After nine years on Kings Highway, Jessica Stewart and Pauline Tomafsky will shut down their luncheonette next month, and reopen their kitchen in Haddon Twp. neighbor Dave Welsh’s new bar.
By Matt Skoufalos | June 1, 2018
When Dave Welsh began planning The Mile, his flip of Antoinetta’s Bistro in Runnemede, there was only one person he wanted to run its kitchen: fellow Haddon Township High School alum Jessica Stewart.
Welsh had been trying to cook up a joint venture with Stewart, the soft-spoken presence behind Haddonfield luncheonette, Apron, since their 2005 high-school reunion.
Thirteen years later, the opportunity has finally presented itself.
Stewart has operated Apron out of her Kings Highway storefront since 2009. The shop was established as a local forerunner in the “slow food” movement, a precursor to farm-to-table philosophies, and intended as an antidote to fast-food culture and ingredients.
Customers relied on Apron for take-and-go meals as much as for its dine-in lunch counter. Favorites like the “Born to Run” wrap, a black beans, cheese, and sweet potato burrito, reflected Stewart’s commitment to healthy eats as much as her deep-seated Bruce Springsteen fandom.
Now, as Stewart prepares to take Apron into its tenth year, she’s gearing up for a change of venue.
“The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for us, because we were really at a crossroads, and Dave has graciously presented this,” she said. “We knew we would be working together at some point, we just didn’t know when.
“It’s bittersweet that we’re closing the doors [in Haddonfield], but as far as opportunity, it doesn’t get any better than this,” Stewart said.
The Apron menu and catering services (and phone number) will transfer over to The Mile, where Stewart and her mom, Pauline Tomafsky, will enjoy a significantly larger kitchen and the opportunity of a 60-seat banquet hall.
“We’ve always struggled with not being able to handle large-scale catering because we don’t believe in freezing tremendous amounts of food, and we could never keep up with the inventory,” Stewart said.
“Here, [we have]the space, the turnover, the volume, and being able to cater onsite, that’s the best part,” she said. “It’s very exciting. We’re going to grow into it.”
Chicken pot pies, the “DLJ” turkey meatloaf sandwich, and popular vegan and vegetarian options will all make their way to Runnemede, as will several members of Stewart’s crew, “the Apronettes.”
But in the expanded kitchen space, they’ll also be able to branch out into the barbecue recipes around which Stewart originally conceived her business, while being supported by a deep bar menu.
“The food is going to complement the local craft beer, and I think that’s going to be a niche,” Tomafsky said. “We’re still keeping the healthy aspect of it, and utilizing the local farmers in the summer time.”
Welsh, who also owns RunningCo of Haddonfield, said bringing Apron into The Mile will give it a menu that’s in keeping with clients who “would rather eat something a little bit healthier.
“The Mile is not making pizza; we’re not making dollar sandwiches,” he said.
“We’re doing a healthier, better-tasting menu.”
Although it will be difficult to say goodbye to their Haddonfield neighbors, Stewart and Tomafsky said they expect plenty of visitors from the old block to find them at The Mile.
“Everybody that walks through that door, we know their name and their story,” Tomafsky said. “But we’re still going to be there, and you can still come visit, and it’s business as usual. Our roots are just getting deeper.”
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