Family restaurant keeps running with plenty of heart
DOVER — Tina Martin, owner of Tina’s Place restaurant on Route 22 in Dover, is a hardworking local business owner with a special place in her heart for family, friends and community. Within moments of speaking with her, it’s obvious that she puts everyone in her life in front of herself.When Tina was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2011, it was time for all the people she had put first to step up and do the same. They did, and then some.Tina’s two children, Christopher Martin, 20, and Bianca Martin, 23, not only support their mother throughout treatments and doctors’ appointments, but they have also taken over the operations of Tina’s Place in hopes of keeping their mother’s dream alive.Tina and her husband, Chris Martin, a carpenter by trade, opened the restaurant in 2009. The family banded together to turn the run-down space into a cozy place for the community where their motto is “just like home.”“My husband thought I was crazy, but as soon as I saw the space, I knew it was the right thing to do,” Tina said.The family worked to run the new business together with Tina cooking side by side with Christopher, Bianca waiting tables and other family members helping to fill the shifts.“We all had second jobs as well. Everyone was working so hard, but it was nice because we were doing it as a family,” Tina said.In 2011, Tina found an indentation in her left breast after taking a shower.“I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t a lump and I’m never sick. I’ve always been lucky with that. So I didn’t pay much mind to it. The bills needed to be paid and there was work to be done. The restaurant had to keep running,” Tina said.It was only after confiding in her sister that she decided to go to a doctor.“I didn’t have insurance, I had work to do and I wasn’t really concerned with going. The visit got bumped up to a sooner appointment, then the screening happened and they wanted to do a mammogram, then an ultrasound, then a biopsy. It went so fast,” Tina said.The doctors found a 4.5-centimeter tumor that had to be removed.“I couldn’t get the surgery at Vassar [Brothers Medical Center], so they transferred me up to Albany Medical Center. I was concerned about getting back to work. How could I get a surgery and keep the restaurant going?” she said.It was then that the family made what for some would be tough decisions, but for the Martin children came as second nature. Christopher quit college, Bianca quit her other job and the siblings took over the business.“It’s usually very difficult for me to step aside, but I trust them so much. They really are amazing kids. Christopher cooked beside me for many years, and I always knew he’d be an amazing chef. Bianca is so personable and sweet. She’s really wonderful,” Tina said.The siblings lean on each other to fill their mother’s shoes.“We really felt thrown into the fire, but knowing Mom is only a phone call away makes it much easier. Having my brother by my side also helps me,” Bianca said.Tina’s husband is also on hand to help out at the restaurant and take her to medical appointments.“We’re a family. We’ll get through it together,” Bianca said.“It’s incredible to know that they can handle all of this. They’re so young, and they still have social lives and other obligations. I’m just so proud. They really are the most incredible kids in the world. They don’t treat me like a mom with cancer, they just treat me like mom,” Tina said.In addition to running the restaurant, the siblings also recently held a fundraiser in their mother’s honor at Tina’s Place.“It was really my brother’s doing,” Bianca said. “He cooked a massive breakfast buffet and we just asked people to come, eat and give from their hearts.”The pair raised $300 in four hours for Miles of Hope, a charity organization that is dear to Tina’s heart.“They provide services such as massages, wigs and other comforts for people going through cancer treatments. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know how I would’ve made it through. Miles of Hope is just a wonderful organization,” Tina said.Tina is anxious to get permission from her doctors to take part in the next Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.“I want to become a spokesperson for breast cancer. The only way to prevent it is to get checked. I was so wrapped up in stress, life, money and bills that I didn’t catch it in time. I truly believe that every woman who has developed breasts should get checked immediately. Don’t let doctors tell you you’re too young. A 23-year-old girl just died from this. If you don’t have insurance, do the research. There is so much help out there and so many programs,” she said.Tina’s Place is currently accepting donations for Miles for Hope. For more information, call the restaurant at 845-877-0598.