Linda Hanger and Kristina Scrivani sound surprisingly upbeat as they share the news they’ve decided to permanently close Stone Creek Kitchen, their five-businesses-in-one shop they conceived of in 2010, after a chance meeting at a dinner party made them realize they shared a common love of food and a common sense of how a food-based business should run. Think back to 2010, when the country was still in the throes of one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. And think about now, month 10 of a pandemic that has hammered mom-and-pop businesses and food businesses most of all.
“It’s bookends to a decade,” Hanger says.
Maybe they’re upbeat because it’s been a great 10 years, a decade of teaching people to cook (business one); of holding winemaker dinners and afternoon teas (business two); of catering special events (business three); of supplying home cooks with kitchen tools (business four); and of serving delicious and innovative food from their deli counter (business five). It’s 10 years of weary Highway 68 commuters not having to cook when they got home because Stone Creek had done it for them.
And it’s 10 years of the wildly popular “Paella Fridays.” Scrivani, the cook of the Hanger-Scrivani business partnership, makes it the traditional way, with Bomba rice, smoked piquillo peppers, dry Spanish chorizo, seafood, chicken, wine and seasonal vegetables.
Stone Creek’s 11 team members were told, the week of Dec. 1, in a meeting both women say was emotional and heartbreaking, that with the long-term lease coming up for renewal, their last day would be Feb. 5.
The cooking classes, plus their afternoon teas and wine dinners, drove a lot of their retail business, with participants shopping after their event.
Due to the pandemic, all of that had to stop.
“We’re really proud of what we accomplished, but to sign on for another five – or 10-year lease would be challenging,” Scrivani says. “We have great customers and incredible team members and we’re trying to stay in that vibe because life is hard enough as it is.”
They are going out with a bang, ramping up for the holidays with a catering menu that features prime rib roast, turkey galantine, beef tenderloin, citrus roasted salmon, wild mushroom ravioli, plus salads and sauces, plus homemade pies and something called the pecan pie cheesecake “bombshell,” which is a whole pecan pie baked into a vanilla bean cheesecake and then wrapped in a spiced cookie crumb crust and topped with dulce de leche.
When the pandemic meant a significant loss of retail business, Scrivani and Hanger quickly changed their menu to everyday comfort foods they had never made before. “Dinner in Old Monterey,” for example, brought shrimp scampi and spaghetti and meatballs and clam chowder and garlic bread. Scrivani went back into the kitchen full time.
Customer loyalty – and vendor loyalty – paid off. On Thanksgiving, for example, customers started lining up at 8am, two hours before opening.
“We have some amazing local vendors,” says Hanger. She rattles off a list that includes Acme Coffee, Russo Produce, Wrath Wines and Swank Farms, saying, “They showed up and trusted us to do great things with their products. They put their faith in us and we so appreciate it.”
Both women have backgrounds in the corporate world. Hanger was CEO of legal publisher Nolo Press in Berkeley, then moved to Monterey as president of Evan Moore Educational Publishers. Scrivani worked in marketing and education at Whole Foods when the now-massive, Amazon-owned chain was much smaller; there she taught cooking and educated people about ingredients that customers may have never seen before.
What life will look like after Feb. 5 – and after both take a break – is this: Hangar plans to work part-time at her husband’s construction company, Handy Dan Construction, and Scrivani plans to resume cooking – including Paella Fridays. “I don’t think I’ll take any major break,” Scrivani says. “I have plans unfolding as to where I’ll be, but I’ll be visible.
“With Instagram and Constant Contact, I can post where I’ll be and what will be available.”