Stone’s Restaurant, a popular eatery in Marshalltown, Iowa, since 1887, will be auctioned Thursday, March 6 at 10 am on the Marshall County Courthouse front steps. According to an article in The Times-Republican, the forced auction is due to debts of “$70,000 in mortgages and nearly $60,000 in local, state and federal back taxes spanning the past three years, according to an IRS notice of the public auction.”
Above: Stone’s sign towered above the viaduct. Photo courtesy Charles Biddle.
The restaurant was first closed in August 2006 by 4th generation owners Randy and Judy Stone. Their son Joe and wife Sarah tried reopening it in January 2007 but closed it again. Antiques and memorabilia that lined the walls have been removed. The restaurant is at 507 S 3rd Ave – or more famously, “Under the Viaduct” – that being the Third Avenue viaduct carrying traffic above it and the Union Pacific Railroad yard. It was a popular stop for Lincoln Highway travelers and anyone hungry for their famous lemon chiffon pie.
The Roadfood forum of Jane and Michael Stern has an interesting discussion about the closing. Randy Stone wrote that the decision to close in 2006 was difficult:
We found that, because of other pressing demands, we could not devote the time we needed to keeping the restaurant up to the standards that Grandma Anna would have approved of. Interestingly enough, after we made the decision, we found an old box of letters that included a story from the local paper dated a month before WWII ended in which Anna was quoted as saying she was going to close because, with the war effort, she could not get the quality of food she needed to meet her high standards. Along with this was a letter from Duncan Hines, who was a restaurant guidebook author at the time and a friend of hers, saying how sorry he was to hear she was closing. She reopened after the war ended and ran the restaurant until she died in 1969 and our Uncle Don took over.
Then in 2007, Randy reported the reopening on Valentine’s Day, “with a great response from old and new customers alike” and that they had “reintroduced a couple old variations on the chiffon pies. Strawberry Chiffon and Black Bottom which is chocolate chiffon on the bottom and lemon on top. Both mile-high of course.” But by January 2008, he wrote again to say it was closed and for sale due to a lack of busines: “Even though we benefited tremendously from wonderful reviews by Jane and Michael, national and local news and great word of mouth from folks like you, I think we were thought of as a ‘fancy’ place and lost business because of it. I guess I did not do a good enough job of marketing.”
Stone’s has been for sale through Coldwell Banker for a reasonable-sounding $125,000 probably because the article states that the purchaser “will inherit the property and several debt obligations…. After the auction, they [Stone family] also have 180 days to get it back, for the auction price plus interest.”
UPDATE: Jim Bacino of Coldwell Banker wrote to say, “The sale tomorrow is a federal tax sale and will only result in a lein against the property. Title will not be transferred until a sale is made and all leins cleared. It is on the market for $125,000.00 and is a turn key operation. All equipment is uncluded.” Contact Jim if you or someone you know is interested in rescuing the landmark restaurant.