Starting from scratch: Popular Jim Thorpe restaurant hopes to restaff and reopen
She’s been helping others in a multitude of ways for many years.
But now, Margaret White is looking for some help of her own.
White closed her Jim Thorpe restaurant, the Stone Row Pub & Eatery, on its seventh anniversary. The doors haven’t been open since Aug. 28 due to lack of staff.
White started from scratch seven years ago, after purchasing the venue of the former Black Bird Cafe on Race Street.
“It’s a scratch kitchen, we focus on real food, and we offer many gluten free options,” White said.
“We’re a meat friendly, plant-forward restaurant. My tagline is food for everyone. We’ve accommodated every single food issue that has walked in the door.”
White, a former social worker of 20 years, eventually realized she had a food intolerance. Opening a restaurant was not in her plans almost a decade ago, but the opportunity arose at right time.
“I started thinking about how am I going to empower myself and empower others? That’s what social workers do - we empower people to live their best lives, “White said. “It was a way to empower people who are gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, but who also have loved ones that like to eat meat.”
White said an original goal of the restaurant was geared toward creating a space where everybody in the family or friend circle could eat together safely and not feel like an afterthought.
“I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years and I’ve been an afterthought at so many activities,” said White. “Allowing them to feel cared about and empowered is a big thing. Meat eaters can eat anywhere - it’s people who have the allergies or tend toward plants - they can’t eat everywhere.”
White said there was always an intent to host cooking classes through Stone Row, especially for those who were newly diagnosed with diabetes, diverticulitis, celiac, heart disease - any condition that forces a new diet change or lifestyle.
“If you don’t know how to make the food beautiful, you’re going to tend toward all of the processed stuff - especially for people with gluten issues. Teach people a couple of skills, so they’re not going to be afraid of those Brussels sprouts. Inevitably, you’re often told you need to go to a plant-central diet. ... You’re going for more pure foods. You need to learn how to cook a vegetable, and that’s part of what I want to do - and I do that at the tables and give tips.”
Now, White is redoing the floors, painting the walls and starting from scratch all over again.
“How am I going to entice people to come into Jim Thorpe and work from me? It’s not quite going back to square one, because we have a reputation and a following. But it’s even tougher now with COVID. I shut down because we didn’t have enough staff. I’m confident that we will be open, but I need people.”
Cooking wasn’t always White’s expertise.
White taught herself how to cook after self-diagnosing her food intolerance. She credited her husband, Charlie, with teaching her, and also joked that her mother was a terrible cook.
“She grew up during World War II in Britain. Her whole life was about rationing, and I didn’t realize she was still rationing when she was feeding us.”
In fact, White was the chef in the kitchen who created Stone Row’s delicious food for about the last year of her doors being open.
“I can’t do that again, it was intense. I really don’t have anybody right now, it’s just me. The chef is the key, without a chef, this won’t work exactly the way I’d like it to.”
It’s going to take a chef with a high level of skill, enthusiasm and technique to be a fit for Stone Row.
“It’s a high-prep kitchen, because we make everything from scratch. That way I can tell people what’s safe and what’s not. If I haven’t had my hands on it, or done research on it, it’s very difficult for me to say this is safe.
“I know there are a bunch of chefs out there who are wanting something bigger from their experience - something more meaningful. There are plenty of places to go and knock out the food - I get it. We do both. We knock out the food and we make it beautiful.”
White said she had about 13 backup plans during the course of the pandemic - through closures and constant changing regulations. Now, she estimates it’s on to plan No. 16. But White has regained her energy, optimism and is ready to take on whatever the next challenge turns out to be.
“I’m really feeling the pressure to reopen. People are saying we need you. I need to create and we need extra hands. All of these reasons are why I want to be back open. It’s just a matter of if the employee market place going to allow me to do that. If it does, great. I’m hopeful.”
White said she needs about 15 staff members to manage the business. There are some servers that hope to return, but the kitchen staff is essentially - starting from scratch.
Stone Row is hiring for multiple positions. Interested candidates should call 570-732-0465, or send a message to the @StoneRowPub Facebook page.