Quaintance-Weaver now employee-owned company


by Steve Huffman
Triad Business Journal | November 17, 2016

QW ESOPQuaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels has become employee-owned, a move that company founders believe will prove advantageous for staff members.

Quaintance-Weaver, which announced the move Thursday, has more than 600 employees. It was founded 28 years ago and includes O. Henry Hotel, Green Valley Grill, Proximity Hotel, Print Works Bistro and two Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen locations.

CEO Dennis Quaintance said the biggest advantage for employees will involve retirement benefits. He referred to the new plan as, “a retirement program on steroids.”

Quaintance said that with retirement benefits provided by the Quaintance-Weaver Employee Stock Ownership Plan Trust, staff members ages 18 and up who work at least 20 hours a week will start accruing retirement units. They’ll be fully vested after three years.

“They own the enterprise now,” Quaintance said. “They own the trust.”

He said the company had a 401(k) retirement program for its employees a number of years ago, but it was discontinued because of a lack of participation. Quaintance said the change makes Quaintance-Weaver one of only a few employee-owned restaurant and hotel companies in the country. He and others involved in the company’s management promised guests won’t notice a difference.

Quaintance and his wife, Nancy King Quaintance, will continue to lead the company. The couple said they and Mike Weaver, the company’s other founder, sold their interest in Quaintance-Weaver to the Quaintance-Weaver Employee Stock Ownership Plan Trust because they feel that’s the optimal way for the company to be owned and managed.

The move seems a natural one for the community-based, locally owned company, the Quaintances said. It fits with the company’s sustainable practices initiative, they said, which considers how decisions affect current and future generations, as well as their fairness doctrine for diversity and inclusion.

Dennis Quaintance said more than 50 staff members at Quaintance-Weaver have been with the company at least 10 years. The fact that so many people continue to demonstrate such a level of professionalism and commitment reinforced the decision to make it an employee-owned company, he said.

An employee stock ownership plan is a program that offers a company’s staff members an ownership stake in the company. This sort of employee stock ownership plan is 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.

Over time, eligible staff members will gain participation opportunities with the trust simply by working with Quaintance-Weaver and meeting some other reasonable requirements. Quaintance-Weaver staff members will not invest their own money into the employee stock ownership plan; they gain participation by working there.

Dennis Quaintance said one of the reasons they opted to make the company employee-owned was to give staff members more reasons to work together as a team to take care of Quaintance-Williams’ guests and their colleagues.

“All of our interests are now aligned,” he said.

The Quaintance-Weaver Employee Stock Ownership Plan Trust now owns the Quaintance-Weaver operating companies, not any real estate. Quaintance-Weaver leases its restaurants and it manages the hotels for a fee. That has been the structure all along.

Quick Quaintance-Weaver history:

* 1988: Company founded by Dennis Quaintance, Nancy King Quaintance, and Mike Weaver;

* 1989: Lucky 32 opens in Greensboro;

* 1998: O.Henry Hotel and Green Valley Grill open in Greensboro;

* 2002: Lucky 32 opens in Cary;

* 2007: Proximity Hotel and Print Works Bistro open and are the first to receive the U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum Certification for a hotel and restaurant in USA;

* 2009: Dennis and Nancy Quaintance, along with Mike Weaver, named national semifinalists for James Beard Foundation Outstanding Restaurateur award (Oscars of the food world);

* 2011: Dennis Quaintance receives the Citation Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice;

* 2016: Quaintance-Weaver becomes 100 percent employee owned.

Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels is now owned by employees


Fox8 News | November 17, 2016

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The founders of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels announced Thursday that the company is now 100 percent owned by its staff members, a news release said.

Dennis and Nancy King Quaintance will continue to lead the company and guests will not see any changes at their six restaurant and hotel locations: O. Henry Hotel, Green Valley Grill, Proximity Hotel, Print Works Bistro and two Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen.

“Co-founders Mike Weaver, Nancy King Quaintance and I like to think long term, not just months or years out, but decades ahead,” said Dennis Quaintance, company CEO. 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.”

With the Employee Stock Ownership Plan, workers who are above the age of 18 and work at least 20 hours a week will start accruing retirement benefits after one year. After three years, employees will become fully vested.

“With this program, all of us who work here will have even more reasons to take great care of our guests and colleagues. That ought to make QW even healthier and keep it vibrant for decades to come,” Quaintance said.

Who’s lucky? The staff of Lucky 32. They now own the business.


By David Ranii
The News & Observer | November 18, 2016

News and Observer QW ESOPCARY – Tyler Psaroudis, a server at the Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, just became part-owner of the Greensboro business that operates that restaurant — as well as three other eateries and two hotels — without lifting a finger.

