Parkway Theater in Stowe searching for a restaurateur
Aaron Stubna wants people to indulge in more than popcorn and candy when they visit the Parkway Theater in Stowe.
After renovating the one-screen movie house two years ago, he invited Tom Glover and Dave Hallam of Abjuration Brewing Co. to make and sell their beer there, too. Now he’s looking for a local restaurateur to join the team.
“I believe having in-house food that’s consistent is good for both of our businesses,” said Stubna, who runs the theater with his wife, Jackie.
Built in 1937 on Broadway Avenue, the theater was a popular hangout for decades. When the economy tanked, it sat vacant for years and was eventually repurposed as a church and youth center. Stubna bought it in 2011 after his plans to revitalize the North Side’s Garden Theater fell through. A barber by trade, he dabbles in real estate and filmmaking.
The building boasts a 43-seat, soundproof theater, Abjuration’s brewing facility and taproom, and a lounge with a full-service bar, stage and seating for 60. Stubna said he’s invested $180,000 in the facility.
The accommodations are limited, but Stubna is inspired by local restaurant incubators such as Smallman Galley and Federal Galley, which allows four budding entrepreneurs to operate individual kitchens under one roof for up to 18 months.
A chef could pay rent to Stubna and operate the business separate from the theater, just as Glover and Hallam do.
“They’ll have to make a small investment in the kitchen, but the restaurant part is already done,” Stubna said. “There’s seating and a built-in clientele. If you come to the table with as little as $8,000 you can already have a brick-and-mortar space and get rolling. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Since reopening the theater, Stubna has relied on food trucks, pop-ups and local pizza shops to feed customers, who venture there to watch independent films and documentaries, listen to live music or sing karaoke. While the entertainment and brews are well-received, the lack of a consistent menu confuses patrons and hurts business. The doors are open seven days a week — starting at 5 p.m. on weekdays, 1 p.m. on weekends — but hungry dinner crowds are going elsewhere.
“We would like to see someone as passionate about their food as we are about our beer,” said Hallam, who specializes in unconventional, small-batch beers served in beaker glasses.
The brewery recently raised $50,000 through a Honeycomb Credit campaign — a crowdfunded small business loan — which has allowed them to grow with the neighborhood. The opening of the nearby live music venue Roxian Theater and Black Forge Coffee House have given McKees Rocks, just a few miles from Downtown Pittsburgh, an economic boost.
Stubna said he is in the process of buying a long-vacant building across the street from the theater. He envisions another restaurant going in on the bottom floor, and he’d like someone else to run it. The current Kennedy Township resident will move into one of the upstairs apartments so he can be even more ingrained in the neighborhood.
“The opportunity is here,” he said. “We’re just waiting for somebody to take advantage of it.”