Date Night Outdoor in the Gate City

Date Night Outdoors in the Gate City

By: Business North Carolina, Daily Digest

August 22, 2022

Two venerable Greensboro restaurants, the Green Valley Grill and Print Works Bistro, landed on Open Table’s recently published national Top 100 list for Best Date Night and Best Outdoor Dining.

Both eateries are locally owned by Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, an employee-owned business.

CEO Dennis Quaintance said it’s improbable that his hometown could land one restaurant on one of the lists, much less two on each Top 100 ranking. Still, he confessed to being “like a proud Daddy” about the news.

“With the design of the outdoor spaces, we endeavored to create ‘outdoor rooms,’ with a sense of space, yet under the stars,” Quaintance told me last week. “As for Date Night, it has always been our objective with the Green Valley Grill and the Print Works Bistro (and the hotels they live adjacent to) to create a context where romance can be turbocharged. If our guests bring some romantic energy, our intentions are to add to that with the ambiance, service and food and drink offerings. It is great affirmation that some of those intentions are coming through for our guests.”

Kudos to Dennis and crew for this well-earned national recognition.

Best Places for Date Night

These Triad Restaurants Rank Nationally for Date, Meetups and Meetings

By:  , Triad Business Journal

August 18, 2022

These Triad restaurants have what you’re looking for in a romantic date spot, business meeting location of just a friend meetup, and were just ranked among the top 100 best restaurants nationally by OpenTable.

OpenTable partnered with Bumble, an online dating app, to compile three national lists: 100 Best Restaurants for a Date, 100 Best Restaurants for a Friend Date and 100 Best Restaurants for a Business Meeting.

“People are craving connection, and partnering with Bumble to debut curated diner guides means skipping the dreaded ‘where should we go’ question and instead focusing on nailing that first impression,” said Susan Lee, chief growth officer for OpenTable. “The win-win is that this movement for in-person socialization also supports the still-recovering dining scene.”

The website prompts viewers to download the app to find their match and to check the list to find their table.

Print Works Bistro and Green Valley Grill, owned by Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, made OpenTable’s 2022 edition of 100 Best Restaurants for a Date in America. Just under a month ago, both restaurants made OpenTable’s 2022 edition of the nation’s 100 Best Restaurants for Outdoor Dining.

“It really is a great honor for this employee-owned team to get recognized on two national lists as great places for outdoor dining and now for a date night,” said Dennis Quaintance, CEO of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels. “The statistical probability that Greensboro would get one restaurant on either of these lists is improbable. But that both made both of these top 100 lists is amazing.”
Raleigh’s Rey’s Steakhouse also ranked for best date venue, making up the only other North Carolinian to be featured on the list.

Green Valley Grill also made the 100 Best Restaurants for a Business Meeting list, along with Winston-Salem’s Ryan’s Restaurant. Steak 48 in Charlotte was the only other North Carolina venue on the list for business meeting restaurants.

The Triad made the 100 Best Restaurants for a Friend Date list with three restaurants: Print Works Bistro, Ryan’s Restaurant and The Bistro at Childress Vineyards in Lexington. Raleigh’s Rey’s made this list also.

TBJ attempts to reach Childress Vineyards and Ryan’s were unsuccessful.

The three lists were generated from over 13.6 million verified OpenTable diner reviews, according to the press release, and were received and reviewed between June 1, 2021, and May 31, 2022. The final overall score is composed of many factors, including overall dining rating, user clout, the total number of reviews and regional overall rating. These data points determined the qualification of restaurants and were sorted with the special features of romantic, good for groups or good for business meals.

Best Places for Outdoor Dining

These 4 NC restaurants rank among nation’s best places for outdoor dining. Here’s why

By: Simone Jasper, News & Observer, Charlotte Observer

July 15, 2022

North Carolina is home to some of the nation’s “best restaurants for outdoor dining,” a new report finds.

With views ranging from mountains to the water, it might not be a surprise that four places in the state were recognized as having top al fresco dining experiences. The eateries earning nods from the restaurant reservation website OpenTable:

To create the rankings, OpenTable said it considered more than 13.6 million “verified” U.S. reviews gathered from its website between May 2021 and April 2022.

“The overall score is made up of unique data points, such as overall diner rating, user klout, total number of reviews, and regional overall rating,” OpenTable wrote in a July 13 news release. “Qualifying restaurants were then scored and sorted according to the percentage of reviews, for which ‘outdoor dining’ was selected as a special feature.”

Of the 100 restaurants that earned spots on the list, Green Valley Grill is no stranger to recognition. The Greensboro eatery was recently named among the nation’s top places to grab brunch, McClatchy News reported in May.

This time around, the restaurant focusing on “Old World European and Mediterranean flavors” was recognized for its shaded courtyard that photos show has cascading greenery.

Another Greensboro location that’s part of the same restaurant group also earned a spot on the most recent OpenTable list. Photos on Print Works Bistro’s Facebook page show the French-inspired restaurant has tables nestled under trees and umbrellas, making for a “shady oasis.”

If you’re a fan of mountain views, another high-ranking spot was Sunset Terrace at the Omni Grove Park Inn. The seasonal restaurant in the popular tourist destination of Asheville debuted soon after the inn was built in 1913 and has charmed visitors with its “traditional American cuisine,” according to its OpenTable and Facebook pages.

On the other side of the state, some customers said they can’t get enough of the scenery at The Oyster Rock Waterfront Seafood, which overlooks the Calabash River roughly 50 miles southwest of Wilmington. The family-owned restaurant uses ingredients from the nearby Atlantic Ocean and other regional sources, according to its website.

OpenTable didn’t share numerical rankings for the restaurants on its list but said the state with the most top-ranking places for eating outside was California, which had 37. Data from the website shows the number of restaurants with outdoor dining listings has grown since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

“Outdoor dining played a major role in buoying the restaurant industry over the last few years, and restaurants took note — whether adding, expanding or elevating their offerings,” Susan Lee, chief growth officer at OpenTable, wrote in the release. “Offering outdoor dining is now a key part of restaurants’ business, and we’re happy to see that diners continue to embrace it.”

Green Valley Grill Courtyard

Print Works Bistro

Green Valley Grill, eight other Triad restaurants honored by Wine Spectator

Green Valley Grill, eight other Triad restaurants honored by Wine Spectator 

By: Daniel Finnegan, Triad Business Journal 

September 28, 2020

Nine Triad restaurants are among the best in the world when it comes to wine, according to Wine Spectator.

The publication named 21 area restaurants to its 2020 Restaurant Awards list, which recognizes eateries with extraordinary wine lists. This year’s awards program recognized 3,776 dining destinations from all 50 states and more than 79 countries internationally. Winners were named in three categories, broken down by the variety of vintages or wine regions.

Green Valley Grill in Greensboro earned the highest grade — the Best of Award of Excellence — of the area restaurants honored by the magazine. The Best of Award of Excellence award is given to restaurants with 350 or more selections that represent a variety of vintages or wine regions. Wine Spectator cited Green Valley Grill for its selection of wines from France, Italy and California.

Eight Triad restaurants received the Award of Excellence, which recognizes establishments with at least 90 wine selections. Among them was Print Works Bistro in Greensboro, which like Green Valley Grill is owned by the Quaintance-Weaver Group.

The other Triad winners were:

  • Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Greensboro
  • Village Tavern in Greensboro
  • Village Tavern in Winston-Salem
  • Ryan’s Restaurant in Winston-Salem
  • Butcher & Bull in Winston-Salem
  • Outwest Steakhouse & Saddleroom in Kernersville
  • The Celtic Fringe in Reidsville

The only North Carolina to earn the magazine’s top ranking — the Grand Award Winner — was the Angus Barn in Raleigh. Twenty-two N.C. restaurants received the Best of Award of Excellence.

AAA 3 Diamond Restaurants 2020

16 Triad restaurants make AAA’s list of Diamond-rated eateries

Triad Business Journel, February 2020

No Triad restaurants earned AAA’s coveted Four- and Five-Diamond ratings for restaurants this year, but 16 did earn Three Diamonds.

Eight restaurants from Winston-Salem, seven from Greensboro and one from Burlington earned Three Diamonds. In addition, 27 Greensboro restaurants earned an Approved rating, plus 20 from Winston-Salem, 10 in High Point, 7 in Burlington, 5 in Reidsville, 4 in Asheboro, 2 in Kernersville and 1 in Clemmons.

The Triad restaurants to earn Three Diamonds:

Winston-Salem

  • Bernardin’s Restuarant at Zevely House
  • Bleu Restaurant & Bar
  • Paul’s Fine Italian Dining
  • Milner’s American Southern
  • Mozelle’s Fresh Southern Bistro
  • Rooster’s Ktichen, A Noble Grille
  • Ryan’s Restaurant
  • Village Tavern

Greensboro

  • 1618 Seafood Grille (Friendly Ave.)
  • Di Valletta
  • Green Valley Grill
  • Liberty Oak Restaurant & Bar
  • Lucky 32
  • Print Works Bistro
  • Undercurrent Restaurant

Burlington

  • Grill 584

AAA overhauled its Diamond rankings in January, revising the tiers into which it sorts hotels and restaurants. Under the new ranking system, the auto club – which first started awarding diamonds to show its road-faring members the best places to eat and sleep while traveling – gives the following designations:

  • Five Diamonds, meaning the restaurant serves leading-edge cuisine, ingredients and preparation with extraordinary service and surroundings
  • Four Diamonds, meaning it offers distinctive fine dining and good service amid upscale ambiance
  • Three Diamonds, meaning it serves trendy food skillfully presented in a remarkable setting
  • Approved, meaning the restaurant meets the standards of AAA inspections

Heron’s of Cary was the only North Carolina restaurant to earn the Five Diamond designation. It is one of 67 restaurants nationwide to receive the award, representing just 0.2% of the more than 30,000 restaurants that were awarded Diamonds. Heron’s is located in The Umstead Hotel & Spa.

