One of Hinton’s restaurants, Lucky Rivers Cafe & Catering, recently opened in a new location. This move means a few things for the blossoming business, not the least of which is the expansion to sit-in dining. Sarah Gleason, owner, and restaurateur behind Lucky Rivers, recently spoke about her restaurant and the move.
Lucky Rivers’ new location is steeped in a rich history of female-owned businesses. Gleason stated that the building was known as The Diner in the 50s and 60s. This business was owned by a woman named Alice Benji, also known as Miss Benji. According to Gleason, all the booths are the original ones from The Diner. A photograph of Miss Benji now hangs in the establishment.
Later, the building became home to a thrift store owned by two women collectively known as “The Bettys.” When they closed up shop, they sold the building to its current owner, from who Gleason rents the space. Gleason said, “There’ve been a lot of strong women who’ve owned this building and run businesses in this building, and now Lucky Rivers gets to be a part of it too.”
Gleason stated that one of her biggest goals since starting Lucky Rivers was to offer indoor dining. With the recent move, she has been able to accomplish this goal. In addition, she now has an entire staff working with her.
“We have a staff, so I have servers, and I have people in the kitchen with me. Which is crazy. I never thought I’d be a, you know, boss,” Gleason also said, “They’re amazing, I’m very fortunate to have [this] team.”
Other changes include a set menu. Before the move, Lucky Rivers’ menu changed weekly. They still offer daily specials, but the main menu remains the same.
Gleason said having a restaurant and cooking “has literally always been a dream of mine.” Before pursuing this dream, Gleason was a teacher.
“I went the safe route and got my degrees, decided to go that way, and then realized I wasn’t happy, and I’d always loved working in restaurants throughout college and just cooking in general. I really wanted to go to culinary school, but after getting my degree and then finishing my master’s, I couldn’t afford that on top of what I had already accumulated with student loans. So I just quit teaching and started working in restaurants in Hinton, and then, when the restaurant I was at in Hinton closed, that’s when I started working in Beckley and Lewisburg.”
She went on to talk about why she chose Hinton for her business. Approximately seven years ago, Gleason moved to Hinton with her partner who grew up in the area. Gleason said, “I am just a part of this community now.” She went on to talk about meeting people in the area and realizing how important it is to bring new businesses into Hinton.
“Once this new location opened up, it just felt perfect, and everybody was so excited for it. Hinton felt like the right match for me.”
When it comes to the food served at Lucky Rivers, Gleason says there isn’t a singular inspiration. She said, “I read about food 24/7. I have so many cookbooks that I’m always looking through all the time, so I just think food in general and being able to learn about cultures and the world through food just makes me want to try making all sorts of things and becoming more knowledgeable about these places through food.” She went on to say that she is a fan of Santa Fe dishes and that the culture also inspired the decor of the restaurant.
While there are many moments that Gleason can look back on throughout her Lucky Rivers journey, there is one moment that she often looks back on. She tells the story of a mother and daughter who had never tried curry or lamb before.
“I remember I made this lamb curry. They had seen pictures on Facebook of Lucky Rivers and one day randomly came in. I gave them a little taste test of it and I just saw their faces light up and it was just one of those reminders of how food can connect people in ways that a lot of things can’t. They became regulars and came in all the time ready to try new things that maybe were a little out of the norm or a little different. I’ll always remember that it made me really happy seeing their faces.”
Gleason said she hopes to see expansion in Lucky Rivers’ future. She hopes to expand the restaurant’s hours to incorporate dinner and tapas by spring. She also said she hopes to add beer and wine to her menu. Specifically, she wants to work with local breweries to bring in local beer.
“My biggest goal was to have my own place, and now that’s what we have with the new [building], and it’s pretty cool.” Gleason went on to say, “[It is] exciting for Hinton that we have, not only Lucky Rivers, but a lot of other places starting to pop up throughout Summers County.” She also noted that some previous businesses are reopening. Gleason went on to say that these businesses are helping Hinton “be a place for people to come to, not only for tourists during the summer and now in spring with the national park, but just for West Virginians in general to come, visit.”
For more information on Lucky Rivers, call 304-309-4157 or email email@example.com.