Best Restaurant for Outdoor Dining

Print Works Bistro, Green Valley Grill rank among best U.S. restaurants for outdoor dining

By: Nakylah Carter, Triad Business Journal

July 19, 2022

A Greensboro restaurant group has landed two spots on OpenTable’s 2022 edition of the nation’s 100 Best Restaurants for Outdoor Dining.

Print Works Bistro and Green Valley Grill, owned by Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, both made the list. Open Table’s list was curated from 13.6 million verified diner reviews between May 2021 and April 2022 and features restaurants from 25 states.

“We looked at outdoor dining not as just a place to put some tables and parts and people, but we decided we would design what we call outdoor rooms and each location has its own sort of design intent,” said Dennis Quaintance, CEO of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels.

Print Works Bistro’s outdoor space at the Proximity Hotel is the Creekside Terrace, and Green Valley Grill’s outside area at the O.Henry Hotel is the courtyard. The company also owns Lucky 32 in Greensboro that features an outdoor veranda.

Green Valley Grill and Print Works features shading and discrete overhead fans to help customers stay comfortable and to keep the bugs away from the food.

“We’re constantly working on the gardens adjacent to these areas,” Quaintance said. “I personally think that getting to dine outdoors in an environment that is carefully considered is great.”

Quaintance told TBJ that the company, which is 100% employee owned, was “delighted” to be on the list.

“The Triad is so tiny. I mean there are over 300 million people in the United States and less than 1 million here. It’s improbable that even one, let alone two, restaurants would be featured on the list,” he told TBJ.

“I think Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem are often sort of under appreciated, wonderful communities and to be able to have someone in Charlotte or Raleigh read that there are two restaurants in Greensboro it’s like, we do some fun stuff up this way too.”

Nationwide, the number of restaurants listing outdoor dining spaces grew exponentially, according to OpenTable, a platform that connects over 1 billion people with restaurants annually and provides software that helps restaurants with reservations, payment, reviews, operations and many other things.

Two other North Carolina restaurants made the list — The Oyster Rock Waterfront Seafood in Calabash and Sunset Terrace at Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville.

“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,” said Susan Lee, Chief Growth Officer for OpenTable. “Offering outdoor dining is now a key part of restaurants’ business, and we’re happy to see that diners continue to embrace it.”

California held the most restaurants on the list with 37.

Print Works Bistro Creekside Terrace

Green Valley Grill Courtyard

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2019 100 Best Brunch Restaurants | Forbes

100 Best Brunch Restaurants in America: OpenTable Releases Its 2019 List

By: Karla Alindahao, Forbes Magazine & OpenTable

April 2019

Print Works Bistro Dining Room

OpenTable, the restaurant reservations system, just released one of its more popular user–generated lists: The 100 Best Brunch Restaurants in America.

And its timing couldn’t be more fitting. Mother’s Day is nearly upon us—as in less than two weeks away. Thirteen days, if we want to be more precise. But alas, thousands upon thousands of grown children (and their fathers) do not have anything special planned. Yet.

Let’s face it: Many of us attempt to cobble together an exceptional experience way too last minute. But anything done without consideration, time, or preparation always falls short. So let’s save ourselves from all that this year. You don’t want Mom to feel like her one day out of the year was nothing but an afterthought. Is there anything worse than a woman’s silent but palpable disappointment? No there is not.

So book a table today. Order some flowers. Get the family organized and on the program. Plus don’t forget the presents. (Pretty blooms and chocolates do not count as presents.)

We do have one thing going for us: Technology. OpenTable makes the meal part of the celebration easy with its massive brunch roster. A few clicks on the app and you’ve got a confirmed reservation. And you know you can trust the platform to be “democratic” and on-point: As with many of its 100-strong lists, the brunch roster was based entirely on data culled from 12 million verified diner reviews that involved more than 30,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“On Mother’s Day 2018, we seated more diners than any other day that year and recognize that celebrating Mom is a priority for our diners,” OpenTable’s chief dining officer, Caroline Potter, said in a statement. “The honorees on this year’s best brunch list are creating experiences that will dazzle her and make embracing our #DiningMode challenge a snap, with sublime drinks and dishes and friendly service.”