Ten North Carolina restaurants earned Four Diamonds from AAA, including four in the Triangle. The Four Diamond restaurants are:

  • Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern in Raleigh
  • The Fairview Dining Room in Durham
  • Crossroads Chapel Hill
  • Il Palio Ristorante in Chapel Hill
  • Kimball’s Kitchen in Duck
  • Manna in Wilmington
  • 1895 Grille in Pinehurst
  • Chef and The Farmer, Kinston
  • McNinch House, Charlotte
  • Gamekeeper Restaurant & Bar, Boone

Standout by the Glass

9 Restaurants with Standout By-the-Glass Selections

A fresh way to explore world-class wine lists

 Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards, June 2018

Wine lovers often gravitate to bottles when dining out. But if a restaurant has a strong selection, by-the-glass pours are an exciting way to discover something new or sample a trophy bottle without sampling the full price. These nine Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners go above and beyond with by-the-glass lists that excel in diversity, value, quantity, or all three. Enjoy exceptional by-the-glass selections at these dining destinations across the country.

Selections of wines by the glass can change frequently, so check with the restaurant for availability of specific labels.

Dine al Fresco in the Courtyard at Green Valley Grill

GREEN VALLEY GRILL
A local leader in Greensboro’s wine scene
The O. Henry Hotel, 622 Green Valley Road, Greensboro, N.C.
(336) 854-2015
www.greenvalleygrill.com
Open for lunch and dinner, daily

Best of Award of Excellence
Wine list selections 520
Inventory 10,000
Wine strengths General manager and wine director Martin Hunt manages the wine list, covering a range of regions but excelling in California, France and Italy.
Cuisine Our culinary team at Green Valley Grill sources local ingredients for a Mediterranean-inspired menu featuring plenty of comfort foods.
Value-driven The moderately-priced wine list shows particular value when it comes to the extensive by-the-glass picks, which span the globe. Most are under $10, including labels from Louis JadotMatanzas Creek and Leonildo Pieropan.
Sommelier-picked samplings There are three flights of four 2-ounce pours available, each with a theme such as “Tour of France” and “Explore Pinot Noir.”
Innovative ownership Green Valley Grill and Print Works Bistro are part of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, a hospitality group owned entirely by its more than 600 staff members. This rare structure, called an “Employee Stock Ownership Plan,” ideally provides better benefits for employees and better experiences for guests.

See the full list of Restaurants with Standout By-the-Glass Selections

To check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s more than 3,500 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 87 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to restaurantawards@mshanken.com. We want to hear from you!

ESOP Fable

Dennis Quaintance’s ESOP fable

By Chris Burritt, Business North Carolina
Photos by Stacey Van Berkel

Dennis Quaintance and Edgar

Edgar Lujan, right, has worked for three Quaintance-Weaver properties since 1998. He now is a server at Print Works Bistro

Back in 1978, Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family’’ reverberated through Dennis Quaintance’s first restaurant in Greensboro. Franklin’s Off Friendly had just opened, and the disco music was intended to pump up the waitstaff.

A year ago, Quaintance dusted off the ’70s hit for an even bigger employee gathering. He and his partners had decided to sell their company, Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels, operator of some of Greensboro’s best-known upscale establishments. The O.Henry Hotel is attached to the Green Valley Grill, while Print Works Bistro adjoins another boutique hotel, the Proximity. Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen operates two restaurants, one in Greensboro and the other in Cary, after closing eateries in Winston-Salem and Raleigh about nine years ago.

Quaintance, 60, was planning for the future — and not just his own. Rebuffing queries from larger hospitality companies wanting to buy the businesses — if they had followed that course, the partners could have pocketed a higher valuation, he says — Quaintance and his partners had something different in mind.

One morning last November, after the Sister Sledge tune had revved up the standing-room-only crowd of employees, Quaintance said they were now the owners of the company he and his wife, Nancy, had started 28 years earlier with Greensboro real-estate developer and business investor Mike Weaver. The three had sold the business to an employee stock ownership plan, with the trust borrowing 100% of the transaction’s value. The owners collected no money at closing, while no bank financing was involved.

Authorized by Congress in 1974, ESOPs enable employees to own the companies where they work. The upside for workers is that company profits are plowed into employee retirement plans, while avoiding conventional corporate income tax.

“Every time we do something to make the company worth $1 more, we all share in it,’’ says Quaintance, who heads operations, while Nancy is part of the marketing, sales, operations and culinary teams. “Every time the value of the company goes down, we all share in that. Our interests are 100% aligned.’’

ESOPs remain rarities in a business world dominated by closely held, family-owned companies. Only one of the 100 largest ESOPs in the U.S. is based in North Carolina: hardwood-veneer and plywood maker Columbia Forest Products Inc., of Greensboro, according to the nonprofit National Center for Employee Ownership. Many public companies encourage workers to hold shares. But the center defines ESOPs as businesses in which at least half of all employees are eligible to participate in plans — and those employees collectively hold at least 50% ownership.

