December 1, 2021

Enterprise JM

Do the Business

3 Mason siblings go for food stuff, not finance

Earth, Wooden & Fire in Mount Washington

What do a Baltimore-place artisan pizza and burger cafe, southern bistro and a taqueria have in frequent?

For the entrepreneurs of Earth, Wooden & Fire, Backyard garden & Grounds Bistro and Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria, it’s a gastronomical relatives affair.

Carter Mason, Paige Mason Littleton and Pike Howard are sibling restauranteurs, producing their mark on the Baltimore-area’s food stuff scene, dishing up everything from coal-fired pizza and hen wings to a twist on the common Reuben designed with turkey or fried chicken on marble rye, to a Philly quesadilla, a nod to the Philly cheesesteak.

The a few have a thing else in prevalent: they are the kids of Raymond A. “Chip” Mason, the economic giant driving the powerhouse Baltimore-primarily based investment agency Legg Mason. Alternatively of pursuing that family members organization, the 3 restaurant proprietors have taken a distinct job path picking out a cheeseboard more than the boardroom.

Charting their individual program

When Carter Mason and traders Mark Hofmann, Greg Gunning and John Toomey, opened Earth, Wood & Fireplace virtually a decade ago off Falls Road in the Bare Hills Corporate Center in Mount Washington, the aim was to generate a relaxed community haunt that would provide up good burgers, pizza and wings.

Considering that opening, Mason stated it has become the community’s go-to location, where by it is as welcoming to family members with young children as it is to the immediately after-perform group who want to seize a beer when catching a sport on one particular of the restaurant’s four televisions.

Cherry tomato-colored walls, carpeted and stained concrete flooring and significant, dark ceilings with uncovered pipes lets patrons know they are in a great but not a fussy spot. The restaurant seats 140 indoor with a mix of booths and tables, and a further 30 outside.

“We are suitable below in the middle of Roland Park, Pikesville and Ruxton. We get gurus, foodies and any person who desires our coal-hearth and wooden-grilled cuisine,” Mason mentioned. “Everything we make below is from scratch with the exception of fries and the corn we use for chowder, and people today like that.”

In addition to the locals, the restaurant also draws in its share of nearby famous people and sporting activities figures like Cal Ripken Jr., U.S. Paralympic swimming champion Jessica Extensive and Baltimore Ravens’ head mentor John Harbaugh. “John Harbaugh even outlined us all through just one of his push conferences,” Mason claimed. “Once when he was right here, the complete cafe stood up, supplying him a standing ovation.”

And not-so-excellent superstar encounters

Though the name of the cafe evokes an iconic rhythm and blues band, the allusion really backfired.

Soon after the restaurant opened, Earth, Wind & Fireplace was performing close by.

“A mate imagined it would be cool to mail an Earth, Wood & Fireplace pizza to Earth, Wind & Fireplace when they had been undertaking below,” Mason mentioned. But the great deed was punished: “they sued us.”

Mason chuckles at the dust-up, which ended harmlessly. The eatery held its name, and Mason said he and his partners agreed to not open restaurants exterior of nine states closest to Maryland. (Mason quips that he is not confident which states that would be.)

So significantly, the cafe has confined its ownership to the Bare Hills site and yet another cafe it opened in 2017 at the intersection of Route 152 and U.S. 1 in Fallston.

Covid Normally takes its Toll

On a rainy Monday, Earth, Wood & Fireplace is closed. Mason and Hofmann, who is included in day-to-day operations, designed the selection to close the restaurant Mondays and Tuesdays, a Covid-pushed decision that acknowledges staffing shortages. Continue to, motor vehicle and right after vehicle drives up and passengers, some on canes, peer by means of the home windows. Mason has to convert them away. “I hate this, but we do not want to melt away out our staff members who would have to work 60 to 70 hours a 7 days if we stayed open,” Mason stated.

Prior to Covid, Mason mentioned the restaurant created about $2.3 million each year. Mason now estimates earnings to be about $1.7 million.

Although Mason requires treatment of the administrative side of the home, Earth, Wood & Fireplace spouse Mark Hofmann is liable for the menu. He also runs the day-to-day procedure of the cafe from ordering foods to managing the cooking and hold out staffs, lots of of whom have been at the restaurant considering that the doors opened.

Consistency is the title of the video game, Hofmann stated, and clients know what the quality of the foods they are likely to get, despite the fact that the restaurant has noticed several menu improvements more than the years to adjust to modifying developments and palates.

“I am proud of what we crafted listed here,” Mason reported. Hofmann extra: “You do not have to be the Picasso of the food environment, you just have to be steady.”

Backyard garden & Grounds Bistro

Backyard garden & Grounds Bistro

Specifically down below Earth, Wood & Fire, on the first ground of the making is Garden & Grounds Bistro. Although only 16 measures independent it from its rustic sibling cafe, the two dining establishments could be miles a element in vibe and delicacies.

Garden & Grounds Bistro is owned by Paige Mason Littleton, the eldest of the Mason/Howard siblings. A former monetary agency marketing government, Littleton explained she experienced no previous cafe experience, but experienced a eyesight for the cafe dependent on what she liked and considered would also resonate with the encompassing affluent local community, who would very likely patronize the cafe. “Ladies who lunch” make up her target demographic, Littleton joked. The restaurant opened in January, but shut down before long immediately after mainly because of Covid, reopening in March.

Littleton reported she acquired the thought for the restaurant from her sister (that sister is an artist) primarily based on Littleton’s house-cooked chicken salad and quiche that her sister thought had been excellent ample to offer. “She’d say, ‘You have to have a café and you really should provide this.’” Littleton’s hen salad and quiche are on the menu.