And while there are no winners in all of OpenTable’s lists (they are arranged alphabetically sans ranking), California came out as the most recognized state with 16 restaurants—followed by New York with 12. Illinois and Pennsylvania have eight. Florida, Texas, and Washington, D.C. boast seven each. And Louisiana claims five.

To view the full list, scroll down—or click here.

OPENTABLE’S 100 BEST BRUNCH RESTAURANTS IN AMERICA

Ambar (Multiple Locations)

Atchafalaya Restaurant (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Balthazar (New York, New York)

Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Beachcomber Cafe, Crystal Cove (Newport Coast, California)

Beatrix (Multiple Locations)

Brennan’s (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Brennan’s of Houston (Houston, Texas)

Bristol Seafood Grill (Multiple Locations)

The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker (West Hollywood, California)

Bud & Marilyn’s (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Café Ba-Ba-Reeba (Chicago, Illinois)

Cafe Fiorello (New York, New York)

Cafe Luxembourg (New York, New York)

Cafe Monte (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Cappy’s Restaurant (San Antonio, Texas)

Carmine’s, 44th Street (New York, New York)

Catch L.A. (West Hollywood, California)

Chart House Restaurant (Weehawken, New Jersey)

Chez Zee (Austin, Texas)

Cookshop (New York, New York)

The Copper Hen (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

The Dandelion (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

The Dining Room at Salish Lodge & Spa (Snoqualmie, Washington)

Duke’s (Huntington Beach, California)

Emmaline (Houston, Texas)

Farmers & Distillers (Washington, D.C. )

Farmers Fishers Bakers (Washington, D.C. )

Farmhouse at Rogers Gardens (Corona Del Mar, California)

Founding Farmers (Multiple Locations)

The Gage (Chicago, Illinois)

Gandy Dancer (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

Geoffrey’s Restaurant (Malibu, California)

Gertrude’s (Baltimore, Maryland)

Giada at The Cromwell (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Grace’s (Houston, Texas)

The Grand Marlin of Pensacola Beach (Pensacola, Florida)

Great Maple (San Diego, California)

Green Valley Grill (Greensboro, North Carolina)

The Hamilton (Washington, D.C.)

The Hampton Social, River North (Chicago, Illinois)

Harbor House (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace (Las Vegas, Nevada)

The Henry (Phoenix, Arizona)

HEXX Kitchen + Bar (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Ida Claire (Addison, Texas)

The Ivy (West Hollywood, California)

Jake’s Del Mar (Del Mar, California)

Kyle G’s Prime Seafood (Jensen Beach, Florida)

Lafayette (New York, New York)

Lake Elmo Inn (Lake Elmo, Minnesota)

Le Diplomate (Washington, D.C.)

Le Moo (Louisville, Kentucky)

Lindey’s (Columbus, Ohio)

Little Goat (Chicago, Illinois)

Lola Seattle (Seattle, Washington)

Louie Bossi Ristorante (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

The Love (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Maggiano’s, South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa, California)

Mama’s Fish House (Paia, Hawaii)

Mere Bulles (Brentwood, Tennessee)

Mon Ami Gabi (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Muriel’s Jackson Square (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Oxford Exchange (Tampa, Florida)

Palace (Miami Beach, Florida)

Palace Café (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Parc (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Perch L.A. (Los Angeles, California)

Pier W (Cleveland, Ohio)

Poor Calvin’s (Atlanta, Georgia)

Print Works Bistro (Greensboro, North Carolina)

The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus (San Francisco, California)

Sadelle’s (New York, New York)

Salty’s (Multiple Locations)

Sarabeth’s, Park Avenue South (New York, New York)

Shaw’s Crab House (Chicago, Illinois)

The Smith (Multiple Locations)

Somerset (Chicago, Illinois)

Spencer’s Restaurant (Palm Springs, California)

Stanford Grill (Columbia, Maryland)

Succotash, Penn Quarter (Washington, D.C.)

