LEBANON, VA – (AUGUST 23, 2021) — For Connie Stinson, opening the Stone Cellar Brunch & Clutter in the heart of downtown Lebanon, Va., was a way she saw to realize her dream of operating a small business, while at the same time giving back to the community.
When the original Stone Cellar restaurant closed in March 2020, Stinson said she began thinking about the possibilities of purchasing the business and opening it as her own. In December 2020, she took the plunge, bought the restaurant and became a small business owner in her own right, officially reopening the restaurant in January.
Her business, Simona Corporation, doing business as Stone Cellar Brunch & Clutter, was a recent recipient of a $6,500 Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant.
“VCEDA was pleased to assist Connie in her new business venture when she decided to purchase and open Stone Cellar Brunch & Clutter,” said VCEDA Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher. “The business projects one full-time and four part-time employees within three years.”
Stinson noted that prior to opening the business as her own, she had always been a loyal customer of the previous restaurant and when it closed, she said, it left a void in the community.
“I hated to see such a valuable asset in our community close and I made the decision I wanted to bring people back to the downtown area and to give back to the community,” Stinson said.
She made her plans and within a month went from purchasing the restaurant to opening it.
“It’s hard for a small restaurant to get started and I am so thankful for this grant,” Stinson said of the VCEDA seed capital grant. “We are using it for operating expenses and to purchase other equipment like a bakery display case, an outdoor park bench and a Ninja Blender. We will also be purchasing catering equipment. Everything has been so unpredictable because of the pandemic, but despite that, we’ve had a lot of local customers and a lot of out of state visitors.”
Stinson said she often asks where customers are from and the answers, sometimes, she said, have surprised her.
“They’ve come from California, New York, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and other parts of Virginia,” she said. “We’ve put a map on the wall and we’re marking off visitors from each state as we get them.”
The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating and a varied menu of specialty sandwiches, soups, salads and what Stinson describes as their one-of-a-kind Southern sweet tea and razzle dazzle lemonade. Grab and go breakfast is also available.
Chicken salad remains as the favorite and in addition to offering it on the menu, Stinson said it is offered for take home sale by up to a gallon size.
A small gift shop is also found in the storefront.
Stinson noted, she is branching out to offer catering services and she added the dining room is available to rent out for parties and other events. The restaurant caters to breakfast and lunch crowds, opening at its 19 S. Church Street location daily Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. She added in the future, she may open for dinner hours as well.
The business may be found on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Stinson worked with the Small Business Development Center at Southwest Virginia Community College in the development of her application to VCEDA and received a letter of support from the Russell County Industrial Development Authority.
“The SBDC team at SWCC is excited that Stone Cellar Brunch & Clutter has been awarded a seed capital matching fund grant,” said SWCC SBDC Program Manager Margie Douglass. “The Lebanon area is sure to benefit from this new dining option and retail space, which will draw both locals and tourists alike. The seed capital matching fund program not only provides funds for startup businesses in the VCEDA region, but also provides access to vital business resources. By working with the SBDC (a requirement for any applicant to the VCEDA seed capital program), business owners receive guidance from experienced advisors and learn how to utilize available tools to evaluate their business and develop a formal plan of action. As a result, applicants are better prepared to apply for funding and better equipped to make their business a success.”
About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.
About the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Seed Capital Matching Grant Fund: VCEDA region for-profit businesses one year and under with less than 10 full-time employees are eligible to apply for dollar-for-dollar matching grants up to $10,000 from the VCEDA Seed Capital Matching Fund. Applicants work with the Small Business Development Centers at Mountain Empire and Southwest Virginia community colleges to prepare the applications to VCEDA that include detailed business and financial plans. Businesses must be located in or plan to operate in the VCEDA region in southwestern Virginia that includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton.