Stone Oven owners reflect on 25 years in business
In the 25 years since Jon Emerman and Tatyana Rehn opened The Stone Oven Bakery Café on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, it has been one of the community’s favorite gathering spots. We asked them some questions about their quarter century in the business, and how they’re adapting their business to the coronavirus.
COVID-19 has turned the world upside-down. Have you ever seen anything like this? Tatyana Rehn: These are truly unprecedented times. Even 9/11 did not affect us anywhere near as much as we are being affected now. We are struggling to keep the staff on and healthy, and to provide something positive to our community
How does the business now compare with the vision when you first opened? Jon Emerman: Our original concept was as it still is—a comfortable and inviting place where people can sit and enjoy a fresh-baked good and cup of coffee, or sandwich made with our bread.
What’s an important lesson you’ve learned since opening the business? TR: I personally learned that I could never be just a boss. I always got too involved with our people and their life circumstances, which probably isn't the most effective way to manage a business. / JE: I've always tried to keep it simple. The menu has changed little in 25 years, but people come back if the food is good and consistent. We could have listened to those who wanted us to expand our menu, but I've mostly resisted. Less complexity translates into greater efficiency and higher profits.
How is Cleveland Heights unique as a place to do business? TR: The power and strength of our community; we got to see and experience it when our rent was up (at the original spot) on the corner, and a bank was going to go in there because they were able to pay higher rent. The entire city, headed by Mayor Ed Kelly, stood up to defend our existence. Truly an incredible event.
What’s your favorite Stone Oven bread? JE: Millers multigrain. / TR: Black sourdough.
What’s your favorite item from the cold (display) case? JE: Tiramisu. Tim's is the best I've ever tasted. And I've tried a lot over the years. / TR: Croissants.
What’s your favorite soup? Both: Thai lentil with sweet potato.
Is there a particularly memorable moment or story from 25 years in business that you’d like to share? JE: After 9/11, we participated in the national moments of silence to think about those who had died on that horrible day. It was pretty moving. A happier time was (in 2009) when we performed the Stone Oven Extravaganza. Check it out on Youtube. [https://bit.ly/stoneovendance]
To what do you attribute your success? JE: I'm pretty OCD, which has served me well. I spend a lot of time walking around the store making sure that things look good, the temperature is right, the music is at the right volume, and our customers are served quickly. Getting all the details right can mean the difference between success and failure for a restaurant.
What question do you wish you’d been asked? TR: How do we, Jon and I, manage to run this business after divorce? Answer: Easy—most days.
Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.