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Emile and Karen Amarotico leave Standing Stone Brewing Company

After more than a decade, Emile and Karen Amarotico are leaving the family-run Standing Stone Brewing Company to explore new opportunities.

Emile Amarotico said the seed for the business was planted in 1995 when he passed by the vacant Pioneer Glass and Cabinet Shop on Oak Street.

"I was walking by one day when I saw a note to call if interested," he recalled. "I thought, 'Wouldn't this be a wonderful place for a restaurant and a brewery?' We just made a fateful phone call. It was kind of a slippery slope." He enlisted the help of his brothers, Alex and Mark Amarotico, who were working as contractors in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time. It took two years to develop the plan for the business and convert the building, but the restaurant and brewery finally opened in 1997.

Emile Amarotico brought culinary and business expertise to the venture, while Alex and Mark Amarotico lent their contracting skills. Alex Amarotico, who had done home brewing, stayed with the restaurant after it was remodeled.

When their small children were older, Karen Amarotico, Emile's wife, helped with purchasing, training, baking and other tasks, while Alex's wife, Danielle, has worked on human resources and hiring.

The business has grown into a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike.

Emile Amarotico said he has had a vision to expand the business into the three shop spaces to the side of the restaurant, adding catering and special events capabilities. But he said not all eight family members and friends who are the shareholders in Standing Stone have the same dream.

"The consensus was not to move forward in that direction. Without that project, it was looking like it was time to set my own sail and work toward a new goal," he said. "It may well be in hospitality. We want to be careful and not overlook anything." Karen Amarotico said her husband will be finishing paperwork duties for the next few months, but they are no longer involved in the operations of the restaurant and brewery as of the beginning of this year.

"The hardest part for me will be that I won't see the people I've seen for 10 years," she said. "We've seen our customers' kids grow up and they've seen our kids grow up." The couple have children ages 13 and 18 and are involved in various community activities. They said they plan to stay in the Rogue Valley.

Alex Amarotico just completed a four-year term on the Ashland City Council in December. He did not seek reelection in November 2006.

Emile Amarotico said that made it easier for him and his wife to make the decision to leave Standing Stone.

During their most hectic times &

such as city budgeting season and when top candidates for open city staff positions are being interviewed &

City Councilors can devote as many as 40 hours a week to their roles.

Alex Amarotico said even with taking on more Standing Stone responsibilities, he still thinks he will end up working the same amount or even less than when he was on the City Council. He said Emile and Karen Amarotico's decision to move on comes at a good time.

"Had he decided to do it a year ago, it would have been a disaster," Alex Amarotico said.

Alex Amarotico said the business has capable and resourceful staff members who will fill in, but Emile and Karen Amarotico will be missed.

The couple said they are looking forward to their next venture, whatever that may be.

"We've been really blessed to have a wonderful family and community supporting the organization," Emile Amarotico said.

Staff writer can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.