5 things you didn’t know about Mark & Mary Shapley

By NIKKI ROWELL,

They are going to become grandparents for the first time in February 2020. Their best memories are from family trips with their children. While they cook up tasty meals at the restaurant, their meals at home are usually really simple. Several of the paintings on the restaurant walls were done by Mark. In their off time, they like to binge-watch shows on Netflix like “Stranger Things” or “The Crown.”

The hum of kitchen appliances, the sizzle of a steak on the grill, the buzz of conversation over a meal, garden to table produce. These are the things that bring MM Shapley’s owners Mark and Mary Shapley joy.

The couple has spent the past year making their way back into the restaurant business. Both are graduates of Mississippi State University. Mark earned his degree in business management and Mary in marketing and finance. They met in the spring of 1985.

“He was going into the restaurant business and said we could do this together,” she said. “He pursued it, and we opened in October, got engaged in December and got married the next June.”

Opening a restaurant was a dream of Mark’s from an early age. Growing up, his house was where his friends congregated to spend time together. Entertaining and cooking came naturally to him.

“Dad was a great cook and enjoyed the entertaining aspect of it,” he said. “Dad was a hard worker, but I saw him happiest when he was cooking and entertaining. That was fun to see as a younger person. I took to it from there.”

Now, as the executive chef at MM Shapley’s, Mark spends his days doing what he loves as he plates one of the old favorites on the simple menu or puts the finishing touches on a new special that he dreamed up.

“It comes easy to him,” Mary said. “He can just create new things with ingredients, and I think that comes from his love of cooking. It’s easy for him.”

Jeffrey Shapley manages the front of the restaurant operations, and while Mary is working, she enjoys greeting and speaking with guests.

Mark has not had any formal culinary training, but his 30 years of experience in the kitchen and the following that the restaurant has built shows his natural talent.

They originally opened as Shapley’s in 1985. In 1998, when their children were young, they decided it was time to transition out of the business to free up more time with their children.

A year ago, they reopened in the same location, which they built in 1997.

“We started our second career again,” he said. “We are celebrating our second one-year anniversary, which is our way of saying we’re back.”

The menu was created by Mark and has a significant Delta influence. Their main focus is their steaks, but they also have other favorites, including their hot tamales, which are Mark’s father’s recipe.

“Our menu is simple,” Mark said. “We try to do a few things really well.”

The menu features some seafood dishes as well, such as fried shrimp and redfish.

“Our primary focus is beef,” Mark said. “Our steak and fries seem to be the most popular. That’s what people seem to really talk about.”

“They also really love the tamales,” Mary added.

All of their dressings, sauces and desserts are house recipes as well.

Developing the right flavor for each house-made item was fun for Mark, who enjoys experimenting with seasonings and flavors.

“It was a lot of trial and error,” he said of the process of creating their signature seasoning blend.

“One of these days I’m going to write a cookbook and call it ‘Or so.’ People will ask me what I put in things, and I’ll say, ‘Oh, a cup or so.’ I’m really not good at measuring or duplicating dishes outside of our menu.”

When he ventures into specials, he said it is hard to duplicate the dishes because he plays around with them so they vary.

“I like to do specials because sometimes it’s just fun to get in the kitchen and do something new,” he said.

This is where the idea for their garden came from. Mark wanted fresh ingredients to offer patrons, and he wanted to utilize the empty lot they owned next to the restaurant.

Gardening has also been a fun hobby for them over the years, so they planted a few beds outdoors, some with flowers and the others with vegetables.

During the summer, they have grown tomatoes, okra, cucumber, squash and more. Mark tends to the garden and he says Mary harvests the fresh produce.

“We decided to do this as a way to go the extra mile for our customers,” Mark said. “It’s also been a topic of conversation,” said Mary.

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