The Hawthorne Inn will mark 20 years of service to Labadie and surrounding communities this August.
Originally from St. Louis County, owners Dick Hoey and Cathy and Chris Hancock, said they found Labadie and “fell in love.”
“It felt right when we walked in the door,” Cathy Hancock said.
Hoey and Chris Hancock had worked together at an eatery and decided they wanted to open their own restaurant. Chris Hancock had kitchen experience while Hoey had management experience. Both Hoey and Cathy Hancock had waited tables.
“Our families all thought we were completely crazy,” Cathy Hancock said of opening the restaurant.
The business originally was located near its current location on Front Street. From Aug. 2, 1994, to 2000, the restaurant operated from that building.
In January 2000, it was moved to its current location, at 123 Front St.
The building already had a restaurant on site, but the owner was retiring and closing his restaurant.
Rebuilding After Loss
Not long after moving across the street, in March 2001, The Hawthorne Inn caught fire and forced the business to close for more than a year.
“The fire was a big turning point for us,” Cathy Hancock added.
In April 2002, after demolishing the restaurant and rebuilding, The Hawthorne Inn reopened in its current building with new equipment and a better, more effective design.
The new space made the restaurant even more of a “destination spot,” Hoey said.
Rebuilding, he added, was a struggle. Cathy Hancock took a part-time job and all helped with rebuilding the restaurant by painting and doing other tasks.
Community members also helped, they noted.
By the one-year point, “we were running on fumes financially,” Hoey said.
The fire wouldn’t be the last time the restaurant’s owners were devastated. In 2007, three of their head chefs were killed in two separate vehicle accidents within six months of each other.
Despite struggles, though, the owners said they have loved being a part of the Labadie and Washington community for the past 20 years. Since opening The Hawthorne Inn, both Hoey and the Hancocks have moved to Labadie.
They take part in the Washington’s Investment in Great Schools (WINGS) program, the Borgia gold card “Knights Out” program and other school programs.
The owners contributed their longevity to their staff, many of whom have been employed by the restaurant for seven to 19 years.
“People who have been here before know what they’re going to get, because the kitchen is so consistent,” Hoey said.
“Thank you to the staff and the community for withstanding the test of time,” Cathy Hancock added. “If it wasn’t for our staff we wouldn’t be where we are, and if it wasn’t for the community, we wouldn’t be able to keep our staff.”
Though The Hawthorne has always offered catering, that part of the business has really taken off in the past two years, Cathy Hancock said.
Now, the owners hope to maintain standards and to remain a popular destination for the next two decades.
The owners especially enjoy seeing adults — who as children worked for them — come in with their own families.
“We’re proud,” Hoey said. “We’ve got our immediate kids, then we’ve got our bigger families.”