Faces In The Crowd: Ashley Buckey and Mat Patterson

July 5, 2018

By Aaron Michell

Ashley Buckey and Mat Patterson have become local celebrities, of sorts. The couple, and their new Marion restaurant, Buckey’s Diner, have been featured twice on TV 9&10 in the last couple months. Once, as the featured restaurant during the news segment “Inside the Kitchen”, and then again with Mat as the guest chef in studio for 9&10’s afternoon show “The Four”.
Not bad for only being in business since November.
But as we found out, running a successful restaurant is a lot of hard work. Both Mat and Ashley estimate that they spend upwards of 95 hours a week running the business from their location at 120 South Mill Street – right next to the Middle Branch River.
And so far, so good.
With four kids between the pair, their restaurant operation has quickly become a family affair. Ashley’s daughters Cyndle and Tyana, and her son, Jason, help out at the restaurant as needed – from waitressing to busting tables, to everything in-between.
We caught up with the couple recently at their diner, where we talked about their family, the restaurant, their interests, and what it’s like to be on TV. We found out that these two are more than just a couple of faces in the crowd.

From left to right is Aspen LaGrow, Cyndle, Ashley, Mat & Tyana.

From left to right is Aspen LaGrow, Cyndle, Ashley, Mat & Tyana.

Marion Press: We’ve noticed that you’ve been on TV 9&10 twice recently. What was that like? That had to be a little bit nerve-racking.
Mat: Yeah, they called and told us they were coming here. And so we had to go through and make it look nice for TV! But once they came in, they made it pretty easy for us. They’d try to calm you down and make sure you just relaxed.

MP: Just pretend like the cameras aren’t there.
Mat: Right. Except for the second time, up at the studio [during an appearance on The Four on 9&10] they were like: ‘It’s live. NO pressure.’
Ashley: I said, ‘Yeah, I’m out.’ I watched him do the whole segment from the TV. I couldn’t do it. He froze when he seen himself on the TV screen for like 5 seconds.
Mat: The first 15 second segment I looked up and saw myself on TV and I [eyes raised, jaw dropped] just froze. Their kitchen is in their break room – that’s where Chef Herman cooks – so there’s a TV on the back wall and that’s what they watch. When I saw myself I froze.

MP: When did you open the restaurant?
Ashley: October. We bought it October 4th of last year and we opened November 4th, 2017.
MP: How have things been going so far?
Ashley: Good. It’s been going great. It’s a lot of work, on and off. We have our good weeks; we have our bad weeks. Weekends are the best.

MP: What was it that made you decide to open the restaurant?
Ashley: We got a really good deal [at their location formerly known as the Lunch Box]. And Mat loves to cook, and this is all I know – the restaurant business. It’s what I’ve done for the last 20 years: From bar-backing to bartending; waitressing to line prep.

MP: So you have the restaurant experience and Mat handles the cooking.
Mat: I just love to cook. And I used to manage a nightclub out in Minneapolis.

MP: Really? What was that like?
Mat: That was… wild. [laughs] It was fun. It was called the Sound Bar. One of the coolest things about that was when the talent would come to town to perform, my job was to take them around town and show them a good time. So, I got to meet a lot of cool people that way.
Now they’re closed down – they had two shootings after I left, right on the front porch, so they closed it down.

MP: Oh geez. Minneapolis is a little bit different than Marion. When did you get your start cooking?
Mat: I’ve just always loved to cook at home. I had never really cooked at a restaurant before, but I always loved to experiment at home. And cooking in a restaurant is a little bit different because people are picky and everyone has different tastes.
Ashley: Cooking at home is completely different than short-order cooking in a restaurant because you’re cooking one meal to order. So, it’s not like you’re cooking a big quantity for your family – you’re making 20 different things on a ticket. You’ve just got to be organized.

MP: What are some of the favorites here?
Mat: The calzones, for sure. Our burgers are picking up.
Ashley: The Barbeque Burger gets ordered a lot. Everyone loves our burgers because they’re hand-patty burgers – they’re not frozen.
Mat: They’re fresh, never frozen. We’ve got some stuff coming up for vegans too.
Ashley: We’ve got a veggie burger coming up, and we’ve got a veggie pizza that’s made out of a cauliflower crust. It’s really good. And the burger – I couldn’t even tell it was a veggie burger.