To take part, workers must be 18 years or older, have worked for the company for more than a year and gotten paid for at least 1,000 hours yearly. Vesting occurs after three years. (Weaver can’t participate in the ESOP because he’s not an employee.) How quickly retirement benefits accumulate for Quaintance-Weaver’s 620 employees — from managers to porters, cooks to housekeepers — depends upon the company’s profitability. The more money generated by operations, the quicker the debt shrinks, leaving more money for employees’ golden years.

Dennis Quaintance, Nancy King-Quaintance and Mike Weaver

Among the first people Dennis Quaintance, right, met after moving to Greensboro in 1978 were Mike Weaver, a civic-minded real-estate developer and investor, and Nancy King, who later became his wife. Weaver backed Quaintance as he built a hospitality company that includes the Proximity Hotel, which opened in 2007.

Seller financing of ESOPs is a rarity among business owners, who typically prefer selling to the highest bidder rather than risking their own retirement savings on an employee plan, says Dale Gillmore, principal of Make An Impact Consulting Inc. in Cornelius. Much of the net worth of most owners of privately held companies is tied up in their businesses, and their ownership stakes typically represent most of a company’s value.

Owners typically don’t want to wager that a company’s value can be sustained or increase, says Gillmore, who wasn’t involved in the Greensboro deal. Weaver and the Quaintance family “are betting on themselves and the employees to maintain and improve the company’s culture. It’s a gamble they’re willing to take. They are not getting rich with an ESOP.’’

Selling the business to an independent party “would have broken my heart,” Quaintance says. The couple’s 19-year-old twins, Dennis and Kathleen, are not interested in working for the company. “We sold the business, but we did not sell the culture. In fact, we enhanced the culture.’’

Green Valley Grill

To be sure, the trust bought the restaurant and hotel operating company, not the real estate. The couple, Weaver and three other partners own both hotel properties and lease them to the operating company. They are valued at more than $32 million, county records show. Separately, Quaintance and Weaver own the real estate for Green Valley Grill, Print Works Bistro and the Lucky 32 locations.

Like other employees, the Quaintances are entitled to ESOP retirement units, akin to shares in a company. But annual awards of retirement units are capped for highly compensated managers because federal laws — enforced by the Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service — prohibit the use of ESOPs as tax-avoidance schemes. Plans are intended to favor younger employees who stay with the company for many years.

Quaintance started working in the hospitality business at 15 as a housekeeper’s assistant at a Missoula, Mont., hotel. After high school, he worked at several hotels in the Northwest before moving to Greensboro in 1979. Sipping a sparkling water on the patio of the Proximity Hotel, a cool space shaded by magnolias and tucked between the tall darkened windows and white brick of the hotel and Print Works Bistro, he asks a server to turn up the volume of a Roberta Flack song streaming over the sound system. Walking past a shrub, he plucks a stray dead leaf and tosses it out of sight.

Quaintance’s meticulous style stretches back to his early days in the industry. Just weeks after partnering with Bill Sherrill to open Franklin’s Off Friendly 38 years ago, he spotted a college-age waiter goofing off while emptying ash trays. Quaintance grabbed the waiter — this writer — by the necktie and told him loafing on the job was unacceptable. I worked there in the summer of 1979 and the following Christmas break. Mary Lacklen, also a former server at Franklin’s, is now director of Red Oak Brewery’s beer hall in eastern Guilford County, opening later this year. “He always believed in training his staff and setting them up for success,’’ says Lacklen. “He has a methodical approach to everything he does.’’

During his stint at Franklin’s, Quaintance met Weaver, a regular customer, and his future wife, Nancy King, who worked at the restaurant while on Christmas break from Cornell University. After leaving the restaurant in 1981, Quaintance had stints in business planning, wine importing and managing chain restaurants. Nancy worked for Marriott Corp. in Charlotte.

On a trip to Europe in the mid-’80s they decided it was time to plan their future. Riding a train on the Brenner Pass between Italy and Austria, they settled on three possible choices: “Mr. and Mrs. Hotel and Restaurant” in Greensboro; “barefoot and pregnant” in New Mexico, where Nancy would teach and Dennis would buy, fix and resell airplanes; or move to Europe, with Nancy working for Marriott in London or Amsterdam.

Both wrote “Greensboro” on slips of paper. “It sounded so typical,” Quaintance recalls, “but why should we sacrifice what’s exciting to us?”

Lucky 32 Cary

Lucky 32 was Quaintance-Weaver’s entry into restaurants in 1989.

Returning to North Carolina, Quaintance joined the Greensboro-based Tripps chain of casual, restaurants. By 28, he was overseeing five sites. He then circled back to Weaver, asking for a $500,000 loan to start his own restaurant. Instead, Weaver proposed a 50-50 partnership, with Quaintance running their first restaurant venture, the Lucky 32 on Westover Terrace in Greensboro. It debuted in 1989.