Instead, the heavy lifting – in fact, all of the lifting – was done by the former owners of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, who this week notified the business’s 600-plus staff members that they now collectively own 100 percent of the company. Co-founders Dennis Quaintance and Mike Weaver accomplished that by selling their business to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP.

Dennis Quaintance
Dennis Quaintance Chris English Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels
“It’s pretty cool stuff,” said Psaroudis, 26, who has worked at the 80-employee restaurant for all of four months. “I’m excited to be a part of something like this because I do think it is moving the industry in the right direction because it is leading by example.”

The key benefit for workers, other than bragging rights, is the creation of a retirement fund whose value is determined by the business’s profitability.

“This isn’t something where you go around and say, ‘Hey, I own a part of a company and I’m going to buy a new car,’ ” Quaintance, who continues as CEO despite the change in ownership, told a group of Lucky 32 employees Friday morning when he unveiled the ESOP. “This is a marathon, a really long marathon, that we run together.”

Although everyone knows there is no such thing as a free lunch, it turns out that, with an ESOP, there is a free retirement plan.

“It’s so neat because we don’t put money in it,” Quaintance told the group. “You gain your participation by working.”

Nationwide, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership, there are in the neighborhood of 7,000 ESOPs, which are highly regulated by the federal government. Among the best known: Publix Super Markets, Avis, the Omaha World-Herald newspaper and publishing company W.W. Norton.

The roots of the Greensboro business go back to 1988 when Weaver, Quaintance and Quaintance’s wife, Nancy King Quaintance, co-founded the company. It opened its first restaurant in Greensboro the following year and now owns two Lucky 32 restaurants – the other is in Greensboro – two other restaurants and two Greensboro hotels, the O. Henry Hotel and Proximity Hotel.

The business in thriving, said Quaintance, ranking among the top 25 percent in the industry in key metrics such as revenue per square foot and profit per dollar of revenue.

The ESOP acquired the business from the owners at an undisclosed price that was negotiated with a trustee whose fiduciary duty was to the staffers. The money to buy the business was loaned to the ESOP by the owners, who will be paid back over time.

“If the business does well, great,” Quaintance said. “If it doesn’t do well, then these loans don’t get paid.”

Staffers who work more than 20 hours a week become fully vested in the retirement plan after three years. In addition to being affected by the company’s overall performance each year, benefits are also based on an individual’s wages, bonuses and tips.

Quaintance said the owners didn’t explore selling the business to another buyer because they were enamored with creating a retirement plan for staffers.

“We get that we are sort of standing on people’s shoulders as owners,” he said. “And we so appreciate it, that it got us where we are.”

In addition, he said, “We are able to sell the company to an owner that shares our values … It seems a little bit too good to be true.”

Those values include a sense of “fairness” to staffers, said Daniel Thomason, 29, the dining room manager at the Lucky 32 in Cary.

“This company is so flexible helping people deal with all of their issues,” Thomason said.

Just this week, he said, a young server came up to him and told him that her babysitter had quit and consequently she wouldn’t be able to make her morning shift.

“Ultimately we made this whole situation work so that this young lady could be with her child” that day, he said.

Quaintance, who said he has no plans to retire and likely will “die in the saddle,” is looking forward to running a business where the interests of all the staffers are fully aligned.

“I feel like I have a new toy,” he said. “This is going to be really fun.”

Quaintance-Weaver Hotels and Restaurants are Now Employee-Owned


By Rilwan Balogun
Time Warner Cable News | November 17, 2016

GREENSBORO — When Greg Moody came to North Carolina, it was suppose to be for a few weeks.

“I’m from Atlanta, Georgia,” Moody said. “I came here during construction and I installed drapes.”

After construction at the Proximity hotel was completed he drove to Georgia and packed his car up with everything he owned.

Then drove back to Greensboro to work at the Proximity because of the atmosphere.

“Opening day of the hotel they held hands like they did today and I was so excited about that, that I became a part of the team,” said Moody.

And he’s been there ever since. “I wake up in the morning exciting about coming to work,” Moody said.” Every morning I’m excited about coming.”

Thursday that excitement changed, “I always felt like i was part owner,” Moody said. Now he is, along with 605 other employees.

“We wanted to come up with a way that was sustainable for the company to stay grounded on it’s current values,” said C.E.O. Dennis Quaintance.

At the Proximity hotel and the other Quaintance-Weaver properties there’s an employee trust that bought 100 percent equity into the business and over time employees have access to that trust without spending any money.

“The trust’s mission and purpose is to protect the interest of the staff members,” Quaintance explains.

