Why Roanoke? These were the words I heard most often when we opened sixteen years ago. We had a beautiful building but the only retail in town was a bank down the street and the Village Inn, a neighborhood bar. Another bank and a gas station were over on the highway and unfortunately most people thought that was all of Roanoke. Why Roanoke? Nobody asks me that anymore. The town is now a vibrant retail mecca with unique local shops, art galleries and a plethora of community events. We love Roanoke.
The restaurant started as a corporate dining facility for my husband's sports insurance company. A start-up in our basement, it moved to Roanoke's defunct hardware store in 1990 and as retail was dying, his company was growing. Slowly, we purchased the buildings downtown and fixed them up.
But we were faced with the question of how to entertain his high powered clients from around the world: reinsurers from London and Switzerland; insurance companies from L.A. and New York; owners, agents and reps from sports teams all around the country. Originally they came to our house. That was nice because it was a feel-good personal touch, but with three small children it was a little dicey. It was after a rousing rendition of a Spice Girls routine by our daughters (the guests were Brits by the way) that we decided perhaps its time to become more professional. Hence the corporate dining facility.
The bank on the highway left behind a beautiful building when it moved. That is where the restaurant is headquartered. This town of Roanoke has great "bones". The buildings here are from the early 1900's and by fixing them up, it brought out the charm and character of an old Indiana farm town. Our clients loved coming to visit. Add to that a great homegrown chef who set the standard for our cuisine and the food to follow and it was - and is - a great recipe for entertaining.
The standard she set started with the use of fresh, good ingredients; the better the ingredient, the better the results. Sounds like a "no-brainer" but this was 1996 - before the farm to table and eat local movements started (at least in Indiana.) Even still, in this modern age, food for restaurants is ordered on the phone and trucked in. We had to find growers in addition to suppliers. It was when reviewing some of our bills that first year that I noticed we were spending 75 cents per squash blossom PLUS shipping and I thought, "Hey! I bet I could grow squash," and I did! From there our garden has expanded greatly, adding a hoop house this past winter. We've added livestock - Wagyu beef, Mangalitsa pigs, heritage chickens and turkeys, and also not one but two bed & breakfasts. And we are enjoying it.
And thus the squash blossom began our foray into the realm of Farm to Fork. And yes, in Roanoke.