Robert Chambers Jr. first opened the joint in Homewood in the late 1980s and moved it to this roadside spot a decade ago.
There’s an old rule of thumb that applies to those going into the restaurant business: “If you survive the first two years, you just might be successful.”
Bob and Vicki Lawhorne have stretched that axiom to 29 years at the Dor-Stop Restaurant on Potomac Avenue in Dormont.
Their recipe was simple — serve good food at reasonable prices in a family-style setting.
And the restaurants new owners, Justin and Jennifer Berger of Jefferson Hills, have no intention of changing the established name, the staff or the belly-filling menu.
The Bergers subscribe to the adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Lawhornes brought some knowledge of food service with them when they opened the orginal Dor-Stop at 1423 Potomac Ave., next to the Potomac Bakery, in August 1986.
Ms. Lawhorne was a waitress at the old Scotty’s Diner in the city’s East End, and Mr. Lawhorne gained his experience while working at Eat’n Park.
Lori Lawhorne Rabb, their younger daughter, remembers in the early days that she would come into work “praying that customers would walk in through that front door.”
Their older daughter, Pam Lawhorne Bones, also worked as a waitress. Eventually, the business flourished.
The Lawhornes liked to cook.
As the business grew, they introduced new items to the menu.
An early favorite was Vicki’s Italian Jumbot, an omelet with ham, onions, green peppers, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, American cheese with Italian toast for $8.99.
Bob’s specialty consisted of two eggs, fresh German potato pancakes, applesauce, sour cream and toast for $6.99.
A variety of hot cakes, 13 in all, covered with toppings became part of the menu.
After a few years of commuting from their home in Penn Hills to Dormont, the couple moved to the South Hills.
Eventually, a building diagonally across the street from their location next to the Potomac Bakery went up for sale.
As quick as you could say, “order up,” the Lawhornes bought the building.
The first floor in the building had been home to a florist. The Lawhornes oversaw an extensive remodeling that turned that area into the current Dor-Stop.
The transition in 2006 enhanced the family’s business.
The appearance of Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network program, “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” boosted an already large list of customer favorites.
Mr. Fieri’s crew filmed a program there in 2008. The TV exposure gave the Dor-Stop wider recognition.
“Our guest registry began showing signatures of vacationers from across the country,” Mr. Lawhorne recalled with a smile.
On a recent Friday noon-time visit, no seats were vacant in the restaurant.
Jim and Pat Carr have been regulars since the place opened 29 years ago.
“My favorite is the veggie omelet. My wife Pat likes the BLT,” he said.
Shelly O’Brien and her daughter, Jordan O’Brien, were enjoying their favorite dish, banana chocolate chip hot cakes. “Simply delicious,” Shelly commented.
Jordan finished a pumpkin pancake and said, “I just couldn’t make this hot cake this good.”
“My three boys also come in with us from Bethel Park, a pleasant family trip we’ve taken for over 20 years,” Mrs. O’Brien said.
The Lawhornes’ daughters have been waitressing since their days at Penn Hills High School and continued after getting married and raising their own families.
Ms. Bones remembered the job “as being a lot fun,” but she added, “it was hard work, too.”
Ms. Rabb fondly recalled watching couples go to the restaurant on a date, get engaged, then get married and eventually bring their children into the Dor-Stop.
The Lawhornes attribute their 29-year career to their hard work coupled with God’s blessings.
Their Christian beliefs are on display at the restaurant on a sign in the front window advertising the daily specials. The bottom of the sign includeds a daily scripture verse.
Now, the Lawhornes plan to become involved in their church’s missionary work, spend more time with the grandkids and do some traveling.
Jimmy Dunn, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org