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Nearly every day for almost four years, the Holladay resident has pulled up a stool at the counter of Sharon's Cafe, opened up a newspaper and ordered the same thing: egg beaters, sausage patties, wheat toast and coffee.

"I could cook breakfast for myself [at home], or I could come here, where my coffee cup is never more than half empty and I get called 'honey,' " he says. "Sharon's really sets the tone for my day."

Brown is one of many regulars who have frequented the neighborhood diner for the home-cooked meals and the friendly staff since its 2003 opening. And for the cafe's namesake and owner, Sharon Ahearn, keeping the customers happy is her primary motivation for operating a restaurant.

"That's what it's all about - to make people feel at home," Ahearn says.

After her diner in the Rose Park area failed in 1999, Ahearn decided to open her new cafe in Holladay so that she could keep the business a family affair. A member of the Knudsen clan - of Knudsen's Corner fame - Ahearn was born and raised in the area and cherishes her Holladay roots.

"It's just a neighborhood restaurant, and that's what I like," she says. "This is where I'm from . . . I wanted my kids to know where they were originally from."

She adds that while there isn't a lot of money made in owning the small cafe, she has no desire to expand the business into a chain of diners. For her, the local cafe is a place for kinship - most of the staff is related to her by blood or marriage, and "the ones who aren't feel like family to me," she says.

Familial warmth extends from beyond the staff to the loyal customers who fill the cafe on a daily basis.

Shannon Prescott, Ahearn's daughter and a server at Sharon's, says her main source of pleasure in working at the restaurant comes from interacting with the customers.

"I love the customers. They're all like family. They know our kids, we know their kids," she says.

Prescott says the cafe has a wide variety of patrons, the majority being of the older generation. On weekends, the cafe is filled with families and students from nearby junior high and high schools. About 10 regulars, such as Brown, come in every morning, she estimates.

"It reminds me of 'Cheers,' " she says of the familiarity of certain customers.

Brown agrees with the comparison, saying that he enjoys chatting with other customers about topics such as politics and sports.

"It is kind of like a bar. It serves the same purpose . . . It creates a community," he says.

And just as Cheers couldn't have existed without the likes of Norm and Cliff, Sharon's wouldn't be Sharon's without, well, Sharon.

"Sharon is like the mom everyone wishes they had," Brown says. He characterizes her as being energetic and sociable, and adds, "whatever is on her mind, you'll know it because she says it."

Ahearn, 47, works at the cafe six days a week, taking only Thursdays off to watch her three grandchildren.

Prescott says she admires her mother's work ethic, but acknowledges that sometimes Ahearn is a bit too dedicated to the business.

"She's a workaholic. . . . This is her life," she says. "Her dream was to have a cafe. It can be high stress, but I couldn't see her without" the cafe.

Ahearn says she learned to work hard by being a single mother who had to support her three children, and now she's simply used to keeping busy.

"I will probably die a workaholic. My husband wants me to retire, but he knows I'd be lost if I did," she says.

Breakfast and lunch

* Sharon's Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

* Sharon's is located at 2263 E. Murray-Holladay Road.

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