Dennis and the co-founder will still oversee the daily operations but more than 600 of his colleagues will own a piece of Quaintance-Weaver.
Now the man that help put up the drapes is a partner.

“Just to know I was a part of the construction and now I’m part owner, that’s really a great feeling,” said Moody.

The Man


QW ESOPGREENSBORO — You don’t have to fight The Man if you are The Man.

Thousands of workers across North Carolina are finding that out as they learn to think like owners as a growing number of companies share profits and stock with them.

Your company not with the program? Don’t worry. There’s room for more, according to a new report by the Budget and Tax Center, a progressive agency in Raleigh.

Employee stock ownership plans and other types of programs allow workers to even the gap between their earnings and management salaries, improve their companies through pride of ownership and build substantial retirement accounts.

“It makes me feel good to be in an organization where you can be genuine with your brothers and sisters,” said Cassandra Brown, the executive director of housekeeping for Greensboro-based Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants & Hotels, which began an employee stock ownership program in 2016.

The Budget and Tax Center, report says that $4.4 billion was paid to worker “cooperatives” involving at least 100 companies and 750,000 current and former workers, according to 2013 data.

Employee ownership programs vary widely. Some are retirement programs that deposit shares into accounts based on a company’s annual profits. Others give workers a strong influence through a democratic structure.

But the majority of companies will never make a move toward such programs and that will hurt the economy statewide, according to the report.

That’s because thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses across the state are facing a “silver tsunami” of aging owners who could die or retire without succession plans, according to Patrick McHugh, who wrote the report. Such companies often face bankruptcy or simply families unwilling to take over management after an owner dies.

But employee ownership helps companies succeed and preserves communities, he said.

“When a company is locally owned and locally controlled it makes it far less likely that a company pulls up stakes and moves,” McHugh said.

Many smaller companies with fewer than 1,000 employees operate private versions of employee stock ownership plans, where a small group of workers share direct ownership.

One of Greensboro’s most prominent examples is Quaintance-Weaver. With about 600 employees, the company created a trust in 2016 that collects and distributes “retirement units” to workers who qualify.

Through the trust, the company’s owners, including Chief Executive Officer Dennis Quaintance, were able to sell the management company to the trust, which took on debt to pay them. An independent company set the value for the company that manages the O. Henry Hotel, the Proximity Hotel and a group of restaurants.

Quaintance-Weaver still owns the company’s real estate, so the income comes from the company’s ongoing operations.

Unlike a 401(k), the workers don’t contribute a dime. Still, the ownership is tax-protected until a worker reaches retirement age.

Most of the employees, like Brown, are happy with the new program. But Quaintance says the real proof will come when they receive their first contribution statement later this year.

“How our colleagues feel about this is going to evolve over the next few years,” he said.

For Quaintance, the program reassures him that his brand of management — paying close attention to employees and guests — won’t vanish when he retires. It protects the company from outside ownership that might simply toss out the culture he has developed through the years.

Over in Morganton, they’re trying something similar. Molly Hemstreet started Opportunity Threads to give workers the chance to buy portions of the company and help determine its future.

The small company has 23 workers who cut and sew apparel, a skill that had all but vanished when textile jobs were moved offshore. But at Opportunity Threads she said it is thriving, partly through the commitment of workers who help guide the company’s daily operations.

Hemstreet said the company is still governed by executives, but the workers have a potent voice, voting each year on how profits will be distributed.

“It’s a very powerful change,” Hemstreet said. “It’s hard to sit at a sewing machine, but if you’re more efficient and more responsible for the company being successful, you’re going to have a different attitude.”

That sentiment is echoed at the Mast General Store, which is based in the mountain town of Valle Crucis. The company operates seven stores, including one in Winston-Salem, and employs 500 people.

Company President Lisa Cooper said 230 of those workers belong to the company’s retirement-ownership program.

Although Cooper and her family don’t plan to give up ownership or management of the company, the program gives workers an alternative to a 401(k).

“There is a sense of loyalty and ownership being part of it,” she said. “Over the years when the stock market hasn’t seen increases in the 401(k) program, having two options has been a win-win. I think it’s pretty certain we’ve always seen an increase in our stock value.”

Deb Lazenby, the community relations manager for several Mast stores, including the Winston-Salem location, walked among the dozens of old-fashioned candies, nostalgic foods and high-tech camping gear.

“We all work together,” she said. “We’ll pitch in, whatever it takes. You’ll never hear anybody say, ‘It’s not my job.’ ”

Quaintance-Weaver’s hotel-restaurant operation has new owners — its employees


by Taft Wireback
November 17, 2016

QW is now Employee Owned

GREENSBORO — The company that operates the O.Henry and Proximity hotels, Lucky 32 in Greensboro and three other restaurants now is owned by the employees who make the beds, clean the rooms, cook the meals and serve the food.

