When you’re in the hospitality business, it’s natural to put a lot of focus on serving your guests. It is also worthwhile to serve the communities you’re in as well. Here’s a little peek into a few ways that Vestalia Hospitality creates connection and brings heart to the people in our neighborhood.
Giving A Damn Outside Our Four Walls
by Amie Bresnahan and Rachael Crew
At Vestalia Hospitality, we have specific values that we live by – they inform our decision making, recipes, employment practices, and just about everything in our business of crafting craveable experiences. Another area that is profoundly shaped by our values is how we show up in our communities. We want to support and contribute to our community, be that a neighborhood we’re located in or the industry we’re a part of. The value that helps us do this best is Heart: We give a damn.
Here are three unique stories illustrating how our heart has shown up at a neighborhood school, an industry colleague’s family and the local arts community. While these stories are specific and engaging, they are by no means stand-alone tales. Our team members can often tell a story about a time when we showed up and gave a damn about the people in our circles. It’s with this intention that we bring Heart to our daily lives.
Kimchi for a Cause
As a restaurant organization, we try hard to support our guests and communities, and when one of our own is in need, we come to the table!
Chef/Owner Ann Kim and our family of restaurants have had a long time connection with the team at Spoon & Stable restaurant. We’ve frequented each other’s restaurants; cooked together, dined together, and supported each other through the ups and downs of the restaurant life. The time spent together has mostly been in celebration, however, when a chef at Spoon & Stable experienced a family hardship, it was time to show up for the hard stuff, too.
Diane Moua, acclaimed Pastry Chef at Spoon & Stable, comes from a family of farmers in Wisconsin. When her father was diagnosed with cancer, the treatment took a financial toll on the family as he couldn’t tend to the family farm, and his cancer treatment was expensive. The local food community came together to plan a fundraising gala to support Diane’s family. There was a well-attended, ticketed benefit dinner as well as an auction of donated packages.
Ann created a unique, specialized donation that featured a kimchi making class and dinner for four at Young Joni – quite the experience for one lucky bidder! Ann’s package was the most popular item in the auction, and the bidding rose to $5,000! Due to the popularity, the auctioneer asked Ann if she would be willing to offer an additional package and she didn’t even flinch. In the spirit of heart and support for our industry friends in need, she was happy to do so, thus raising $10,000 for the Moua family.
Anthony Junior High’s Pizza Garden
In 2014, Ann, along with Owner/CFO Conrad Leifur, and the team at Pizzeria Lola were presented with the opportunity to sponsor the creation of a school garden at Anthony Middle School in the Kenny neighborhood of Minneapolis, just a few short blocks from Pizzeria Lola. The garden was intended to engage Anthony’s special needs students who would plant, grow, and harvest the produce during the school year as part of their curriculum. They would also host an annual plant sale for the ongoing support of the garden.
Ann, Conrad, and the Lola team knew this was a perfect fit for all based on our organizational and personal values. Ann and Conrad were the underwriters and funded the garden, but they went farther than that and also put in hours of manual labor. The team helped build-out and plant the garden in it’s beginning stage.
During the school year, students followed their gardening curriculum, and during the summer months, when the garden was at its height and school was out of session, team Lola would harvest the vegetables and create summer-y specials using the pizza garden’s bounty! Members from the office team at Vestalia would also pitch in helping to weed and water as needed.
In continued support for the garden, each May Pizzeria Lola would host a fundraiser with a percentage of sales donated to the school’s garden funds.
The pizza garden program at Anthony Middle School was sadly discontinued when the organizing teacher moved on from the school. We miss the days of helping the kids and seeing the literal fruits of their hard work grow in front of our eyes.
While the garden is no longer, the story remains a highlight of how we “give a damn” both in and outside of our restaurants.
Mixed Blood Theatre
Before the pizzas, back bar cocktails, and a James Beard award, Ann Kim had a long-time career in theater. Her professional acting began at Mixed Blood Theatre with Artistic Director Jack Reuler. Jack has continued to be a massive supporter of Ann’s career both on and off the stage.
In 2016, Mixed Blood was planning a large scale 40th-anniversary gala, and they were delighted when Price himself invited them to host it at Paisley Park. Tragically two weeks before the event, Prince passed away, and the estate had to revoke access to the venue at the 11th hour.
Ann wanted to help the company, so in place of the event at Paisley Park, Pizzeria Lola hosted a big Mixed Blood Prince Party! Lola was decked out in purple, they created a special purple pie, and a significant portion of the night’s sales went back to Mixed Blood. The attending guests celebrated the life and legacy of a beloved local artist and supported the future of the Minneapolis performance art scene.
Our love for our arts community continues by supporting Mixed Blood in more fundraising events. In 2018 they hosted their annual gala at Young Joni. It was a lovely confluence of Young Joni’s brand and the theater that is so special to Ann. As guests dined on signature Young Joni pizzas, vegetables, and salads the theater raised funds to support its Radical Hospitality program that offers anyone the opportunity to see theater for free.
Amie Bresnahan is the Associate Director of People Development at Vestalia Hospitality, and Rachael Crew is the Marketing Director. Click here to read more about them, and the rest of Vestalia’s team.
Sometimes the main course just isn’t enough – find links here to content that rounds out the themes explored in this week’s article.
If you’re planning on spending some time in front of a screen, make it worth your while. These options will deliver a heart-warming dose of human kindness and generosity, and will remind you that people have tremendous capacity to come together to work through adversity.
Article, 10 minute read with links to movie trailers
This list was compiled by a variety of authors for publication in the magazine produced by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.
Video, 10 minute duration
Watch 5-year-old Miles Scott bring an entire city together to fulfill his unique Make-a-Wish request.
Video, 6 minute duration
SoulPancake teams up with some researchers to explore if kindness begets kindness.