Summer House Santa Monica (Chicago, Illinois)

Suraya (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Talula’s Garden (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Tavern on the Green (New York, New York)

Terrain Garden Cafe (Glen Mills, Pennsylvania)

The Tropicale (Palm Springs, California)

Top of the Hub (Boston, Massachusetts)

Tower Oaks Lodge (Rockville, Maryland)

Town (San Carlos, California)

Tupelo Honey, Downtown Asheville (Asheville, North Carolina)

Ulele (Tampa, Florida)

Unconventional Diner (Washington, D.C.)

Upland (New York, New York)

Whiskey Cake (Plano, Texas)

White Dog Cafe (Wayne, Pennsylvania)

Willa Jean (New Orleans, Louisiana)

X2O Xaviars on the Hudson (Yonkers, New York)

Yank Sing, Rincon Center (San Francisco, California)

Yardbird (Multiple Locations)

Reflections

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– Translucence – Iridescence – Reflections –

Those words from PWB’s original design intent are brought to life at a whole new level with the QW Craft Guild’s Design and fabrication of transparent dividers. As you dine notice the layers of reflections and bent light as you sip your favorite, play footsies and enjoy the vibrant flavors.

100 Best Brunch Restaurants | Forbes

100 Best Brunch Restaurants in America: OpenTable Releases Its 2018 List

By Karla Alindahao, Forbes Magazine
May 2018

Print Works Bistro Dining Room

In New York City, where I live, power lunches and breakfasts have always been a thing. But when the weekend comes, you can be sure that nearly every New Yorker (dressed in city chic attire) will convene for indulgent brunches—replete with glasses of rosé, mimosas, and Bloody Marys.

But let it be known that brunch is not just a New York ritual—it’s practically the holy grail of weekend pursuits everywhere. So you can appreciate how OpenTable’s annual “100 Best Brunch Restaurants in America” can be more than a little helpful—especially when it’s released a few days before Mother’s Day. (Fantastic news for the procrastinators among us who have been anguishing over reservations.)

But beyond that, it’s only one of the many 100-strong rosters that the company is known for publishing several times a year. “The 100 Best Restaurants in America,” “The 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America,” “The 100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America,” and more are rolled out every few months or so—and they’re all highly anticipated. And that’s great for diners who truly enjoy a good meal. Why? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Because OpenTable’s lists are the most democratic. They’re not trying to be Michelin or The World’s 50 Best. These restaurants in this list do not have servers pointing out each element of a dish with a finely-manicured pinkie finger. They don’t cater to people who dine professionally and only do tasting menus that cost four figures. There are neither titles nor rankings. There are no special commendations and special awards.

Instead, each list is user-generated—culled from the reviews of verified OpenTable diners (not critics or so-called food influencers). Essentially, the rosters are for real people by real people. It’s easy to forget that the measure of what makes a good restaurant is simple yet relevant. All you need is great food, amiable service, and a good environment—plus a well-stocked bar and decent wine cellar. Stuffiness and pretentiousness are not requirements. (Personally, many of my favorite New York restaurants have never been on a list.)

 As for the restaurants on this particular brunch-driven list, the data is sourced purely from more than 12 million OpenTable-verified diners that includes more than 45,000 restaurants in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. And as expected, the coastal states dominated. California came out on top this year (with 19 restaurants), closely followed by New York (with 15). Washington D.C., which has a growing and thriving food scene, is tied with Pennsylvania (the each have nine). Illinois claims eight—counting Little GoatThe Hampton Social, and The Publican among its honorees.

To view the full list on OpenTable, click here. And I wasn’t joking about brunch being a weekend pastime everywhere. If you happen to find yourself in Canada this year, OpenTable has a brunch list for our northern neighbor too.

OPENTABLE’S 100 BEST BRUNCH RESTAURANTS IN AMERICA

ABC Kitchen (New York, New York)

Atchafalaya Restaurant (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Bacon Social House (Denver, Colorado)

Balthazar (New York, New York)

Beachcomber Cafe, Crystal Cove (Newport Coast, California)

Beatrix, River North (Chicago, Illinois)

Beehive (Boston, Massachusetts)

Blend on the Water (Long Island City, New York)

Brennan’s (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Bud & Marilyn’s (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Cafe Luxembourg (New York, New York)

Cafe Monte (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Cafeteria 15L (Sacramento, California)

Catch L.A (West Hollywood, California)

Chez Zee (Austin, Texas)

The Clubhouse, Oak Brook (Oak Brook, Illinois)

Cookshop (New York, New York)

The Copper Hen (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

The Dandelion (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

The Dead Fish (Crockett, California)

Deerpark Restaurant, Biltmore Estate (Asheville, North Carolina)

Farmers & Distillers (Washington, D.C.)