Chief Executive Officer Dennis Quaintance told a room full of his energized colleagues Thursday morning that he and his partners in Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels had passed the baton of ownership to an employee stock ownership plan that is, essentially, a retirement fund for the people who work there.

“I cannot imagine a situation where our interests could be more aligned,” he told the standing-room-only gathering of staff members in the Proximity’s Weaver Room. “I’m emotional because this is one hell of a situation. It’s just amazing that we have this opportunity together.”

Quaintaince, 59, began this hotel-and-restaurant operation 28 years ago with Greensboro businessman Mike Weaver by opening the popular Lucky 32 restaurant on Westover Terrace. His wife, Nancy King Quaintance, joined the team several years later.
They added the two hotels and several restaurants over the years, and the Quaintances said Thursday that they will continue to lead the management team under the new business structure.

“In fact,” Dennis Quaintance said, “I’ll probably die in the saddle.”

Quaintance said the only way he would leave the helm would be if he stopped “skipping to work” most days out of enthusiasm for his job or if someone were to submit “objective feedback that I’m not the optimal person to play this role.”

An employee stock ownership plan gives a company’s employees a tangible stake in the company, building retirement benefits that they can convert to cash in later years. All employees, including management, are part of the plan and they reap its benefits in “retirement units” each year.

Those units each are revalued on the company’s annual profits and divvied up among employees based on their salaries. “Highly compensated” managers have caps on how many retirement units they can receive in any one year.

Such so-called ESOPs employ about 10 percent of the nation’s workforce in companies such as the Publix supermarket chain and Kohls department stores.

Across the United States, about 7,000 companies operate in an ESOP format. Their advantages include increased employee productivity, much less turnover and several types of tax advantages for both the 600-plus staff members at Quaintance-Weaver and the company itself.

ESOP expert Keith Butcher explained some of the plan’s many complexities to his audience, but he said he would be satisfied if the staff members left with the “general gist that this is a pretty good thing and a great opportunity.”

“It simply allows the company to be owned by a trust to the benefit of all the employees,” said Butcher, whose company based in St. Louis helped Quaintance-Weaver with the ESOP conversion. “It’s not a get-rich-quick-tomorrow plan.”

Quaintance told his new partners that he and the rest of the company’s leadership team pursued the ESOP to ensure the organization Quaintance-Weaver employees have built would remain intact with the same goals and values.

Quaintance-Weaver employees are eligible to participate in the new plan if they are older than 18 and work for the company more than 1,000 hours yearly. Their benefits are vested after three years on the job.

The new ESOP plan includes workers of all types at the two hotels, the Green Valley Grill at the O.Henry, Print Works Bistro at the Proximity and the Lucky 32 Southern Kitchens in Greensboro and Cary.

“You don’t put any money into it,” Quaintance said. “You gain participation just by working here.”

His audience was upbeat and seemed to appreciate the plan’s potential to, quite literally, enrich their lives in years to come. People who leave before retirement still retain their retirement account, which begins converting to cash payments five years after they depart.

Green Valley Grill server Morgan Gneiser said that before Thursday’s meeting, staff members only knew the meeting’s focus would be on a new companywide benefit. Speculation was rampant and focused mainly on the possibility it was a 401-K retirement plan, Gneiser said.

The ESOP plan seems likely to increase her loyalty to the company, where she has worked six years, said Gneiser, a Greensboro resident who is pregnant with her first child.

“I don’t know about through to retirement — that’s a long way away — but definitely for quite a few more years,” she said. “It’s just a great thing.”

The company’s main assets are its staff members, their skills and hard work and their institutional knowledge. As had been the case before the ESOP conversion, the hotel and restaurant buildings will continue to be owned by a real-estate partnership involving the Quaintances, Weaver and several others .

In an interview earlier Thursday, Quaintance noted that he was making the ESOP announcement nine years “almost to the day” since opening the elegant Proximity along Green Valley Road, which he built with so many environmentally-friendly features that it became the nation’s first hotel and restaurant to receive highest honors from the U.S. Green Building Council.

And Nancy Quaintance added that it had been nine years before that when they opened the nearby O.Henry, a modernized re-creation of its North Elm Street namesake — an architectural gem that had fallen into disrepair before its demolition in the late 1970s.
“Every nine years, we do something really cool,” Nancy Quaintance said of the company’s newest twist.

“We have a really long gestation period,” her husband said.

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