Almost a decade later, they opened the O.Henry Hotel, named and designed after the first modern Greensboro hotel that was built in 1919 and razed 80 years later. Both were named for native son William Sydney Porter, who in the early 1900s wrote short stories with surprise endings under the pen name O. Henry.

The Proximity Hotel, which opened in 2007, is named after one of Greensboro’s first textile mills. One hundred rooftop solar panels give a nod to a modern-day achievement: It was the nation’s first hotel to receive the highest environmentally friendly honors from the U.S. Green Building Council. To retain its uniqueness, Quaintance has never signed a franchise agreement with a major hotel company. The goal is to provide a memorable stay for travelers while also entertaining neighborhood folks, much like the old hotels that were centers of community life.

On a recent afternoon in June, Quaintance wore khaki shorts, a blue-and-white-striped shirt and sandals. The look is in keeping with his hotels, which are high-brow but comfortable with unexpected touches reflecting the CEO’s personality.

Two bikes propped inside the entrance to the Proximity Hotel are available for guests. An afternoon tea at the O.Henry attracts locals, while refurbished London taxis provide transportation for hotel guests, including complimentary rides to the company’s three restaurants. In Quaintance’s view, the ESOP is like one of those taxis: He figures to keep driving for at least a decade, unless “I notice I’m slipping, or people tell me I’m slipping, or if I lose my mojo,’’ he says. Shared ownership is a fuel additive, boosting morale and productivity that will result in more satisfied patrons.

Selling Quaintance-Weaver to employees addresses one of the biggest headaches for the hospitality industry, which has a high turnover rate: “How do you get people to stay?’’ Greensboro restaurant critic John Batchelor says. “You make it in their interest to stay by making them partners in the enterprise.’’

Given wage rates in hospitality, motivating workers is a constant challenge. Half of Quaintance-Weaver workers leave within a year, typical for the industry. Another four in 10 leave in the first four years. “If their hearts aren’t into it, we’d rather they go off and find their bliss,’’ Quaintance says. “If our dream is a 10, we’re at a six,’’ he said. “We’re still unfolding.’’

The ESOP also helps Quaintance move toward his goal of creating a meritocracy. “We don’t [care] about what your gender is, whether you are skinny or chubby, if you are black or white, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian,’’ he says. “What we care about is how you behave when you’re here. We are professionals. We don’t need to be friends. We want to be colleagues. We wind up with these amazingly rich relationships without the complications.’’

O.Henry Hotel

The company has expanded with two hotels in Greensboro’s Friendly Shopping Center area, including the O.Henry, which opened in 1998.

Since announcing the ESOP, Quaintance has coached CEOs of seven companies on the process. “I’m sold on ESOPs,’’ Quaintance says. “I’m big on doing whatever I can to further the notion and reality of economic justice. Don’t hear me being pious. I just think the wealth gap and its growth is not sustainable, and since we don’t seem to have a better idea than free-market democracy, we might as well do all we can to make it work.’’

How much employees will receive in retirement payouts is hard to estimate because so many variables exist, Quaintance says. He offers two scenarios: A 26-year-old employee works for the company from 2016 until retirement at age 65. If her current pay of $25,000 increases by 2.5% a year, she receives about 2.5% of her annual pay in retirement units and the value of the units increases by 2.5% yearly, her account would total about $70,000 at 65. But if the percentages double to 5%, her retirement fund might swell to around $325,000, aided by the power of compound interest.

While employees do not invest their own money into the ESOP, Quaintance-Weaver also offers a 401(k) plan that enables more retirement savings.

“We have no idea what the value of those retirement units will be in the future,’’ Quaintance says. “They could be really low; they could be significant. It all depends on how well we take care of our guests and colleagues and if we are lucky enough to have at least somewhat favorable market conditions.”

Edgar Lujan, a server at Print Works Bistro, is betting on his company’s success. The ESOP is “like a cherry on top of the cake,’’ he says. “We work at a place that enables us to pay our bills, buy a house and take care of our families. It’s hard for me to think about working for another hotel or restaurant.’’

In the 22 years since he moved to the U.S. from Mexico City, Lujan, 45, has worked in restaurants and construction, sometimes two jobs at a time. Moving to Greensboro 20 years ago, he worked initially as a dishwasher at Red Lobster.

He joined the O.Henry Hotel as a porter when it opened, then became a waiter at the adjacent Green Valley Grill. He shifted to the waitstaff of Print Works Bistro in 2007. “There is stability — that is what I love about this place,’’ Lujan says. “If you perform well, you will be successful. Having retirement, that’s awesome.’’

