Stones Social: Good News, Bad News.
Bad news first? Stones Social, our baby, is now “permanently” closed. I wake regularly with “closed temporarily” thoughts, my natural excitement and energy remains to drive forward and create the success I know that this concept would ultimately achieve. Then those thoughts turn back to the more sobering; “Plath, get over it” and “It’s time.”
When business and life was booming, back in 2019, Stones Social was set in motion after countless hours (years!) and dollars invested; the culmination of industry observation and research, creative focus, meetings, consultations and consultants, and incredible excitement for having solved for “x”; x being the direction our industry was headed; life after the burrito; lighter, faster, more fun, more social, less serious, less “intrusive” (as one millennial defined service in full service restaurants!) Team service, bar-centric, great pick-up options, the best music, simple and quick but still excellent scratch food and beverage. Thank you to all you operators out there who helped inspire the concept, from Chicago’s Au Cheval, to NYC’s The Meatball Shoppe, to that dive bar in New Orleans with couches and shuffleboard! Oh, we got this.
Back then my greatest trepidation in opening a 3rd restaurant was in the knowledge that I could not do so on my own—to the level of my own expectation—given my skill set. The reason we went forward at the time was that we had found a great director and had teams of managers—to complement with physical energy, organizational skills and financial acumen. I even hedged the bet, choosing a small location with minimal risk as a beta site. Let’s give it 3 years, get our money out, and plan bigger and better depending upon our collaborative results.
And then the pandemic struck, and my worst-case scenario played out.
The worst of the news is not the time nor money lost. It was absolute fun. The greatest disappointment is in knowing that a great concept was derailed, that the fun instead turned to burden and that those great many folks who have supported us for the past (3) years will now be disappointed. That makes me the saddest of all.
The good news!
We leave Stones Social (for now anyway J ) knowing how truly great it could have been, no doubt. We didn’t choose the right location perhaps, nor the pandemic. But as one of my (3) incredibly intelligent daughters said recently, “This is not an ending Dad, but a new beginning.” Prescient. We are indeed making a choice—a quality of life decision that will allow better focus on our two other restaurants, Cobblestones in Lowell (30th year) and Moonstones in Chelmsford (16th year), while continuing to rebuild them to the excellence they have enjoyed for many years. “Opportunity cost.” One of my other daughters said a year ago, as she (mostly) retired from the restaurant business after more than a decade: “The restaurant business used to be fun.” I felt her pain as we navigated those incredibly rough waters, with (3) restaurants and a fraction of the resources, for the past (3) years as we avoided worst case scenario. We will pay our debts and hold onto the fond memories. We will remain forever grateful to our daughters, and the numerous valued staff and family, who helped to save us at the hardest of times—allowing us to get to this present place of clarity and excitement for what the future holds, and who continue to be our light and inspiration—the good people that regularly surround us with positivity, kindness, friendship, solutions, hard work and hospitality in our day to day. We could not be more fortunate and thankful.