“Before the Sisters of Charity occupied this land, William Axon Stokes lived here. He had a mansion which is currently St. Mary’s Hall. He was known for hospitality,” said James Bosco, assistant professor of hospitality and tourism at Seton Hill University. “If he had an American flag hanging out front it meant the party was on at his place.”
Bosco plans to open Major Stokes, his restaurant and bar, in Greensburg, Pa., around Easter of 2018. Major Stokes will be located at 108 West Pittsburgh Street in downtown Greensburg, directly next to Hugo’s Taproom. The space was formerly RJ’s Lounge and originally the first hospital in Greensburg around 1880.
Major Stokes is inspired by the history of Williams Axon Stokes who some may not know about. “There will be a little historical vibe to it and I will educate people about Mr. Stokes. That will be part of the lore of the restaurant of the underlying story,” Bosco said.
“I love anything historical,” said Traci Baran, history and English teacher at Camelot Education. “I would definitely go to this restaurant after it opens. I don’t get out to Greensburg as often as I would like, so it would be a nice reason to go and learn a little bit about the history of the town and Major Stokes. I don’t know much about him.”
“He [Major Stokes] was written up prominently in Andrew Carnegie’s biography,” Bosco said. “Andrew Carnegie actually visited the Stokes Mansion trying to recruit him to fight in the Civil War, and Andrew Carnegie noted this marble open book on his fireplace mantle and was so inspired by the quote on the book, which was, ‘He that cannot reason is a fool. He that will not reason is a bigot. He that dare not reason is a slave,’ that he put that on the front of the first two libraries that he built. Stokes went on to become a general and founded Villanova University, and very few people know that he lived here.”
Open six days a week, menus will rotate daily and seasonally. Only nine items per day will be offered, along with three daily beer choices, three daily wine choices and three daily liquor choices. Bosco said the menu will range in variety from “roasted corn to Moroccan style couscous to sautéed scallops.”
“The most expensive thing on the menu will be seven dollars,” Bosco said. “Everything will be between three and seven dollars, but you can’t expect this big giant ‘I’m going to take home a doggy bag’ kind of meal, but you can expect really, really good food at a really affordable price.”
“I’ve heard Professor Bosco talking about his restaurant before, but I didn’t know the history behind it. That is pretty cool,” said Emily Scrabot, a senior communication major at SHU. “I’m excited for it to open next year, especially considering how affordable it is going to be. It’ll be great for college students on a budget that want to eat out every once in awhile.”
Bosco’s restaurant will use hyper local sourcing: growing, processing and consuming food at the neighborhood level of community. “We are planning on having a garden on our lot and growing some of our herbs and spices, but that isn’t going to be available right when we open, so as we advance and progress we’ll be growing some of our own produce,” Bosco said. “We will have no freezers, so nothing will be frozen.”
“The idea of this bar sounds really interesting,” Greensburg bar frequenter Rebekah Mechtensimer said. “I like going to bars that are unlike most others. It’s hard to find unique hang out spots in our area. It seems like you have to go to the bigger cities. I’ll definitely check this place out when it opens. I don’t mind smaller portions or a limited menu. It usually means the food and drinks they do offer are made really well.”
“My favorite bar in Greensburg right now is Hugo’s,” said Greensburg native Kelsey Mock. “It has good food and a dog named Cookie that is always there, which I think is kind of unique. I like bars that have something special about them. It keeps them from becoming boring. I think a rotating menu is one way to keep things fresh. I would give this new place a try. Maybe it will become my new favorite.”
Bosco has been consulting with restaurants since 2002 and has run restaurants in Atlanta, Washington D.C., Dallas and Los Angeles. His three best tips for aspiring entrepreneurs are, “Choose your partners wisely, do it with somebody else’s money first and know that it is going to absorb you completely. You don’t want to open a restaurant, or any business, because you think it will be easy to work for yourself. It is exponentially harder to have your own business than to work for somebody else.”
Bosco is marketing his restaurant to all types, from business professionals during the day, to SHU students in the evening.
“It’s going to be different. Everybody should know that there is something new in town,” Bosco said. “I think it is going to be a game changer and you’ve got to check it out.”