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Quaintance-Weaver joins other ESOP-owned companies active in North Carolina, including Valdese-based Valdese Weavers LLC, San Francisco-based design firm Gensler; Milwaukee, Wis.-based money manager Robert W. Baird & Co.; and Omaha, Neb.-based engineering and architecture firm HDR Inc. As of 2014, 126 ESOPs were based in North Carolina, according to the Oakland, Calif.-based National Center for Employee Ownership.
The largest U.S. ESOP, Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets Inc., entered the state in 2014 and now operates 27 stores that collectively employ more than 3,000 people. More than 80% of company shares are owned by staff, with the balance held by the founder’s family. Shares equal to about 8% of annual pay is distributed to those who have worked for the company for at least one year. Many long-term employees accrue hundreds of thousands of dollars of Publix stock over their careers, perhaps explaining why turnover is a fraction of the retail industry’s average, Fortune noted in a 2016 story. With about 1,150 stores from Florida to Virginia, the company had profit of $2 billion on revenue of $34 billion last year.

Williams on Wine

Williams on Wine: Cooking + Wine

By: Ed Williams, 1808 Magazine

October  26, 2017

Executive Chef Leigh Hesling leads an interactive cooking class at Print Works Bistro, part of Print Works/Green Valley Grill series.
Executive Chef Leigh Hesling leads an interactive cooking class at Print Works Bistro, part of Print Works/Green Valley Grill series.

THE DISH

Print Works/Green Valley Grill’s Cooking Class series is and isn’t about the cooking. Sure, Executive Chef Leigh Hesling shows you step-by-step how you’re dish is prepared, aided by large video screens and mirrors. This sit-down food-and-wine pairing is all about experiencing the textures, aromas, taste, culinary ambiance and fellowship with your table mates.

THE CURRICULUM

This three-course meal varies depending on date and season — and what’s in season. The wines paired with the courses are particularly well-thought out.

THE GUY

Chef Hesling claims Australian roots, his Aussie accent unmistakable. He’s part Julia Child, part Tasmanian devil and equal parts Barnum & Bailey. He and his assistants fly around the room, dropping ingredients tableside or showing the dish in-process.

RECIPE?

Yep, you get ’em. Each step of the prep work, sauce, or entrée is outlined on a set of cards so you can follow along. Even if you never try to replicate the dish, you’ll learn cool tips and tricks of the trade.

THE COCKTAIL

This kick-starter is a special concoction from the resident mixologist — and explains why I’m spending more and more time in the bitters section at my favorite food store.

THE WINE

Well-chosen from the U.S., Spain, France, Portugal, Germany and Australia. Chef Hesling explains why they work alongside his dish.

THE LANGUAGE

Perhaps the most entertaining piece of a two-hour afternoon. Avocado should not be subjected to “smoosh-tification.” Raw tuna should be “dice-tificated” provided things don’t get out of hand during the “mix-tifaction” part of the dish, which might include some “soak-tification of the beans” and “jam-ifacation of the plums.”

Hesling reminds: “Of course, I’m in charge of the Queen’s English.”

Other phrases you might hear: “Because I can.” “Because it’s so awesome.” “Because it’s so sexy.” “Now that’s a life-changer.”

WHY YOU SHOULD GO

Most fun you can have with your clothes on. The 2018 series makes a special holiday gift.

2018 SERIES

Proximity Hotel (704 Green Valley Road): 12:30 p.m. Feb. 17, 12:30 p.m. June 9, 12:30 p.m. Sept. 22

O.Henry Hotel (624 Green Valley Road): 12:30 and 6:30 p.m. March 24,12:30 p.m. July 28, 12:30 p.m. Oct. 27

Tickets: $85 per class or three for $235. Order at www.printworksbistro.com/cooking-class/ or contact Lee Healy at 336-478-9126 or lhealy@qwrh.com. Reservations required.

Ed Williams, director of public information at Alamance Community College, likes to pass along helpful tips from this class to culinary students at his college.

Green Lodging News

QW ESOP Trust a Rare Example of Sharing the Work, Sharing the Wealth

By: Glenn Hasek, Green Lodging News
March 3, 2017

If a green lodging hall of fame existed, Dennis Quaintance would certainly be in it. I first chatted with Dennis almost 10 years ago when his Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels (QW) was building the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, N.C. At that time the goal was LEED Gold for the 147-room property that features a solar hot water heating system on its roof and other energy-saving features. The Proximity later became the first hotel to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum level of certification. Quite an achievement.

This past fall, Dennis and the other founders of QW announced that, after 28 years of operating one of the top-rated hotel and restaurant companies in the South, they had sold 100 percent of their company to its 600+ staff members. The sale made the company one of only a few employee-owned restaurant and hotel companies in the United States and generated a lot of local media buzz. (TPI Hospitality in Willmar, Minn. is also employee owned.) “We’ve sold our interest in QW to the QW ESOP Trust because we believe that it’s the optimal way for QW to be owned and managed in the future,” Dennis said in a press release about the sale.

An Employee Stock Ownership Plan is a program that offers a company’s staff members an ownership stake in the company. This sort of ESOP is actually a trust that’s been created to purchase 100 percent of the equity in the company in order to provide retirement benefits for the company’s staff members. After one year with the company, staff members age 18 and above who work 20+ hours a week start accruing retirement units. They will be fully vested after just three years.

