Ms. Robbie’s ‘Sweetie Pie’ Restaurant Hits the Spot on Oprah Winfrey Network

How a fiery grandmother (and former Ikette!) built a successful restaurant business and set records with her OWN reality show

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 17: Miss Robbie and Tim at Sweetie Pies on July 17, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images OWN)

Miss Robbie with son (and business partner) Tim

Ms. Robbie Montgomery, star of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s hit reality show Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s, may come across like your sweet little grandmother over the telephone—with talks of family recipes and beloved grandkids—but don’t mess with her in real life.

If you’ve ever seen the 71-year-old in action (and chances are you have since the cable show ranks number two in it’s time slot among African-American women ages 25-54) you know that the feisty businesswoman will cuss you out in a minute, which, ironically, only adds to her charm.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Miss Robbie, owner and manager of the twin St. Louis-based soul food restaurants Sweetie Pies, on her day off. The former Ikette (she sang backup for Ike and Tina Turner in the 1960s) was buzzing happily about all the plans in the works for her famous franchise, including a third location, which includes a banquet hall, culinary school, bar and performance arts space. The fact that OWN recently tacked on 10 more episodes to the show’s inaugural season— which shows Ms. Robbie fussing lovingly at her son and co-manager Tim Norman and other kinfolk behind the scenes as they serve up fried chicken, collard greens and heaping servings of drama to their hungry clients—is just icing on the proverbial cake.

“We had no idea the show was going to do as well as it did,” claims Montgomery, whose family began shooting the new installments just after Thanksgiving. “Now that we’ve been extended there is so much more for our fans to see,” she says excitedly. “Construction has started on the new restaurant, we’ve got the baby coming home, we’ve got Tim and Jenae’s wedding, we’ve got our grand opening– it’s going to be a wonderful continuation of our journey.”

Although things are all biscuits and gravy now, Montgomery will admit that the prospect of being the first and only Black family to have a show on the network kept her up at night.

“I didn’t want to be part of a flop,” she admits about the case of nerves she had to overcome prior to the series’ debut in October. “I admire Oprah so much and OWN is a brand-new network so it was a huge opportunity. I’m really amazed at how it all turned out.”

The secret to “Sweetie Pie’s” success, says the entrepreneur, is that unlike on many other ‘reality’ shows, her crew isn’t afraid to roll up it’s sleeves.

We’re just an ordinary family that everybody can relate to,” she says. “Plus we actually work in our business, which we do, of course, even when the cameras aren’t rolling.”

When the film crew isn’t around Montgomery and Tim busy themselves with building their brand.

“My son says he’s going to turn me into the Black Paula Deen,” laughs Montgomery of a rival network food star, referring to plans for cookbooks, a line of pots and pans and other items. “I feel like I’ve reinvented myself. The sky’s the limit.”