Restaurateurs buy The Alvah Stone in Montague Center, look to carve out their own niche

  • Howard Wein in his now closed restaurant, The Alvah Stone, located in The Montague Bookmill complex in Montague Center. A new restaurant called Watershed will open there in the new year. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The deck outside the former Alvah Stone restaurant located under The Montague Bookmill in Montague Center. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The patio and deck area at the former Alvah Stone restaurant, located at The Montague Bookmill next to the Sawmill River in Montague Center. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 11/4/2021 2:18:51 PM

MONTAGUE CENTER — After eight years operating alongside The Montague Bookmill, The Alvah Stone’s owner is handing the keys to the iconic location to a new set of restaurateurs.

Partners Melissa Stetson and James Fitzgerald are opening a restaurant called Watershed in mid- to late January in the space The Alvah Stone has occupied since 2014. In the meantime, The Alvah Stone will remain closed as owner Howard Wein prepares the space for its transition.

When Stetson and Fitzgerald approached Wein to see if he was interested in selling the space, it hadn’t been the result of Wein shopping the idea around.

“I had no intention of selling or anything like that,” he said.

At the same time, though, Wein felt as if the timing made sense. He’d closed The Alvah Stone in September to focus on other projects, including Howard Wein Hospitality, his advisory business. Wein also said he’s been working on a project that would “reclaim” The Alvah Stone brand in a new way. He wouldn’t provide further details regarding what the project will entail, but insists that his move out of the Montague Center location is for the best.

“It was the right time for me,” Wein said. “It just seemed like a really great opportunity to shift gears.”

Wein said he has “unbelievable appreciation” for both The Alvah Stone’s patrons and the restaurant’s beloved site.

“There’s so many amazing aspects about this location,” he said. “It’s just a very special place that makes people feel good.”

The atmosphere of the space helped persuade Stetson and Fitzgerald to pursue it, despite the facility not quite fitting their original vision.

“The space itself is iconic, it’s historic, and it’s probably the nicest space in Massachusetts, in my opinion,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald explained that he and Stetson sent Wein “what amounts to a flyer” to express interest in buying the space. Their plan for Watershed, they said, is to cultivate an environment with comfort food, craft beer, cocktails, a long wine list and live music. The couple’s investment, Wein said, is apparent.

“They’re clearly very dedicated, very passionate about this chapter of their lives as well,” he said. “I feel really good about the handoff.”

In taking on the space, Fitzgerald, who gained experience working at restaurants in Buffalo, N.Y., said he and Stetson, a marketing and business expert, are unfazed by expectations and are locked in on carving out their own niche in the community.

“They’re big shoes to fill, but we don’t feel any pressure,” Fitzgerald said. “We will do our best to honor the legacy of The Alvah Stone, but we’re not trying to be The Alvah Stone.”

Reach Julian Mendoza
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