Driftwood Hospitality gives Landerhaven a refreshed look (photos)
MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio – Scott Kuhn and Chris Hodgson are used to being busy. And when they bought Landerhaven and Executive Caterers in Mayfield Heights last year, they embarked on a massive project that required a lot of attention.
But Kuhn – a stable and serious business leader who stays focused on his projects and his people – has found the time to play a joke on his business partner.
Kuhn and Hodgson had negotiated with Harlan Diamond, who owned and operated the established event center for 60 years. He was about to retire.
âI was in the car with my wife and Harlan and his proxy are calling,â Kuhn said. âAnd we had been going back and forth for months. And they said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We had been on pins and needles because we really wanted to get it three, four years ago.
So Kuhn called Hodgson and told him a different story: the deal was done, he said.
Hodgson didn’t take the news well at the start. He slammed his hands down.
âI broke two of my air vents,â he said.
Kuhn quickly briefed him: in fact, he said, they were the new owners of the venerable venue which has hosted dozens of special events over the years.
Kuhn is Founder and CEO of Driftwood Restaurants, and Hodgson is President. The Playhouse Square restaurants they own – Republic Food and Drink, Bin 216, and Cibreo – have enjoyed constant traffic from theater crowds. But almost a year ago, with the pandemic raging across the country and particularly in their industry, business owners caught their breath, looked to the future and bought Landerhaven. And after a lot of hard work, Executive Caterers is now Driftwood Catering.
This was a big step forward, taking a facility that covers 100,000 square feet with 11 separate event spaces. They honored the remaining dates of previous contracts and began an extensive makeover for the events that began under their watch on May 1. This resulted in deadlines so tight that even their young children were helping to put the rug together a day before a wedding. in law.
They did it. And Landerhaven – which spans 10 acres – will continue to be a home for weddings, corporate outings, parties, and other gatherings. The unique attraction to weddings is that it offers one-stop shopping: everything from floral arrangements to pastries and other accessories that go with wedding planning and celebrations, are under one roof, sandwiched between the Interstate 271 and Som Center Road, near Lander and Cedar Roads.
âYou know six months ago you close your eyes and see what it’s going to at least look like, what it’s going to look like,â Kuhn said. ââ¦ It’s really a rewarding process, because it was a roller coaster ride to get here. “
The duo ride this roller coaster, which is slowly swept away by the effects of the reopening. They renamed all of their restaurants as Driftwood Hospitality. The dates are being reserved. The pandemic is moving a little further in the rearview mirror.
Kuhn plans to take over Landerhaven in a special way.
“It really is an honor,” he said. âYou know, he (Diamond) had a heritage. He did an amazing job as a leader in our industry before that industry really became an industry. And so, the process of getting to know some of the employees, including we would inherit and ultimately keep, was really touching in a way. I mean, here is that legend, and he was so helpful, and at a later stage in his life was caring. It was hard on him. “
And, Kuhn, added, “I won a friend.”
The redesign overseen by Kuhn and Hodgson includes new marble, carpet, walls, fireplaces, window treatments and lighting. A new roof had to be installed. They spent over a quarter of a million dollars on the parking lot alone.
When you enter, a âsales takerâ has been totally changed.
âWe gutted that and came up with the concept of a showroom,â Kuhn said. “And so when people come in to host an event here, we like to say it’s a blank canvas – you know, your imagination is the limit.”
This means that you don’t have to rely on photos. You can see the cutlery, sheets and chairs set up. You can opt for one style over another. They have their own floral business (The Bloomery), a bakery (The Driftwood Baking Co.), audiovisual services and more. The aim was to âprovide everything ourselves for an event – one stop shopâ.
âYou can see it firsthand,â Kuhn said. âYou can touch it, you can feel it. And there is something to be said for it. Because it’s a stressful time, especially weddings.
The larger room is a tribute to the previous owner. The Diamond Ballroom can accommodate 1,200 people and can now be divided into two sections with a soundproof barrier. It can accommodate large scrolling screens and state-of-the-art projectors. It also opens to a permanent tent outside that can accommodate around 120 people. The fountains provide soothing sounds for the guests mingling outdoors. An area can be transformed into outdoor furniture and become a cigar bar.
Landerhaven has partnered with nearby Staybridge Suites, Hyatt Legacy Village and Homewood Suites by Hilton. But the attractive part of the business was having all of their individual businesses under one roof.
âIt was just an ‘a ha’ moment for Chris and I,â Kuhn said. âWe just said: ‘This is too good an opportunity. Despite the pandemic, we’re going to have to swallow this and do it because the opportunity may never present itself again. “
Spaces can be transformed for various purposes. One coin is suitable for silent auction items. Comfortable garden furniture is enlivened by matching floral arrangements.
âWhen I closed my eyes six or eight months ago and said, ‘What could this room look like? ” That’s it. Today (Tuesday) is really the first day I’m going to see him too. It’s a special day.
Food – obviously in their wheelhouse – was a priority.
The facility has two commercial kitchens; one is dedicated to kosher.
The menu items cover all meals extensively, from brunch to entrees. A short rib braised in red wine, in particular, is served with a melting potato and mashed parsnip and horseradish loaded with umami.
The cake options will take time to think about: they offer over a dozen flavors ranging from chocolate to cappuccino with matching icings and toppings.
âChris is the real architect of the restaurant business,â said Kuhn. âAnd, you know, I worked on construction and design. And Chris really buried his head with the team in terms of reworking our food, raising the bar, raising the bar.
Hiring remains a challenge as they need to increase staff levels (they are at 200 and are looking for more). Kuhn has a passion for two priorities in his work: his employees, for whom he feels an inherent responsibility, and the design of his restaurants. Throw in a pandemic, and that was a challenge.
âIt was equal parts stress, but equal parts quality and distraction from what was going on in the world,â he said.
âSo we had long discussions and we looked in the mirror and thought, ‘How can we be the best employer in the industry in this area? “Kuhn said.” And, you know, the shutdown gave us the opportunity to hit the reset button and take a good look and make subtle changes and big changes. And obviously, we are now in this game where raw materials go up, food prices go up, labor force goes up. It’s a day-to-day battle.
“But it’s a good battle,” he added.
Hodgson added, “I still drive all the time and I say ‘Wow I can’t believe this is ours. “”
âIt was a whirlwind, just a whirlwind,â Kuhn said.
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I am on cleveland.comlife and culture team and cover topics related to food, beer, wine and sport. If you want to see my stories, here is a directory on cleveland.com. Bill Wills from WTAM-1100 and I talk about food and drink usually at 8:20 am on Thursday mornings. And tune in at 7:05 am Wednesdays for âBeer with Bona and Much, Much Moreâ with Munch Bishop on 1350-AM The Gambler. Twitter: @ mbona30.
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