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Outer Banks Area Features

Grandstaff & Stein Book Sellers

  By: Leah Lancione

Ross Renfrow, owner of Grandstaff & Stein Book Sellers, has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry. He started as a dishwasher at age 15 and eventually worked all positions in the restaurant, excelling as a chef and general manager before opening his first of many restaurants. After studying business in college, Renfrow formed River City Restaurant Group in 2010. “I’m just passionate about food and excited to see how people respond to a carefully developed concept like Grandstaff & Stein,” says Renfrow.

In 2015, Renfrow was inspired to open this speakeasy-themed restaurant in Richmond, Virginia’s Historic River District after finding a building for rent that was formerly a commissary for a prison dating back to 1920. “I saw the dark wooden floors and brick walls and it immediately called to mind the prohibition era. I started doing research and came across a photograph of a guy rolling a whiskey barrel in front of the building,” admits Renfrow. The rest is history.

Renfrow’s intuition proved to be on-target as the restaurant quickly garnered a lot of attention. As a result of its popularity, Renfrow says the Grandstaff & Stein in Richmond even created a “card catalogue” with members receiving VIP access and exclusive benefits.

Naturally, Renfrow wanted to expand with another location—this time on the Outer Banks where he has vacationed for years. After relocating to the area, he opened Grandstaff & Stein Book Sellers in Kill Devil Hills in January. Already, the restaurant has received the “Diners’ Choice Award 2017” from the online reservation service OpenTable as well as rave reviews on social media.

Patrons begin their experience back in time by whispering a password that’s announced on social media to get in right away. The first (and apropos) password for the OBX location was “First in Flight,” with others like “jag juice” (1920s slang for hard liquor) conjuring the intrigue of prohibition era. 

Once inside Grandstaff & Stein Book Sellers—with its low-lit lighting, period-correct décor, and wait staff that looks and plays the part with bow ties and flapper headpieces—patrons are instantly transported to the “Roaring ‘20s.” Complementing the speakeasy ambiance are jazz tunes (sometimes provided by a live band) or swanky piano music. Patrons can further indulge their senses courtesy of a seasonal menu of hors d’oeuvres, salads, entrees, and desserts. “Libations” include a vast selection of aperitifs, beer, wine, and classic and signature cocktails.

The speakeasy offers dinner service daily and stays open pretty late! Hours are even later in-season and on weekends. Renfrow says a weekend brunch service with cocktails is coming soon. Grandstaff & Stein also provides catering for all types of events.

Though Renfrow says his current focus is the Grandstaff & Stein OBX, plans are in the works to break ground on another in Williamsburg in the near future. Renfrow believes communities with a deep-seated attentiveness to history are enthusiastic and supportive of his speakeasy-style restaurants.

Grandstaff & Stein Book Sellers is located at 2003 S. Croatan Hwy. For more information, visit www.grandstaffandstein.com or find them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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