BY MARY BEVANS GILLETT Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — HONOR — Susan Leone and her husband, John, watched their Chum's Corner business, Dairyville, burn to the ground in November 2010.
From the misfortune, though, came opportunity.
The two are now at the helm of an exciting new restaurant, the Platte River Inn, in downtown Honor. The eatery, crafted from the shell of the old Money’s Platte River Inn, is creating quite a buzz in Honor with its new, sharp-looking exterior, expansive seating area and fine foods in a village looking to revitalize its main shopping corridor.
“Originally we planned to rebuild (on the Dairyville site),” said Susan Leone, but construction costs, age, building requirements and other obstacles nixed that idea.
“Then, we looked at many places in Grand Traverse and Leelanau County, but they didn’t feel right," she said. "It was almost on a whim that we looked at Money’s.”
The Leones purchased Money’s Platte River Inn in April 2012. The restaurant, located on Main Street, was closed for about three years after being in operation for more than 50 years as a family restaurant owned by Marvel and Lou Money, along with sons Terry and Paul. The Leones re-opened in March as Platte River Inn following extensive renovations.
The couple spent eleven months giving the restaurant a new look, hiring local contractors and construction workers to gut the building, reconfigure space and bring the Leone vision to fruition. The results are visible and dramatic.
The restaurant sports a clean, updated Northwoods appearance with rustic log and cedar interior. The dining room seats 150, with a back dining area that can be separated for private functions. There is a separate conference room available for meetings. Additional renovations will add a 25-seat lounge to the side of the building.
Breakfast and lunch have been available since the March opening, but dinner service was just introduced in mid-June. Hours are 6:00 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. The Leones have a liquor license and plan to begin serving beer and wine this month, then move to full cocktail service when the lounge opens.
Menu highlights include the Honor Big Breakfast, comprised of four eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, potatoes, pancakes and toast in the mornings, with homemade soups and hefty sandwiches featured at lunchtime. Favorites include the Reuben, French onion soup, corn beef and cabbage soup, and John Leone’s original recipe for Friday clam chowder. Dinner entrees include steaks, chops, seafood and pasta. Daily lunch specials, Friday night fish fries and a Sunday breakfast buffet are ongoing staples.
“We cook and season our own meats. Everything is fresh and made right here,” Susan Leone said, noting that local, seasonal produce is worked into the menu when available. “During asparagus season, we were making asparagus omelets every day.”
Moving from Dairyville’s lighter menu to a full-service restaurant wasn’t hard for the Leones.
“We both came from fine dining backgrounds,” Susan Leone said, noting she worked for many years in Holiday Inn restaurants downstate while John’s family was also in the restaurant business as owners of the former Pier 22 & Idle Hour, which later became Windows restaurant.
“We had been talking about starting a fine-dining restaurant for five years,” she said, “and even with (Dairyville’s) ice cream menu, we did light lunches, sandwiches and soups.”
Approximately 20 employees are on staff with additional hires planned as the summer season gets busier. Like the original family-run Money’s, the new Platte River Inn has a number of Leone family members on staff, including co-owner John Leone, sons Christian and Dante Leone, and Susan’s brother, Mike Fletcher, who all work in the kitchen and back of house, while Susan is in charge of the front.
The rest of the dining staff are primarily Benzie county residents, which added jobs to the region as well as an economic investment into Honor.
“I think it’s fabulous,” said Benzie County Chamber of Commerce president Mary Carroll. “Honor is a cute village and it is nice to see a (new) business going...on the main street. It helps (makes downtown) more welcoming for visitors …and is creating jobs, which are appreciated and needed in the community.”
“Everyone has been overwhelmingly supportive,” Leone said. “We like the smaller communities and love being here.”