Muncy, Pa. – When Brooke Bishop and her husband, Greg Stine, moved back to Pennsylvania, they wanted to open a restaurant in Muncy that would not only serve great food, but also help build a sense of community. They did not, however, anticipate that they would be undertaking this mission during a global pandemic.
Despite this, the couple, who previously ran a catering business in Charleston, South Carolina, decided to proceed with opening Basil Wood Fired Kitchen and Lounge on May 1 for curbside pickup. Each week, they offer family meal kits with a different theme. So far, they have done a Cinco de Mayo theme, Mother’s Day meal, and Italian family meals. Each chef-prepared meal kit comes with fresh ingredients that customers assemble and reheat at home.
“It’s basically about 95 percent finished and ready to go with instructions on how to finish at home,” said Brooke, who grew up in Montgomery. “As a caterer, we try to maintain food quality. We really want to maintain that scratch made. We don’t want to buy frozen foods,” Brooke said. Reservations for the meals are taken online each week through Wednesday. Contactless pickup is offered on Fridays and Saturdays at the rear of the restaurant at 213 N. Main Street.
To support the local community, Brooke and Greg try to use as many locally produced ingredients as possible. They currently are checking with local produce vendors, although due to the cold spring “finding produce is hard,” Brooke said. For the recent Italian meals, they used raviolis from Fasta & Ravioli Co. out of State College.
Though the couple has only been doing the pickup meals for three weeks, they are already building a customer base. “I think it’s been giving some relief to people who are tired of planning meals,” Brooke said.
The original plan was to use the 10,000 square foot space of the building to open in two phases beginning this summer. But those plans are on hold indefinitely, as the state is still prohibiting restaurants from opening their dining rooms.
The Lucky Lure Bar was planned for one side of the building and was supposed to open this summer. Once completed, the bar will have a vintage Pa. fishing vibe with games and scratch-made bar food. Greg, who grew up in Clearfield, Pa., has a true passion for fishing. The bar will pay homage to those who are as passionate about fishing.
The other side of the building will house the Basil Wood Fired Kitchen and Lounge restaurant, which Brooke describes on their website as “a trendy family friendly rustic farm to table vibe.” The restaurant plans include a large indoor double fireplace and a wood oven to cook not only pizzas, but also meats and vegetables.
In addition, the restaurant side will have its own bar serving craft cocktails. Brooke was hoping to also have a private dining area. However, with social distancing being a new way of life the layout plans may have to be altered. The couple is meeting with a contractor this week to figure out how to put in tables with social distancing in mind.
“It’s really hard to imagine what this is going to look like,” Brooke said. “We’re also working hard to ensure that sanitation and sense of security is found in all our projects. During this time all hospitality facilities are having to evolve to accommodate so many new policies, and (sic) we will have such precautions in place prior to officially opening."
The restaurant had been in the planning phases since summer of 2019. Brooke wanted to move back to the area to be closer to family. The couple has a two-year-old daughter and it was getting hard traveling the 12 hours back and forth to visit.
After nine years of running their Charleston-based catering business, they decided it was time to come back to Pennsylvania. Brooke had always liked Muncy, which she sees as a town with charm and potential. The couple decided to settle on a place on S. Main Street. “I’ve always loved Muncy. It’s such a historic town,” Brooke said. “We’re happy to be here and I wanted to make it more of a destination.”
When the former Muncy Fire Hall came up for sale, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Negotiations began in August and the couple closed on the property in April. The building also includes the former carnival grounds, which Brooke hopes to use for events. She and Greg will be spending the next few months completing renovations in hopes of being able to fully open by fall. “It needs a lot of TLC. We’re probably going to start with exterior and carnival grounds,” Brooke said.
Though the business has only been open for a month, the community response has been positive, Brooke said. The first family meal for curbside pickup sold out. “We were really kind of overwhelmed with our first order,” Brooke said. “We had triple the orders than we expected.”
Some of the other ideas the couple has includes starting a Sunday brunch farmers market on the grounds. They hope to hold this event on the second Sunday of each month through June, July and August. Brooke currently is talking with local farmers and artisans about participation. “Our plans include a Sunday brunch farmers market which will be more of a special event than just a market.”
“Muncy is such as small historic town and we really have hopes of reviving it,” Brooke said. “The pandemic certainly has thrown us all a curve ball but we feel more than ever, a sense of community and family friendly events is important.”