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.
That is way too bad. I never got a chance to try one of those chiffon pies. Reckon I’ll have to list that with the Pig Hip sandwiches which I’ll never get to sample.
Sure hope someone keeps that neat sign.
Even better, perhaps someone will buy it and reopen it.
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There’s an interesting story about the sign. When my grandmother was thinking about buying it, my uncle Russ, who was a commercial artist and had designed it, asked her if she would rather buy the sign or a 1953 Cadillac which would have cost about the same. Obviously she chose the sign. Russ would never devulge what the object was that the word “restaurant” is enclosed in. Some think it looks like a flying saucer.
I hope someone buys the restaurant and reopens it also. The Stone family for five generations and many wonderful employees over the years contributed to a great run and we would like nothing better than to see it continue.
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Stone’s will reopen on 9/1/09 with new ownership!
Thanks Randy, that’s my current blog story, and exciting news it is! Sounds like you’re glad about it too.
Hi Randy Stone, after the restaurant closed I bought a number of antiques from the antique store on main street. I would like some info on some of the items I bought. I bought a large oval mirror that has a gulded frame, a chair that has a label that says Landstrom Furniture, its a burgundy mohair upolsterd back and seat with wood arms and legs. I also bought a picture that is roses and a large wood sign that says Stones Family Buffet in green letters looks like it was an outside sign, maybe 5 foot long and 15″ wide. Any info on these items would be great I cherish them. Thankyou Deborah Rieks please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorry for the very late reply. The oval mirror was on the wall over the main dining room buffet ever since I can remember from sixty years ago and probably for many years before that. The chair was upstairs in the apartment my grandmother and great grandmother shared and, as I remember, was where great grandma sat when she was reading her bible. I believe the picture was upstairs also but I don’t remember it. Yes, the buffet sign was used outside when my uncle Don ran the restaurant during the 60’s and 70’s.
Thank you for giving these things a good home. I much appreciate it!