three stores in a year or so.

“That’s a daily conversation,” Carlson said. “But one store is also enough.”

They both enjoy working at the store and with each other, according to Prestipino.

“I love the interaction,” Carlson said. “A lot of older women come in and just want to talk. It’s kind of like being a bartender.”

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About Marlena Chertock

Marlena Chertock's first collection of poetry, On that one-way trip to Mars, is available from Bottlecap Press. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, Marketplace, and WTOP. Her poems and fiction has appeared in The Deaf Poets Society, Moonsick Magazine, and Paper Darts.

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