Even before the sale, there was a lot of evidence employees liked working for QW. More than 50 staff members at QW have been with the company more than 10 years.

Business Approach to Remain the Same

“Our priorities here at QW will remain the same,” Dennis says. “In other words, having a sincere intention to be of genuine service to our guests will stay as our company’s highest priority, with a close second priority of being of genuine service to our QW colleagues. Our third-highest priority is to be of genuine service to our owners. Now, via the ESOP, our owners are our staff members, so our second and third priorities are sort of combined!”

According to QW, the QW ESOP Trust is a natural next step for the community-based, locally owned company. It fits perfectly with QW’s Sustainable Practices Initiative, which considers how company decisions affect current and future generations, as well as their Fairness Doctrine for diversity and inclusion.

The QW ESOP trust now owns the QW operating companies, not any real estate. QW leases its restaurants and it manages the hotels for a fee. That has been the structure all along. There will not be any significant operational or leadership changes as a result of this ESOP program.

Succession planning becomes part of every company’s business strategy at some point. “Handing over the keys” has got to be much easier when you have such a talented group of employees to carry on the company’s mission. This all certainly would not have happened without the leadership of Dennis and the other QW founders: Mike Weaver and Nancy King Quaintance. A big tip of the hat to them all.

Jessica’s Mash-UP

Jessica’s Mash-Up

The many hats of Jessica Mashburn
By Brian Clarey, Triad City Beat
August 10, 2017

Jessica Mashburn and group

Tonight Jessica Mashburn is a DJ, posted in the raised corner of the lounge at Print Works Bistro while a genuine disco ball throws raindrops of light across the walls.

The regulars show precisely at 10 p.m. to this pop-up dance party; 45 minutes in, they’re keeping three bartenders and a cocktail waitress hopping with complicated drink orders as dancers fight for space on the floor before the DJ stand. By 11 p.m., the first conga line snakes past the wait station and through the lounge.

“Happy anniversary, Crystal and Jeff!” she shouts through the mic.

The party ends at 1 a.m., so Mashburn’s taking them up a steep curve with some classic disco and a little Bollywood before dropping “Despacito,” Luis Fonsi’s slow-burn dancehall grind with Damn Yankee — the version without Justin Bieber. The number incites vigorous activity on the dance floor, where sweat and hormones are starting to flow.

“[This song] will be requested four or five more times tonight,” Mashburn says as an aside to a reporter.

And then it’s “Dancing Queen,” by Abba, and women take turns standing on the raised platform in front of her DJ stand, dancing to the appreciative crowd.

See that girl. Watch that scene. Dig the dancing queen.

“Abba-dabba do it!” Mashburn implores from her perch.

She’s forsaken her usual headgear tonight — a collection of hats, headdresses and fascinators that take up an entire wall of the bedroom she’s appropriated into a costume closet — her hair now in low pigtails and a pair of oversize, pink-tinted glasses that wouldn’t look out of place resting on the nose of Elton John. She’s bouncing and sliding, pumping and rolling her arms so enthusiastically it looks like she might be sneaking in a workout.

The night wears on as a soft, coppery rain falls on the fancy cars in the parking lot and a patron hustles outside to put the top up on his convertible. The demographic swirls with young professionals, empty-nest scenesters and veteran club-hoppers, not too young and not too old, with nowhere else to go on a Friday night.

“There’s not a lot of classy places in town to go dancing,” Mashburn says. Where craft beer, tattoos and local bands are the cultural mainstream, the pop-up dance crowd in Greensboro is a genuine subculture.

She identified and built this scene through hustle and drive, landing it at Print Works, whose parent company, Quaintance-Weaver Mashburn has been associated with since she used to wait tables at the Green Valley Grill more than a decade ago. Now she regularly works wedding receptions here at the Proximity Hotel and the O. Henry Hotel, both as a DJ and performer, and programs all the music for other QW properties.

And then there’s this pop-up dance party, a way to make the party public.

It’s got the feel of a great wedding reception, a country-club social, the nightclub of a high-end cruise ship, a high-school reunion afterparty. Jessica Mashburn owns it: their diva, their interlocutor, their dancing queen.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she shouts into the mic, “Lexie is getting married tomorrow!”

Wooooooo!

Upstairs in the Midtown home she shares with fellow performer Evan Olson, across from his studio in the loft, she keeps her finery.

There’s a wall of costumes, every one she’s ever made: a Wonder Woman suit, a Rockford peaches uniform from A League of Their Own, along with patterned dresses and separates in a full rainbow. The top shelf tumbles with headpieces, some she made for High Point Furniture Market with couches and dressers, others for New Year’s Eve, one for the last episode of “TheLate Show with David Letterman,” another with the five Olympic rings. She made one of a literal house of cards, to commemorate both the Netflix show and the precarious nature of our government. And there’s one she made just last month, the “Spy-crowave,” a shot at the Russia scandal enveloping the Trump White House.

