Patrons Found Food, Surrogate Grandmother At Baba Mitza’s

Feb 1, 2019, 6:58 AM | Updated: 10:57 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The sandwich shop on State Street was small, weathered, and easily overlooked, but patrons kept returning for years.  They stopped by for more than good food and very reasonable prices. They came for a surrogate grandmother.

Milica “Mitza” Radivojevic, 84, grew up in what was then Yugoslavia. When she was a young girl, Germany invaded her homeland and she and her family fled into the mountains, where they lived for four years.

“Growing up we no have anything,” she said. “It be below zero, you know, animals dropping from cold and we kids wrap with the military blankets.”

Baba Mitza's in South Salt Lake.

Baba Mitza’s in South Salt Lake.

To this day, she has nightmares. Recently, she said, she dreamed she was running from Nazis.

“Anytime I think (about it), I can cry,” she said.

Fifty years ago she and her husband immigrated to the United States, to Salt Lake City. She had young children, knew little English and no driver’s license.  She felt isolated.

“(I) Want (to) be with the people,” she said.

She found community just outside her door, at the family business – the bar next door, McRad’s, which she turned into a soup and sandwich shop named Baba Mitza’s.  Baba means “grandma” in her native tongue.

“She treats us like a grandma,” customer Courtney Flynn said.

Regulars received warm welcomes and a hugs.

Mitza, top, with her family

Mitza, top, with her family

Todd Webb called her “mom.”

“She’s my second mom,” he said.

If regulars hadn’t visited in a while, she yelled at them, “Get outta here!”

If she yells, she said, they know they’re missed.

“Once you get to know Mitza after your first visit here, she knows your name and then she finds out about your family and she becomes a friend,” said regular Brian Willey.  “It’s as much as the family, the friendship, as the food.”

When her children were married, customers came to the wedding. When her husband had a heart attack and died, they came to the hospital and then the funeral.

“I can’t call them customers, is all my friends,” Radivojevic said. “Mean to me a lot, like my family.”

Her business didn’t exactly make business sense. The last few years, serving customers cost her.  She kept it open anyway for two hours a day.

Milica “Mitza” Radivojevic

Just before Christmas, Radivojevic opened her doors for the final two hours. With two knee replacements and balance problems, she decided it was time to retire.

A usual trickle of patrons became a steady flow of well-wishers.

“Fifty years ago I left my family and my friends (in Yugoslavia). It was the toughes,t but Thursday (the last day)… I’m closing. It was the hardest things for me.”

“This is like second time to say goodbye.”

“Tell everybody my people here I love ‘em, and I be keep in touch with them,” Radivojevic said. “I remember them forever.  Make me some good days.  A lot of time we laugh.  You know have good time.  Thank to them everything.”

Mitza on her last day of business.

Mitza on her last day of business.

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Patrons Found Food, Surrogate Grandmother At Baba Mitza’s