Odessa Shorter would rather serve you a meal than a traffic ticket.
After spending more than 10 years as a San Diego traffic cop, Shorter decided to return to her hometown of Lawrence and cook up a new career.
Shorter is set to open Odessa's Cafe in an east Lawrence neighborhood where she grew up.
"I had three knee surgeries as a result of my last job, so I decided I needed to find something else to do," Shorter said. "So I figured the best thing to do was own something and have people work for me. Whether it works out that way or not, I don't know.
"Either way, I figure I won't go home feeling so bad everyday. Unlike when I was writing traffic tickets, here I won't have anyone calling me bad names or giving me dirty looks."
Athough Shorter admitted some people might question her choice of location for a new restaurant. She didn't think a new restaurant needed to be located in a major commercial area like west Lawrence, 23rd Street or South Iowa Street to be successful. Instead, she chose a former laundromat building at 409 E. 12th St.
She said she had good reasons for the location. For one, she is familiar with the area because she grew up in a house across the street from the building, and her parents still live there. But the bigger reason, she said, was because she wanted her new restaurant to be a real "neighborhood cafe."
"I wanted it to be some place where people could walk a half block from their home and get a cup of coffee," Shorter said. "The thing that I have found in Lawrence is that there are a lot of restaurants in town, but they all sort of have an industrial feel to them. There's no more mom-and-pop cafes anymore."
She is confident the concept will play well in east Lawrence.
"The first thing I noticed when I moved back was that the people in the neighborhood were still really involved," Shorter said.
"People still know each other in this neighborhood and they still do lots of things as a neighborhood, like the clean-up days. I really like that spirit."
Shorter, 38, said the restaurant's menu would be "homestyle," with each day featuring a special like fried chicken, fried catfish or a meatloaf dinner. Shorter said the meals will cost $5 to $6 and up.
"Whatever we have here, it will be good," Shorter said.
"I'm always cooking for my friends. I'm the only person I know who gets invited to dinner and then gets asked to cook. That's why I decided to open a restaurant because I figured I'd be cooking all the time anyway."
Shorter has been remodeling the building since January and plans to open the cafe in mid-June. Tentative plans call for the business to be open Tuesdays through Sundays.