Sandra Shantz, Stone Crock Inc.

Meet Sandra Shantz, president of Stone Crock Inc. in St. Jacobs, the area promoted as “Ontario’s favourite rural destination.” She’s been working at her family business for over 30 years. The Stone Crock Restaurant was founded in 1975 by her parents, Milo and Laura—and named after the crocks used to hold foodstuffs such as butter, salted meat and pickled vegetables before refrigeration came along. The company has expanded to include Jacob’s Grill, the DH Food and Lodging, St. Jacobs Catering, Stone Crock Bakery and Stone Crock Meats and Cheese.

“Family” describes more than just your ownership model.

SS: The Stone Crock was established as a place where people could experience a typical Mennonite-style meal. Each table would choose 2 of 5 meats: roast beef, spare ribs, farmers’ sausage, roast chicken or turkey. The full meal—including mashed potatoes, veg of the day, dressing and gravy—would arrive in platters and bowls to pass around the table. The restaurant was furnished with locally crafted pine chairs and tables, an oil-lantern centrepiece and shelves filled with locally sourced antiques and crocks.

We have a combined staff of over 200 that somehow manage to function like a family. Many staff have been with us 20- or 30-plus years. In some cases their kids and grandkids are also employed with us. It isn’t perfect, but it’s generally a respectful and pleasant environment.

Which food trends are hot in your market?

SS: Local farm to table continues to be important here. Fortunately, St. Jacobs is surrounded by excellent farms and distributors, so sourcing local poultry, pork, beef, fruits and vegetables is quite simple.

How do you compete favourably for group business, especially holiday celebrations?

SS: For 40 years, the Stone Crock has been serving a traditional roast turkey dinner with all the fixings during the fall harvest and holiday seasons. We experience a lot of repeat business from corporate clientele, community groups and families.

To what extent do you use social media to market your operation?

SS: We’ve been slow to enter the social media scene, but are committed to making a better effort. Without question it’s an effective and inexpensive means to reach certain customers.

What are chain restaurants doing today that impresses you most?

SS: Many chains have improved on the range and quality of their menu offerings over the last few years. They’re providing healthier choices and in many cases also trying to feature locally sourced products.

Flanagan Foodservice has been your primary provider for over 30 years.

SS: Our Territory Manager often anticipates our needs before we do! Heading into a busy weekend, we’re confident Flanagan’s will deliver exactly what we ordered, on time. I do believe Flanagan’s is a partner in our business, looking out for our best interest and helping us succeed.