HAWTHORN – Breakfast recently got a boost in Hawthorn with the opening of a new restaurant along the town’s main drag.
Gabriel’s, located along Brookville Street — in the former location of Tuff’s Smokin’ Grill — offers an all-day menu of homemade breakfast favorites, as well as light lunch options and daily specials.
The restaurant is owned and operated by Jared and Carrie Spence of Oak Ridge and Brenda Swineford of Fairmount City, who said that the new business venture fulfills a longtime dream for all of them.
“It’s nice that we get to work together,” Jared Spence said, explaining that he is enjoying the time he gets to spend with his wife and mother-in-law, as well as his children who help out at the restaurant. “It truly is a family affair.”
Although she had dreamed of opening her own restaurant for years, Carrie Spence said it was always put on the back burner. That is until earlier this year when her husband convinced her and Swineford that now was as good a time as any.
“I had been thinking about it for a long time too,” Jared Spence said of opening a restaurant.
“It just happened at the right time and moment,” Carrie Spence said, noting the availability of the restaurant-ready building in Hawthorn. “Jared came home and said ‘let’s just do it, call your mom.’”
While Carrie Spence and Swineford have nearly 40 years of restaurant experience between them, for Jared Spence the venture was something new.
“I’ve never worked in a restaurant, but these two are the perfect restaurant people,” Jared Spence said of his wife and mother-in-law, adding that he had to do some preparation work — including learning how to operate a commercial grill — before he was ready to jump into the food service industry.
After signing a lease for the building and two months of kitchen preparations, Gabriel’s officially opened its doors on June 9.
“Everyone keeps asking how we chose the name,” Carrie Spence said. She explained that the restaurant’s moniker derived from the name of her youngest son, Gabriel — a name that Carrie Spence said has always been her favorite. “We all liked the name and agreed on it.”
In fact, Gabriel Spence can often be found in the restaurant holding the door for customers and checking on tables.
“He likes to come out and greet the customers,” Carrie Spence said.
One major factor when opening a new business is fulfilling customers’ needs, which is exactly what the trio said their restaurant does.
“We knew the community needed somewhere to go for breakfast,” Swineford said of where the idea of opening a breakfast and brunch establishment came from. “We already have a group of regulars who come in to eat and socialize.”
The menu and hours of operation are also very intentional since the owners decided that they did not want to run competition with other well-established eateries in the area.
Gabriel’s offers an all-day menu of breakfast choices, as well as homemade soups, sandwiches, salads and daily specials created from as many family recipes and local ingredients as possible.
“Everything is homemade and made to order,” Carrie Spence said, noting that customers might experience longer wait times to get the food they want.
According to Jared Spence, Gabriel’s french toast is a popular menu item among customers, and the recipe was one he learned from his grandfather.
“It’s one of my favorite recipes and breakfast foods,” he said.
Gabriel’s is open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily — excluding holidays — a decision Jared Spence said was made in part to accommodate their children’s schedules.
“We wanted to have time for the kids and be there when they get off the bus from school,” he said.
Looking into the future, however, the business owners said they hope to incorporate more evening events — such as wing and open mic nights — into the restaurant’s schedule.
“We’re looking forward to future events with the community,” Carrie Spence said.
In just the month that they’ve been open, the Spences and Swineford said they are overwhelmed with the support the community has shown their new business venture.
“The community has been so supportive of us,” Swineford said, noting that word about Gabriel’s has been spreading throughout the area. “Everyone has been so kind and patient.”
“Our business seems to grow every day,” Jared Spence added, citing the perk of the restaurant’s location along the main road near the Redbank Valley Trail, Red Bank Creek and Pottery Field. “Hawthorn is a growing community. There’s a lot of potential here.”
Carrie Spence said that Gabriel’s has also received a lot of support from New Bethlehem restauranteurs Joe and Rosa Monteleone, who have passed on advice and basic knowledge of operating a restaurant.
Additionally, Swineford credits the restaurant’s success so far to the time and effort put in by all three owners.
“It takes all three of us to make it work,” she said. “We each play our own little part.”