A chance encounter with a crane

Chris Reese wasn’t looking to open a new restaurant. In fact, though he’d operated an eatery in Charlotte, N.C., for several years, he and his wife, Graciette, were busy teaching students in Plano.

But a chance meeting while the Reese family picnicked at Hippie Hill near the Twin Coves Marina in Murrell Park at Grapevine Lake and a close encounter with a crane set the stage for a life change.

Chris’s at the Marina, which opened July 4, is now the couple’s main focus after they realized the combination of chance encounters and the help of friends and coworkers were leading them to realize a new dream.

At home, Chris enjoyed cooking and had decided years earlier that in spite of a four-year scholarship to play football at Central State University and performing in the band Blendz, his heart was in the kitchen.

A childhood centered on sharing the day’s events around the dinner table was something he carried on with his own family including the couple’s three children: Mikeala, Christopher Jr. and Anthony.

Those memories make him want to offer customers the same comfortable feeling of spending time in his restaurant.

“I want people who come in to feel like you’ve come into my house,” he said. The recipes are all his and in the past few months, he has spent a lot of time in the kitchen teaching staff how to prepare his specialties – from the lightly battered catfish to the freshly cut fried potatoes. The burgers feature a sweet Hawaiian/sourdough bread combination that complements the marinated ground beef to create a sweet and savory flavor. Soon, he plans to add barbecue and ice cream treats for the younger set.

Quite a few menu items feature the names of those who have helped make the restaurant a reality — a reality he’d not envisioned even six months earlier.

Working as teachers at a charter school in Charlotte as well as operating a small restaurant, Chris said he looked around the country for an area that offered more opportunities, choosing North Texas, which also happened to be where his father, a pastor, grew up.

“My parents and family got U-Hauls and trucked it out here,” he said.

That chance trip to Grapevine Lake took a turn when one of his sons wanted to see the marina up close. Stopping by a store at the marina, Chris chatted with the owner. That talk led to a telephone call asking him to stop by the closed restaurant to consider re-opening it. Chris returned with marina management and looked inside the closed restaurant, which he said was in disarray. Disappointed and turning away, he was confronted by a large crane only a couple of feet away. Told it was rare for the bird to fly that close to anyone, Chris took it as a sign. And that is why Chris’s at the Marina signs bear the likeness of a crane — a crane that continues to stop by and check in, he says.

Returning to school, Chris talked with coworkers when one offered to help with expenses. Then others offered to help.

That is when Chris and Graciette took a leap of faith and became fulltime restaurateurs.

“This is where we’re supposed to be,” he said. “This whole restaurant is a testimony.”

For more information, visit their website or call 972-539-2795.

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