SPARTA, NJ – With a backhoe as a backdrop, more than 20 officials and friends from around the county gathered for an unusual ground breaking ceremony. But that suits Steve and Rachael Scro just fine. Instead of shiny shovels, the invited VIPs had pitchforks and even a pumpkin harvesting tool; a fitting way to introduce the Modern Farmer restaurant that is soon to take its place in the new Village North complex.
Before hard hats were donned for the photos Steve Scro said to the group, “I pray to the Lord to give us strength equal to the opportunity we’ve been given.”
The Modern Farmer will be “approachable elevated or elevated approachable, the modern menu will look to farm fresh local produce,” Scro said over lunch at his Mohawk House restaurant. For the Scros it’s more than just another restaurant. They are seeking to expand their mission of supporting their community as well.
“I have a burning desire to make sure people have a good time,” Scro said. “I love it when people leave here happy, having created memories. It is a labor of love, it is a passion- enjoying being a good part of the community, making a difference.”
Of course you have to do the work, Scro said. For the first four or five years he said he just ground it out, working 12-14 hours a day, or more. But he considers it all worthwhile. Reaching a level of success means he can give back.
Through out the year the Mohawk House hosts hundreds of events, from League of Municipalities monthly meetings, to surprise birthday parties to fundraising concerts and everything in between. The eight different rooms provide just the right space for nearly every need.
The Modern Farmer will be similar, Scro said. The ambiance will be “Modern Industrial with repurposed niches, just like the Mohawk House,” he said. He is reaching out to farmers who have family heirlooms that they would like to be showcased at the new restaurant. Scro said he would like to integrate things from local artisans, giving them a venue to display and even sell their wares. Lofty ambition always present, Scro said he sees it as a platform for others to live out their dreams, “just like with the employees, so they have something they feel proud of.”
“I love to grow people just like farmers grow crops,” Scro said. Relating a story about a “table runner,” a young man who started out nervous and withdrawn with no experience who is now confident and skilled at his job, ready to take the next step in his journey when the time comes. “It takes smarts to be able to run in this big place,” Scro said like a proud parent.
Some of the Mohawk House’s staff of 60 will be crossing over and also working at the Modern Farmer, though he plans to hire new people as well; maybe even some of the farmers in the winter who grow the crops he will use in his kitchens through the year. “Who knows,” Scro said.
When prodded about the menu Scro said, “It will be like something you remember having at grandma’s with a twist.” Not wanting to give away too much for fear of it showing up on someone else’s menu, he shared a couple of ideas such as a “deconstructed pot pie or buffalo meatloaf or French onion soup burger.”
“The passion is in the food,” Scro said. “You put your heart on the plate.”
Ground breaking invited guests included:
- Brian ‘Sandford’ and Ron-dee Lockwood, Debra Millikin,
- Ricky Soni and Matt Saxton from the Mohawk House,
- Sparta Mayor Molly Whilesmith, Deputy Mayor Christine Quinn and Councilman Jerry Murphy,
- Sparta Police Chief Neil Spidaletto, Det. Terrence Mulligan and Lt. John Lamon, Lawrence Wilson,
- New Jersey State Trooper Lt. Matt Avenetti
- Senator Steve Oroho, Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths,
- Freeholders Josh Hertzberg and Herb Yardley,
- Developers Owen Dykstra and Mark Konarski, Jimmy Prassas,
- SCUMA John Drake
- Sussex County Clerk Jeff Parrott,
- Sussex County Surrogate Gary Chiusano,
- JCP&L and Sussex County Chamber of Commerce Jacqueline Espinoza,
At the construction site, Scro addressed the group. “When I was a boy, I dug ditches. I always thought I’d make a difference. I used to drive up here with my grandfather and see billboards and think ‘some day.’ Now I have a billboard and were digging more than a ditch.”
The Modern Farmer is anticipated to be ready to server the community middle to late summer 2020. The new place will seat approximately 250 people with outdoor areas and a couple of smaller private party rooms.
“I look forward to this adventure,” Rachael Scro said.