GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — For those who don’t know Tammy Tilghman, her friend and employee Hannah Faircloth said she is someone who always puts others first.
“She is such a positive person,” said Faircloth of the restaurateur. “She loves her café. She loves her customers. She loves her dog, Maddie. And she loves watching the sunset.”
After months of struggling with her health, and keeping her Magnolia Social Café going during the coronavirus pandemic, Tilghman is now facing even bigger challenges.
She is scheduled to have brain surgery in March, and will likely still be recovering as her second restaurant, Girls With Dough, is scheduled to open in the River Lights community of Wilmington.
So Faircloth went into action, starting with a GoFundMe campaign.
“It was a natural response to start the GoFundMe,” Faircloth said. “She gives so much to everyone.”
Tilghman said she knew she wasn’t feeling quite right in recent months.
“But I thought it was related to my Chiari Malformation,” she said. “It makes you feel lots of crazy, different things.”
Tilghman was diagnosed with the condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal and had surgery a few years ago. It can cause a number of problems, from neck pain to dizziness. She thought the searing headaches and other symptoms may be related. But in January, her neurologist at Cleveland Clinic Florida confirmed she now had a different issue, a brain tumor.
“I’ve had the back of my head cut open,” she said. “And now it’s the front of my head.”
Faircloth has been an employee at the café for two years, but she’s known Tilghman much longer. In fact Hannah’s brother and Tilghman’s son are longtime friends and also work in the restaurant.
They’ll be the ones to take over Tilghman’s duties while she’s recovering.
“The café is definitely a neighborhood spot,” Faircloth said. “When people come in, we know their order for the most part.”
The café has a full coffee menu, and serves breakfast and lunch all day, in addition to smoothies, ice cream and baked goodies. The biscuits and gravy and the Carolina Cheese Steak are two popular items, Faircloth said.
Chef Juan Villalobos has been working with Tilghman since October. He’s also recently developed the menu for Girls with Dough.
“It will have things you don’t always think about for a pizza place,” he said. “Think of it as pizza with an American inspiration -- the whole continent of America.”
Girls with Dough is scheduled to open April 1.
“It’s disappointing that I won’t be able to be a part of all of those final details,” she said.
Her doctors expect that she may be in the hospital for up to three weeks, and it may take as long as three months to fully recover. Tilghman, who is also co-owner of a bail bonding business, never saw herself as a restaurateur. She started the café as a way to honor her father. The two shared a love of coffee.
Faircloth originally set the GoFundMe goal at $5,000, but donations quickly exceeded that so she raised the goal so that it could continue as long as people wanted to contribute.
“I know Tammy is still paying medical bills from her previous surgery,” she said.
There are more fundraising efforts in the works, including a raffle for three gift baskets. Tickets are cash-only and available at the café, at 109 Pier Master Point Suite in Wilmington.
Tilghman is flattered by the GoFundMe response, although she said she’s still a little uncomfortable with asking for help. Instead, she’s more likely to try to help others. After Hurricane Florence, she didn’t have power but her gas stove worked. She cooked and offered food to those who needed it. Soon, other chefs and restaurant owners were bringing in their food and supplies, too.
The community that she has helped foster wants to return the kindness.
“No one should have to choose between taking care of themselves medically and following their dream,” Faircloth said.