Farmers Fishers Bakers (Washington, D.C.)

Farmhouse at Rogers Gardens (Corona Del Mar, California)

The Food Market (Baltimore, Maryland)

Gandy Dancer (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

Geoffrey’s Restaurant (Malibu, California)

Georgia Brown’s (Washington, D.C.)

Gertrude’s, Baltimore (Baltimore, Maryland)

Grace’s (Houston, Texas)

Gracias Madre (West Hollywood, California)

Grand Concourse (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

Great Maple San Diego (San Diego, California)

Greens Restaurant (San Francisco, California)

Halls Chophouse (Charleston, South Carolina)

The Hamilton (Washington, D.C.)

The Hampton Social (Chicago, Illinois)

Hau Tree Lanai (Honolulu, Hawaii)

Hell’s Kitchen Minneapolis (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

High Cotton, Charleston (Charleston, South Carolina)

Ida Claire (Addison, Texas)

The Ivy (West Hollywood, California)

Jane (New York, New York)

Lafayette (New York, New York)

Lake Elmo Inn (Lake Elmo, Minnesota)

Las Brisas (Laguna Beach, California)

Le Coucou (New York, New York)

Le Diplomate (Washington, D.C.)

Lindey’s (Columbus, Ohio)

Little Goat (Chicago, Illinois)

LuLu’s (Richmond, Virginia)

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (Yosemite Village, California)

Maggiano’s, South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa, California)

Magnolias (Charleston, South Carolina)

Mere Bulles (Brentwood, Tennessee)

Meson Sabika (Naperville, Illinois)

Mon Ami Gabi (Multiple Locations)

Old Ebbitt Grill (Washington, D.C.)

Oxford Exchange (Tampa, Florida)

Palisade (Seattle, Washington)

Parc (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Perch L.A (Los Angeles, California)

Pier W (Cleveland, Ohio)

Print Works Bistro (Greensboro, North Carolina)

The Publican (Chicago, Illinois)

Pump (West Hollywood, California)

Queen Mary Champagne Sunday Brunch (Long Beach, California)

Ray’s on the River (Sandy Springs, Georgia)

Red Rooster Harlem (New York, New York)

Relish (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Rusty Scupper, Baltimore (Baltimore, Maryland)

Sadelle’s (New York, New York)

Sarabeth’s (Multiple Locations)

Shaw’s Crab House, Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)

SkyCity Restaurant at the Space Needle (Seattle, Washington)

Spencer’s Restaurant (Palm Springs, California)

Stephanie’s On Newbury (Boston, Massachusetts)

Summer House Santa Monica (Chicago, Illinois)

Sundy House (Delray Beach, Florida)

Tabard Inn (Washington, D.C.)

Talula’s Garden (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Tavern on the Green (New York, New York)

Terrain Garden Cafe (Glen Mills, Pennsylvania)

Tower Oaks Lodge (Rockville, Maryland)

Town (San Carlos, California)

The Tropicale (Palm Springs, California)

Tupelo Honey, Arlington (Arlington, Virginia)

Ulele (Tampa, Florida)

Upland (New York, New York)

Warmdaddy’s (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

White Dog Cafe, Wayne (Wayne, Pennsylvania)

Willa Jean (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Woodberry Kitchen (Baltimore, Maryland)

X2O Xaviars on the Hudson (Yonkers, New York)

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar (Multiple Locations)

ESOP Fable

Dennis Quaintance’s ESOP fable

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

Dennis Quaintance with Edar

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.

Nancy and Dennis Quaintance with Mike Weaver at Proximity Hotel

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 Southern Kitchen 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 with Crowd

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 Mashburn 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 Playing Piano

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.