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Hospitality Par Excellence
Mark Grossich of Hospitality Holdings, Inc grew up in Chicago working in his families’ restaurants. Washing dishes scrubbing pots and pans was his first job at 13 at grandparents' restaurants in downtown Chicago, so he learned what it felt like to have money in his pocket, but he also learned he'd much rather be in the bar business rather than the food business.
After graduating from Northwestern University with Bachelors in English and Speech he took a job managing the largest apartment complex in the US, but was soon hired to manage a Chamber of Commerce for a Chicago suburb. While there, Grossich was exposed to many different types of entrepreneurs including a mentor who showed him that anything was possible. Grossich’s next job was starting a local newspaper. Within 5 years, the newspaper had become a chain and Grossich was looking for fresh challenges. He sold his share and went back to Northwestern for his Master’s Degree in advertising.
With such a solid background, Grossich became a sought-after recruit, but he finally decided to join Bristol-Myers in Cincinnati, OH. He was excited to develop marketing plans for brands like Endust and Behold right out of school. While at Bristol-Myers, he learned patience when another mentor counseled holding back on an idea saying, "Nothing leaves this office until it’s right," and how to thread his way through the hierarchy where so many are empowered to say no, but very few can say yes and get things done.
He was soon recruited to another division, Clairol, this time in New York City, where he worked as a product manager. After a couple of years, Grossich was restless for more creativity and less hierarchy, so he joined a fast growing NYC ad agency working on the Miller Beer account, but ultimately he wound up at the same intellectual place and decided to move on. Finally, he started his own agency and landed clients including the City of New York and Twinnings Tea. He also started a modeling agency.
One of his ad agency clients was a hospitality company – and Grossich got more and more involved. The client, who later became his partner, found a place for a bar on Hudson Street and Grossich came up with notion of "Bar and Books" where bar stools were replaced with sofas and customers enjoyed the concept of having a drink in a library atmosphere. Soon they opened three more, and Grossich found his business moving in the direction of hospitality rather than just advertising.
Grossich wanted to branch out and create bars marketed individually to an upscale audience rather than to try and create a chain, so he and his partner split. Grossich also wanted locations with more international appeal so he opened the Carnegie Club, one of first cigar bars, in 1997. His next foray into the market was the Campbell Apartment, Cocktails from another Era, in a private office-apartment in Grand Central Station which was originally built for a tycoon in the 1920’s. The Campbell Apartment cost over $1 million dollars to restore and the atmosphere is like stepping back in time. The luxury and service consistently rate its listing in the top 100 cocktail lounges world-wide since 1999. Grossich followed these successes with the World Bar in Trump Tower in 2001, and The Patio, across from United Nations in 2002.
The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom
Mark Grossich is following his own star. He believes his entrepreneurial success was fueled by his corporate experience and recommends learning how the "big guys" do it on their nickel before starting out on your own. To this day, he runs his business like a large company with detailed decision analysis and audit trails. Grossich seized his opportunities early on and learned to live by his wits. A little less the swashbuckler now with a family to support, Grossich still lives by tenaciously holding onto a good idea in the face of naysayers and recognizing key decision makers. Before making big decisions, he asks himself, "What’s the worst that could happen?" He sees the possibility of failure as a potential disappointment, not a fatal body blow. He considers himself guardedly optimistic and believes we learn by going where we must go.
- Case History: Hospitality Holdings, Inc.
- Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Educate yourself about how business works in a large company and use what you learn as a springboard for your own ambitions.
- Could This Work For Me? The foundation of large company experience teaches as much about what to do as what not to do.
... he learned what it felt like to have money in his pocket, but he also learned he'd much rather be in the bar business rather than the food business.