By Sarah Richardson
Ronceverte has been quite the happenin’ place recently with the opening of the Sportsman Tavern, the new Food Truck Festival weekends planned the rest of the summer, and now, the opening of the RNCVRT Café! Chris and JorgeRodriguez-Stanleyhave been working for years to help revitalize Ronceverte, first with a plan to renovate the Rudy’s building with apartments, storefronts, and a restaurant, but when issues arose with that project they redirected their focus to the café, and then the Hollerwood House when the opportunity arose.
When asked “how did you guys get into this?” Chris said that Jorge has actually always wanted a restaurant, and that the café came to them via the owners of the building, who reached out when the previous café was leaving the space.
Chris: At that point we had decided to move back to Ronceverte and live in the area, and felt like we could make an impact, so we took over the lease, bought the equipment from the previous people, and we decided to open a café.
Jorge: We literally signed the lease the day we were driving back to LA, and the world was opening up in June of 2021, and my full-time job was still in LA. We had to get ourselves sorted.
Chris: A couple things happened that kept us from moving back as quickly as we’d like, we got more delayed, and by the time we finally got back to Ronceverte it was February of 2022. We didn’t even have keys! We couldn’t get in because we signed the lease a month before the previous tenants had left. After we got back in February we got working on some projects, and also got involved with community projects, we both joined some boards to get involved with community efforts.
Jorge: I took a job at a statewide non-profit, the West Virginia Community Development Hub as a communications associate, so I was getting my footing with that and doing a lot of travel around the state, and I still am constantly traveling for my job, so we spend a lot of our time on the evenings and weekends trying to get all this going.
Chris: But before we could get this open, the Hollerwood House fell in our laps. We took on the Hollerwood House because we wanted it to be a major part of the community and part of what was happening in Ronceverte, and we felt there was a need for event space and a place that was more hotel-like to stay at in the area rather than just Air Bnbs. We felt that a hotel would bring more people here, bigger groups, and maybe down the road some small conventions, work retreats, things to bring people to Ronceverte.
Jorge: Everything we’ve done up to this point, whether it’s Chris getting the dog park open, or the Hollerwood House running, or the people that we work with creating the art and the pillows done so we can get this café doing, has always been focused on the community. We want the community to have spaces that they are proud of, we want the community to see things that are still accessible to them but still elevated in a way that they haven’t seen before.
Chris: One thing I think is really cool is that people will come in and see this art wall or see these vases that we’ve purchased from either Goodwill or some of the vintage stores around town and someone will say “Hey that used to be mine!”
As far as being a part of the overall revitalization of Ronceverte:
Chris: The Sportsman wasn’t even an idea at that time, Mark and Dan hadn’t purchased that, we just believed in Ronceverte from the beginning. Whenever we bought the Rudy’s building the first thing we wanted to do was get the community on board and excited.
Jorge: To give them a vision of what Ronceverte can be, where this town can go. There is so much potential that we see. This is the next place that can really become something.
Chris: Ronceverte’s downtown with the park right next to it is such a unique feature, and when the walking bridge is restored and done so people can cross over it’s going to be a major feature. I said this a couple of years ago:
“In two years Ronceverte is going to start to feel different, in three it’s going to start to look different, and in five it’s going to be a totally different town. And I still believe that.”
Chris: We’re two years into it now and we see the Sportsman, the Ronceverte Skate Shop, all these other things that have come around, and also all the businesses that have always been here like Martin and Jones, Wild Child, Tri County Produce, and all the businesses that have already been here, so we are just filling in around them. It’s just so walkable here, and easy to see everything there is to do. With putt-putt coming in, and all the things happening with the park, it’s just so much.
What’s going to be on the menu? What will be served at The RNCVRT?
Jorge: What we have envisioned for the physical space is a café that’s different than what we’ve seen here. We wanted something that you would find in a major metropolitan area, but still be accessible to West Virginians. With the food, I’m Cuban, so I wanted to bring some more of those Cuban flavors in. I make really great scones, so I’ve been workshopping different flavors or scones. We hope to have some Thai iced tea scones, lavender-lime, I’ve created this whole roster of scone flavors that we will constantly just be milling through. Cuban coffees, as well. We want to just bring a different flavor palette into the area, to introduce people to both my culture as well as the culture we’ve experienced traveling around the world. We just feel like it’s needed in this area. We will have a lot of basics, we have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that’s really good, we have some of these things set in place, but we also want to introduce some new things. I’m also working on a pepperoni roll recipe. We’re going to start slow, but as we grow and expand we want to add in hot breakfast and lunch, and we’ve have some healthy ready-made options like salads, soups, sandwiches, things that you can grab and have ready. Eventually the long-term goal we are working toward is to be open seven days a week with all the food we can offer.
We also want this to be a community space, as well. While it may be a café and a business, after hours we want people to know that you can use it for your meetings, like a business roundtable or club meeting. We are also wanting to partner with organizations to help bridge the food insecurity gap that exists in Ronceverte. We want to make sure that people have access to healthier food or more consistent food. We don’t know what that looks like, or who we will be partnering with, but that is something that we’ve also had in mind. Our idea when we moved here was to move here with our values, and to operate with our values, and one of the most important ones is just taking care of the people around you, and your community.
“A rising tide lifts all boats.”
Chris explained that he will be the main manager for the Hollerwood House, and Jorge will be managing the café. Once the café is up and running, guests at the Hollerwood will be able to order breakfast the night before via a card placed on their door. The couple got the idea from a hotel they stayed at in Thailand on their honeymoon. The kitchen at the café can also act as a caterer for events at Hollerwood.
Overall, Jorge and Chris both thank the community for their patience as they work to get the café open, and they hope they will be able to provide well-paying jobs after some slow and sustained growth.