A Zen Expertise

Littleton, who hand-picked the largely product-colored décor, explained she wished to generate a place in which shoppers can ignore the place they are. “I desired the décor to be a backdrop. I wanted men and women to arrive in and just unwind,” Littleton mentioned.

Littleton claimed she put in several hours contemplating about each and every portion of the restaurant’s glimpse and truly feel – from the colors to how the chairs need to seem and come to feel to prospects whom she hoped would linger. She settled on quiet, neutral light-weight woods for seating with a gutsy preference of ivory cushion fabric that lends to the restaurant’s light and ethereal ambiance.

“I worked really hard on the décor. I didn’t seek the services of a designer. I prepared out each individual inch myself. I picked each individual tile,” Littleton reported. “I required a room in which people could appear in and fail to remember about their day and their issues and just have entertaining, and I preferred it to be subtle.” Littleton reported she was even thoughtful about the collection of songs getting played. She settled on audio by jazz singer Diana Krall, which subtly plays in the qualifications. “My personnel may possibly detest it,” she joked of her tunes decision.

The bistro’s menu is a twist on Southern delicacies, which Littleton phone calls “charm-to-desk.” Acai bowls share the menu with fried chicken and waffles with sausage gravy and maple syrup. Crab cakes are served on brioche rolls and the traditional Reuben at the bistro is named the fried chicken or turkey Rachel with gruyere cheese, slaw and Russian dressing on marble rye.

Littleton said her inspiration for the restaurant’s menu was taken from Heirloom Restaurant in Lewes, Delaware, and Egg Restaurant in Rehoboth, which have creative breakfasts and lunch with healthful part measurements.

Since its opening, Littleton stated the restaurant has gained a solid following the restaurant’s acai bowls are amid the most preferred objects on the menu.

Debbie Abrams, who lives nearby the restaurant, reported she will come for breakfast every other 7 days. “I enjoy this position. It is vibrant and airy and the foodstuff is delectable.”

When Littleton opened Garden & Grounds Bistro, she stated she was a tiny worried at initial due to the fact the cafe was replacing popular Atwater’s Cafe that experienced constructed a sturdy clientele and status in the local community. She stated she is now settling in and feels snug about its foreseeable future in the area.

“I understood individuals would be devastated when Atwater’s shut, but all day lengthy I get people today who say thank you so significantly for opening this cafe here. When I hear that, I know we will be ok.”

Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria Restaurant

Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria Cafe

Five miles from Earth, Wooden & Fire and Back garden & Grounds Bistro is Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria Cafe. The 3,500 square foot order-at-the-counter restaurant with its vivid yellow walls and festive décor is located on the reduce stage of Kenilworth Mall in Towson. The restaurant serves up Mexican staples like tacos, burritos, salads and present day usually takes on the cuisine with bacon-crusted shrimp, Philly cheesesteak quesadilla and avocado fries.

Felipe’s in Towson is the seventh Felipe’s for Pike Howard, the stepbrother of Carter Mason and Paige Littleton. The restaurant got its begin in 2006 in New Orleans with Howard joining the small business in 2012 immediately after he married his spouse, Celie Carriere Stumm, and moved to Louisiana to be with her her father, Rob Stumm, a New Orleans businessman had a major stake in the cafe. Felipe’s has given that developed to seven loved ones restaurants. In addition to New Orleans, other Felipe’s are positioned in Naples, Fort Myers Seashore, Florida, and Boston. The Towson cafe opened in 2020.

Of all the dining establishments, Howard said Towson is the most particular to him since it’s household. A native of Baltimore, he was elevated in Ruxton.

“This region retains a special position for me and would make me joyful simply because this location is a massive component of my growing up,” Howard claimed, joking that his cell mobile phone quantity is nonetheless spot code 410, even although he’s been long gone from Baltimore nearly a ten years.

Greatest-laid options

Given that taking into consideration Maryland for Felipe’s Mid-Atlantic area, Howard claimed he labored with local buyers and developers to meticulously carve out information. Then came Covid.

Like Howard experienced at his other restaurants, he incentivized staff members with a $750 reward to get vaccinated, as a way to keep them wholesome and to make customers experience risk-free. Bonuses are expected to whole $60,000 for staffs at all of its eating places.

To date, approximately 97 p.c of Felipe’s Towson restaurant’s employees have been vaccinated. Despite that, the cafe is having difficulties since it opened in the course of a pandemic and restaurant-goers are gradual to return to dining places in typical. What makes Felipe’s circumstance more challenging, Howard stated, is that it is a new cafe that has not experienced time to cultivate a area following, and he does not know when that might improve.

“We simply cannot get great facts since we have only operated all through Covid, and we are at a shopping mall, and malls and inside spaces were being at the epicenter of where not to go,” Howard mentioned. However, he explained he is hopeful but cautious about the restaurant’s future.

“I’m cautiously optimistic, but this is not how I assumed factors would go,” Howard mentioned. “We are participating in the extensive activity. We know that it usually takes 3 many years right before restaurants are up and operating, and in this scenario, the period may be stretched out, but we are in this article.

And the siblings are there for each individual other, encouraging each individual other’s achievements.

The 3 recalled, with fondness, their Sunday dinners in which the patriarch Chip Mason would produce his have inventive recipes. People culinary pitfalls, they explained, are what geared up them to own and operate a pizza kitchen area, bistro and Mexican restaurant.

“I guess people Sunday dinners intended much more than any of us believed,” Howard said.

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