Jessica Mashburns hats

There are pillboxes and sun hats, boas and beads, masks, tiaras, false flowers for her hair, wigs, a cascade of party shoes. Brooches, scarves, wraps, medallions, colors that mimic the brightly colored houses in certain Caribbean neighborhoods.

It’s difficult to tell if the wardrobe is part of her act, or if her act is an extension of the wardrobe.

Mashburn dresses to suit the gig. She plays the chanteuse when she works with Dave Fox’s jazz trio, provides a colorful counterpoint to Olson’s minimalist fashion sense in their AM rOdeO sets, goes full-on Mardi Gras when she’s alone behind the piano. When she sang “America the Beautiful” and the National Anthem before a Grasshoppers game in May, she wore a stylish blue jacket and a short, full, blue houndstooth skirt. When she performed her original piece about repealing HB 2 onstage at Birdland in New York City, she wore a little black dress belted in red with a matching red cardigan. And a swan on her head.

She was born to do this, whatever this is.

Mashburn’s parents are bluegrass musicians whose friends filled her childhood home in Greensboro with that high, lonesome sound. Her father played bass for the Carter Brothers. Her mother was one of the first organizers of Merlefest.

They taught her to play piano, and from there she ascended through the the Music Academy of North Carolina in Greensboro before completing her education at Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst, NC, with a brief stopover at UNCG.

When she was still a student at Southeast Guilford High School, she used to watch her mother spin records at Bench Tavern. Somewhere along the line she learned to tap dance, work a room, write a song and make a hat.

Now she sings and plays guitar, piano and a little bit of mandolin; she could probably do a serviceable job on a drum kit, if you put her behind one. She’s got an accordion she’s trying to wrangle a nice sound out of, and a violin she’s been trying to play, she says, her whole life.

The result is a weird mix between Lady Gaga and Shirley Temple, David Bowie and Liza Minelli, Nancy Sinatra and the New York Dolls. And if she can’t find a stage for it, she will make it happen.

She plays the solo shows on piano and in the duo with Olson, and holds down vocals with a jazz combo. She takes the wedding gigs as DJ and master of ceremonies, and as an officiant can even consecrate a marriage. She pops onstage at Birdland like a seasoned pro and will even play your birthday party if she can fit it into her schedule. She’s been asked to take part in stage musicals, but she can never find the time.

She’s booked 16 gigs just this month, between the regular Tuesday night AM rOdeO gigs at Print Works, semi-regular slots in the lobby lounge at the Grandover Resort, private events at the Greensboro Country Club and the Wyndham Tournament and a one-off at the Greensboro Public Library for the One City/One Book Fashion Show & Dance Party.

And if she doesn’t have the perfect outfit for each one, she will make that happen, too,

It’s the night before the pop-up, and though she’s got no gigs on the calendar there is still work to be done.

Tonight Mashburn is a songwriter, sitting at the piano in her living room while late-afternoon sun streams through the windows.

“Mueller,” she sings softly above a D-minor 7 chord. “Oh Mueller,” and then the notes move up the C-major scale. “It’s Mueller time… what will he find….”

She stops.

“What rhymes with subpoena?”

Jessica Mashburn

The day’s news saw the announcement of Special Investigator Robert Mueller’s grand jury, which has been hearing evidence about possible collusion between the Trump administration and Russia.

Mashburn’s no fan of the president or his party — she and Olson have a short catalog of political material, though it’s more the Smothers Brothers variety than Phil Ochs. She uses social media, too, to make her opinions heard. Some of it finds its way into her act, always tempered with humor.

“All the great political protest songs have already been written,” she says. “And when people come to see me, they expect a little humor. I think it’s the best to write political songs that sound kitschy, like ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.’”

She rhymes Trump with, “What a dump,” works “Katrina” in there to resolve the “subpoena” issue and casts a verse that glances off the infamous “Pee Pee Tape” and OJ Simpson.

Mashburn says she left UNCG’s music program because it relied so much on classical training and performance, while at Sandhills she could concentrate on music theory.

“I wanted to learn how to be a gigging musician,” she says. “If someone says, ‘Let’s play “Mustang Sally” in C,’ I didn’t want to need the sheet music.”

She started performing right away, eventually landing slots with UBU out of Jamestown and Billy Scott & the Prophets, two regionally touring bands that brought her from southern Florida to Atlantic City, NJ.

“Then I wanted to somehow create a career that was mainly in my own ZIP code,” she says. “You sleep in your car in a Walmart parking lot enough times, that will happen.”

Tonight’s a rare night off from the stage — she gigged with Olson last night and the pop-up isn’t until tomorrow. There’s a DJ slot in two nights at a private party in Summerfield, and then it’s back on the grind by Wednesday.

Maybe the Mueller piece will be ready by then.

“There’s a man that’s been making the news,” she sings now at the piano to a meandering Broadway beat. “You’d not want to be in the president’s shoes. What will he find? It’s Mueller time.”

The song needs some work, but she’s already got the perfect hat.