MP: And this is kind of a family operation.
Ashley: All three of them do everything: they wash dishes, they wait tables, they bust tables; they open, they close. They don’t cook, but sometimes Jason preps and cleans out the walk-in [cooler].
Mat: When we went to a concert the other night, Cyndle was out waiting tables and they needed her to cook – they had gotten backed up – so she came back here and started making food. She made pizzas and calzones.
Ashley: And a lot of people called us and told us that their food was really good – that the pizza and calzones were really good, and Cyndle made them.

MP: That has to make you feel pretty good.
Ashley: I was very proud of her. She went back there and did what she had to do just to keep up. They’re all pretty good about that.

MP: When you’re not at the restaurant, what do you like to do as a family?
Ashley: Monday we went down the river. We like to go down the river. Every Monday we try to do something, whether it’s fishing or hiking or camping; going out to Rose Lake. Whatever we can do with the kids.

MP: Neither of you are originally from Marion, correct?
Ashley: I’m from Traverse City. I went to school at East Junior High and graduated from T.C. Central in 2003. We moved around a lot though; we weren’t in Traverse City the full-time because my dad [David Buckey] was a truck driver. We went to Colorado, Louisiana, Kentucky. We moved all over the place. He was a union truck driver, so wherever they sent him is where we would go.

MP: Of all the places you’d stayed, which was your favorite?
Ashley: Colorado. It’s beautiful. It’s nice there. We lived in Greeley, Colorado, and the schools were nice; the community was nice. It was a really nice town. And we got to go to all the Colorado Rockies games that we wanted to. His boss owned half the stadium. I had a New York Yankees ball – it’s disappeared over time, but I caught a ball from the New York Yankees game. It was fun.
Mat: I moved here when I was about 9. I was born in Sheridan, Michigan. And I went to school in Sheridan-Stanton for a little while. Then we moved to Indiana and I moved back to Marion when I was 9.

MP: What were things like going to school in Marion?
Mat: They weren’t bad I guess. I was a little [brat] in school. I’ve grown up a little bit since then, hopefully! Sports were the biggest things – that’s really what kept me [out of trouble]. During certain seasons you’d notice that I didn’t act up.
[I played] football, baseball, cheerleading. But we played baseball in little league and that was always a lot of fun.

MP: What do your kids like to do?
Ashley: Cyndle doesn’t do any sports activities or anything like that. But she likes to go to the movies and go shopping – that’s her thing. Tyana’s going to go into cheerleading next year – she likes cheerleading, and basketball, and volleyball. And then Jason does everything – baseball, basketball, track, football – he does it all. He does pretty good.
They’ve got bikes. Outdoor stuff. If you want to do something, get your butt outside and do it.
Mat: Cyndle just bought her own go-kart.
Ashley: She saved up $500 and we went to Higgins Lake and picked it up. And then she saved up money for helmets, because I told her that anyone in it has to wear seatbelts and helmets – even her. So she’s really good about it. But she’s quite mobile now; she’s all over the place – it makes me nervous!
Mat: See, my kids don’t walk – they’re so lazy about walking. I used to walk miles [in the winter] and our kids won’t walk two blocks!
Ashley: They’ll ride their bikes when they’re out and about though!

MP: What is your favorite thing about living here in Marion?
Mat: The [Middle Branch] River. And the woods. Even though I don’t get out that much. But we’re right here on the river, so we get to see that every day.
Ashley: When we’re not busy, we sometimes go out and sit by the river. Just sit there and relax.

MP: What has been some of the best advice you’ve been given? Who have been some of your mentors?
Mat: Mine’s definitely Jerry [Fancett]. He just showed me hard work. You’re not gonna have anything if you don’t work hard.
Ashley: My mom was always big on forgiveness. You live, you learn, you move on; you forgive and you forget. You move on and just keep going. Don’t hold a grudge because that makes you a nasty person. You just forget about it and keep going. I’m very big on apologies, too.
Mat: Why are you looking at me!?

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