Stone Oven's new owners promise more of the same

Nick Kalafatis (left) and Chris Compton took ownership of Stone Oven on Lee Road on Feb. 1. [photo: Bob Rosenbaum]

On Feb. 1, the day Nick Kalafatis and Chris Compton closed on their purchase of Stone Oven Bakery and Café, a longtime patron introduced himself with a warning: Don’t screw it up.

Stone Oven’s steadfast presence on Lee Road these past 29 years has cultivated a lot of loyalty, and the new owners want you to know they don’t plan to change the formula.

“We wouldn’t have done this if we hadn’t seen what this place means to the community,” said Kalafatis. “We don’t want to mess with this too much; it’s a great business as-is.”

Kalafatis and Compton aren’t new to the food business. Together, they’ve owned the Firehouse Subs franchise in Mayfield Heights for 11 years, opening a second location five years ago in Willoughby.

They were discussing further expansion of the franchise last summer when they met Stone Oven co-founder John Emerman at a community organizing meeting in their Severance-area neighborhood. Ready to retire, Emerman asked if they were interested in buying the business he and then-wife Tatyana Rehn opened in 1995 and have operated together ever since.

Emerman announced the deal in late January in a letter to the editor, which he submitted to the Heights Observer just as the February issue was going to press.  

Over the years, Emerman and Rehn expanded with a second location in Woodmere and a commercial-baking operation that still distributes bread to stores and restaurants across the region. In the past few years, they sold off those extensions of the original business and returned to their roots—baking small batches of bread in the Lee Road store.

The new owners promise to keep it that way, and the old owners are staying on for several months to help in the transition.

“The team here is phenomenal. We’re in awe at how they do their jobs,” Kalafatis said.

“The bakers make such phenomenal things. They’re creative and passionate,” added Compton, who enjoys making bread at home, and looks forward to being part of the baking team.

Compton grew up in Newbury Township in Geauga County. A graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art, he’s worked at Progressive Insurance for 17 years—first as a designer and, for the past decade, as a training and development consultant. He’ll work regularly at Stone Oven on weekends.

Kalafatis will work in the business full time. He grew up in Southern Ohio and has lived in Cleveland Heights for the past 20 years. He has always worked in food service and hospitality.

Bob Rosenbaum

Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is responsible for the Heights Observer's advertising sales and market development.

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Volume 17, Issue 3, Posted 11:08 AM, 02.18.2024