By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PALMYRA Mo. -- Rodney and Ginny Kuntemeyer have created a new business by reviving the old.
When the husband-and-wife team learned Greenwood Cemetery planned to tear down the old caretaker's house at the corner of Route BB and North Main, the two combined their passions to save the historic building.
Ginny, the owner of Flower City Florist and Mercantile, and Rodney, the owner of Rodney Kuntemeyer Construction, sought to restore the 1840s stone house and turn it into a place where people can enjoy drinks, snacks and special events amid an array of antiques.
"This stone house here has always been on this curb, and we wanted to save it," Rodney said.
"This is our thing," Ginny continued. "We love the old."
The paneling in the dining room at the Old Stone House Inn once served as the upstairs floorboards. Rodney transformed some interior doors into a bar for the tasting room. In the powder room, an exterior door divides the bathroom in two.
"We reused everything," Ginny said. "We just about didn't throw anything away."
For nearly nine months, the couple rearranged and refurbished various amenities throughout the crumbling interior. Rodney shuffled through a stack of snapshots that illustrated the building's progress. During the construction phase, he chiseled enough plaster from the walls to fill three Dumpsters. He tore out the second floor entirely and created a vaulted ceiling. As he sandblasted the walls, he revealed two long-forgotten stone fireplaces.
"A lot of people walked in while we were working on it, and they could not envision what it would look like," Rodney said.
"That's probably one skill Rodney and I share," Ginny added. "When we started on this, we could both see in our minds what it was going to hopefully turn out like, but it turned out to be even more wonderful than we thought."
With an intense renovation and a price tag nearly totaling the cost of a new building, the Old Stone House Inn opened for its first wedding in July. Since then, the historic home on the edge of Palmyra has drawn crowds of people from throughout the region.
The Kuntemeyers never intended to open a restaurant, but local demand encouraged the couple to hire a chef and serve meals.
The restaurant's menu switches daily. While the chef serves some staple sandwiches, a chalkboard announces each day's specials. The kitchen staff rotates selections such as thick-cut pork chops, bacon-wrapped filets, tilapia, grilled salmon and barbecued ribs.
The restaurants' dinnerware alters nearly as much as its menu. In the back kitchen, stacks of cleaned, mismatched plates sit neatly on a shelf. Ginny's passion for antiques led to a diverse array of dinnerware for the dining room. She said the Stone House Inn uses at least 20 different place settings for serving meals.
"My taste definitely runs to the mixed-and-matched," Ginny said.
She's also put together a collection of mismatched tables and chairs. For weddings, the inn's staff lines the chairs in rows. This past weekend, the Old Stone House Inn hosted two weddings of more than 100 guests each. When it's time for dinner, the staff tucks the chairs of different colors, heights and styles around a set of equally singular tables.
Just as she sells antiques at Flower City Florist and Mercantile, Ginny will sell any table, chair or decoration at the inn.
"We tell people, ‘It's OK if you fall in love with your table and chair. Let us know; you can buy it,'" she said.
The Stone House Inn has become a popular spot to host birthday, retirement and graduation parties, as well as wedding and bridal showers. Activity boomed for the new venture in December, when area businesses flooded the Old Stone House Inn with requests for holiday parties. The inn's staff hosted 27 private parties in 25 days.
"We have a wonderful staff, and this would not have gotten off the ground and been as successful as it has been without the staff," Ginny said.
The restaurant also hosts a variety of public social gatherings. In October, a small crowd gathered under dimmed lights and heard ghost stories. In the coming weeks, the space will feature a Super Bowl party, a Valentine's Day event and a Mardi Gras party.
Eventually, the Kuntemeyers hope to expand the business into a micro-brewery and winery. In the meantime, they have opted to serve several regional wines.
"Palmyra needs business, and Palmyra needs a draw," Ginny said. "This is a reason for people to come to Palmyra."