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Purple Onion transitions to new owners

SALUDA — The Purple Onion, a popular Main Street restaurant in Saluda for more than 20 years, has transitioned to new leadership under two employees who started working in the kitchen as teenagers.

Chambli "Cham" Stuber and Emily Lamar, the daughter of longtime owner Susan Casey, took the reins on Thursday.

"Rest assured the transfer won’t come with any major changes," Stuber and Lamar said in a news release. "Expect to see the same wonderful staff, excellent food, and fabulous music."

The new leaders will take a little over a week to get things in order and reopen Thursday, Jan. 9, with longtime favorite Cowboy Judy on the Purple Onion stage.

“Emily and Chambli have played pivotal roles in the operation and development of The Purple Onion over the years, especially in the last two years as we began the process of transferring ownership," Susan Casey, who is passing the ownership on. "Their talents and skills complement each other beautifully and most importantly they share the vision of community envisioned when The Purple Onion first opened the doors in 1998.”

Twenty-one years ago Susan and her sister Lynn shared a vision. They imagined a gathering place to reflect the gracious, casual pace which characterized Saluda; a third place. The Purple Onion became that neutral space away from home or work for friends and family to come together for good food, good conversation and live music. Lynn Casey moved on, but Susan continued the pursuit to provide a vibrant meeting place in the heart of Saluda.

Stuber and Lamar have worked in many capacities at the restaurant in the past 21 years, both starting when they were teenagers.

Stuber started working at The Purple Onion at the age of 15 washing dishes and quickly moved up to head cook at the age of 17. She went on to earn her Culinary Degree at AB-Tech where she competed with the Hot Foods Team and won gold at the National Championship. After a 10-year hiatus, she returned to The Purple Onion where she now serves as the General Manager and Executive Chef.

“I’m so thrilled to be back in my hometown and to be part of this community. I’m looking forward to this adventure with my family and business partner by my side," Stuber said.

Emily's mom encouraged her love of baking and food from an early age. She began baking desserts at the restaurant at the age of 17. Over time, Emily’s duties expanded to the business side of the restaurant. She took accounting and business classes while she taught herself to create websites and implement tech to improve flow and simplify processes. In 2010 she moved to Asheville with her family and took a break from the restaurant industry. Lamar returned to The Purple Onion in 2016 as operations manager and moved back to her hometown of Saluda.

“There is something truly magical to me about The Purple Onion," she said. "When the music is wafting through the restaurant, the servers are gliding from table to table with dishes full of food, and customers are visibly enjoying themselves this is when I really know that this is where I am meant to be and I look forward to continuing to bring this level of magic to the community and our employees. ”