How the Better Half lives

It all began here. The course of Jeff and Jenny Smith's lives was put into motion by Jenny's desire for a dining table.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

It all began here. The course of Jeff and Jenny Smith's lives was put into motion by Jenny's desire for a dining table.

Jeff Smith sits in his home office flanked by built-ins Jenny painstakingly restored and mementos of his United States Marine Corps enlistment, he glances out the door to the stately dining table.

"When I sit here, I feel a certain amount of pride. Jenny and I work well as a team," Jeff said.

This combination of teamwork and the table are the reason so many are showered with the Smith's hospitality.

After working more than a year restoring their Shelby Street home, Jenny yearned for a table that would complement all their hard work.

Taking a second job seemed the best way to accomplish this goal. Unbeknown to Jenny, walking into The Country Diner would set into motion a course of action that would shape the young couple's future.

As Jenny became a popular waitress and Jeff became a regular customer, they began to love the eatery's small town atmosphere.

When the diner closed, they thought it was a great loss to their neighborhood.

While walking their dogs one evening, they noticed a "for sale" sign in the window of the Washington Street establishment.

Reminiscing about the good times they had there and the customers they missed, a plan began to form.

Shortly after their stroll, The Better Half Family Diner, was opened with Jeff and Jenny Smith as the proprietors.

"Who could've imagined that my dining table would bring us to this," Jenny said with a broad smile.

Having their home lives and work lives within a couple of blocks of each other is a good fit for the husband and wife team.

"I like that we are contributing to the city of Sandusky, especially to the neighborhood I grew up in," Jeff said.

Jeff lived next door to their present home while growing up. He remembers fondly playing and digging holes in the yardin which the couple's son Peyton now plays.

The early 1900s home has as much history for Jeff as The Better Half holds in its location.

In the late 1980s Jeff's father, Ron Smith, contributed to the house that would later become his son's home, building and installing the second floor's cabinetry and woodworking. A example of his work is themassive built-in that serves as the couple's headboard in the master bedroom.

"Big Daddy (Ron) did an amazing job up here and we really appreciate the fact that we can see his talents every day," Jenny said.

Jenny has her own experience with the house's woodwork. While Jeff was busy updatingthe kitchen and bathrooms, Jenny was facing the daunting task of refinishing the main floor's original wood.

Stripping, sanding, and staining the wood -- sometimes staying up until 2 or 3 a.m. -- Jenny learned the fine art of patience -- a lesson that would serve her well in the future. Much like their home, The Better Half requires a little patience and a lot of teamwork.