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Serving up a little taste of home

No, she's not Gigi, but restaurant owner Blondine Harvin will answer to that name. As owner of Gigi's for nearly 50 years, Harvin has made her restaurant a community anchor, a place that serves homestyle cooking along with the needs of the neighborhood.

Whether she's waiting tables or baking her famous Sweet Potato Pie, Harvin is a hard-working businesswoman who appreciates good food.

>Where do you go out for dinner?

Oliver's. On my days off, I may stop anyplace for a cup of soup or a bagel, just for the quietness.

>You should work less. You own the place!

It's hard. Where are you going to find good help? You have to stay with the business or else you will lose it. It's the truth.

>You must like it.

You do what you have to do.

>What has been your finest moment at Gigi's?

When we served homeless people Thanksgiving dinner.

>What makes Gigi's special?

People can come here and talk and sit and laugh. They don't have to worry about anybody saying anything to them. There's 10 guys who come every Wednesday and stay four or five hours and hash out politics, whatever. And you have the ladies who come here and sit and laugh and talk, whatever. It's like a home.

>What do you do for fun?

I really don't have time for fun right now, but when I do I like to go to Vegas.

>How has Buffalo changed?

It's gone down. That's why we started closing at 10. After 9 o'clock, there's nobody out, not around here anyway. There's no jobs. All the plants are leaving, you know that. It's not like it used to be.

>What are kids today missing?

Family. We came up in a family -- dinner at 6 o'clock. Everybody sat at the table. Mom and Dad were there. Lunchtime we came home, then we went back to school.

>What can't you eat enough of?

Pork chops. I like mine smothered with gravy.

>When did you decide to make food your life?

It wasn't the point of making food my life. It was just a business. I wanted a business, and I didn't want to work for anyone else.

>Do you remember the first meal you ate in here?

I don't know, probably breakfast. Do you know how long ago that was?

>Are you what you eat?

No. The fact that I eat bacon, eggs and cheese, what does that say about me as a person? I just like bacon, eggs and cheese. Do you know that every breakfast order we make has cheese in it? Cheese in grits, on eggs, in home fries.

>How do you pamper yourself?

I take nice long baths.

>Tell me the secret to good cooking.

Don't measure anything.

>What's your specialty?

Sweet potato pie. We send them to people all over the country. It's our secret seasoning that makes them so good. A whole pie costs $7.50.

>What's the last thing you bought for yourself?

A pair of work shoes.

>How are your feet?

Good. I think I'm just blessed. I have a little arthritis, a little cataracts, but other than that I'm healthy.

>Is there a spot in this restaurant where you think best?

You don't want to know -- the bathroom. I make a lot of decisions in the bathroom. It's quiet. The door is closed. That's where I do a lot of thinking. If I have a problem, I'll think about it in the bedroom, but usually the answer comes to me in the bathroom.

>Anything else you'd like to say?

I'm proud of my grands. I'm very proud of my two girls. One is in her junior year at West Virginia. She wants to be a doctor. My other granddaughter is in Sacred Heart. She wants to be a journalist.

-mail: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com

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