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A New Era Dawns

Mick Corduff

Mick Corduff


Mick Corduff calls it his “research and development time.”

It comes early in the year, when things are slower in the hospitality sector. It’s a time to reflect, drill down on what happened the year before, and ramp up the planning for the year ahead.

“I look back and measure all that was good and all that wasn’t good,” he said. “Menus that worked and didn’t work, staffing and structures that worked, management positions that worked and didn’t work; we always try hard to raise the bar.”

This year, research and development time is more than a little bit different … because last year, there were a few distractions, as he put it.

Indeed, 2023 saw a long partnership — more than two decades — between Corduff and Peter Rosskothen come to an end when Rosskothen sold his shares in the company that owns the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House, the Delaney House restaurant and D. Hotel Suites & Spa to Corduff and his new business partner, Frank DeMarinis.

The end to the business relationship, which had been talked about for several years and then finalized over the course of 2023, came in late September, ushering a new era for a group of businesses that comprise one of the pillars of the region’s hospitality sector, and for which Rosskothen had long been the face.

“The past four months have definitely been very hectic, but I like to think that I’ve handled pressure well over the years. It’s something that a chef has to do.”

Corduff now becomes the new face, moving from what was mostly, but not entirely, back-of-the-house operations to back and front of the house, although he’s taking steps to delegate some of his many responsibilities to other managers.

For now, and for the foreseeable future, he has a lot on his plate — literally and figuratively. There are the day-to-day operations and coping with challenges ranging from the still-rising cost of food to an ongoing workforce crisis to meeting the many needs of today’s marrying couples. He’s also overseeing the return of Sunday brunch at the Delaney House, planning for the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parade events and a ‘sister-city’ trip to Ireland later this year, and advancing some ambitious plans for the future. While doing all that, he’ll spend some time in the kitchen cooking as well.

In a candid conversation with BusinessWest about all of the above, and especially the many responsibilities he now handles, Corduff said he brings to his new and expanded role what he calls a chef’s mentality.

Sunday brunch at the Delaney House

The return of Sunday brunch at the Delaney House has been just one item on the plate for the new ownership team.

“The past four months have definitely been very hectic, but I like to think that I’ve handled pressure well over the years,” he noted. “It’s something that a chef has to do. What I’ve learned in my years of experience in the back of the house — and in the front of the house as well, especially over the past four or five years — is the importance of keeping a level head and just knowing that, at the end of the day, we’re dealing with people, whether it’s waitstaff or a contact for the bride and groom; they’re people, and you want to treat them with respect.

“I learned a lot from Peter over the years — we always worked in tandem,” he went on. “We always talked about the best way to handle things and put our best foot forward and maintain the integrity of the business. We always had the same message — excellence is what we’re all about, and we try to promote that across the board.”

As for those plans for the future, they are, indeed, ambitious, and include a possible new hotel and restaurant to be built on a portion of the upper parking lot at the Log Cabin.

“We’re dreamers — that’s what entrepreneurs are,” Corduff said. “And we have some dreams that we want to make reality.”


Food for Thought

As he talked with BusinessWest at 10 a.m. on a recent Tuesday morning, Corduff had his chef’s coat on, one announcing him as ‘chef owner.’

He wasn’t doing any cooking at that moment, nor was he planning to do any soon, but the chef’s coat was still the attire of choice. To paraphrase Bill Belichick, it is who he is.

“I don’t think I’ll ever the leave the kitchen — I love what I do,” he said, adding that he has a few business suits … somewhere. He had more years ago, when he served as front-of-house manager at the Log Cabin and wore one every day. But he ruined some of them of them when wandering back to the kitchen, where he feels most at home, and getting food stains on them.

“We’re known in the community as a quality product, and we aim hard to maintain that standard.”

Ever since, the chef’s coat has been the uniform, if you will, and Corduff wears it everywhere and for everything, from planning for the Big E (the group has a huge presence there) to meeting with the media, an assignment that mostly fell to Rosskothen years ago, although Corduff did it, too; from reviewing accounts payable to doing long-range planning.

These are now mostly, if not entrely, Corduff’s purview, and it’s a change, that, as noted, has been years in the making.

That’s how long the two partners talked about Rosskothen moving on and focusing his time and energies on one of their latest entrepreneurial ventures — Delaney’s Market, which now has four locations across the region — with Corduff taking the lead at three Holyoke establishments: the Log Cabin as well as the Delaney House restaurant and the adjoining D. Hotel Suites & Spa.

The main ballroom at the Log Cabin

The main ballroom at the Log Cabin, one of several properties in the group now owned and managed by Mick Corduff and Frank DeMarinis.

He’s doing so with new partner DeMarinis, president of Sage Engineering and Contracting Inc. in Westfield and a local developer, builder, owner, and manager of more than 25 commercial real-estate properties in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He is also the founder and owner of Roots Sports complexes in Westfield and East Longmeadow, as well as Roots Learning Center in East Longmeadow.

For Corduff, this is the intriguing next chapter in a story that began when he came to this country from Ireland in 1989, working first as a banquet chef at the Marriott in Springfield and later as a member of its quality-management team.

Eventually, he started doing some catering on his own and began looking at getting into business for himelf. While pursuing those dreams, he also interviewed to be head chef at Twin Hills Country Club. The interview was with Larry Perrault, who was at that time finalizing plans to join Rosskothen in a venture to reimagine the old Log Cabin restaurant property, in the shadow of Mount Tom, into a banquet facility.

They went to lunch at Friendly’s, where the discussion wasn’t about Twin Hills, but about the Log Cabin.

“I met Larry, I met Peter, we walked around the old Log Cabin, whipped out the drawings, and started our dream,” he said. “The rest is history.”

More than a quarter-century of colorful history, in fact, involving change, evolution, expansion (the Delaney House, then the the hotel, then Delaney’s Market), innovation, and overcoming challenges that ranged from the Great Recession to the pandemic. Over the course of that time, Corduff moved from chef to partner when the relationship with Perrault dissolved — a partnership that lasted 20 years.

The buyout came in late September, one of the busiest times for this group of businesses, leaving Corduff “without much time to stop and think,” he said — something he’s able to do now. Early on, he’s spent considerable time and energy reassuring the large staff that the business is stable and ready to maintain its standing as a market leader.

“A lot of what I do now, mapping out the year and planning out the seasons that are coming, is making sure that we have the right people in the right places, making sure everyone’s ready to do whatever it takes and trained in the art of war and the art of optimization.”

Moving forward, in the role of chief operator and executive chef, he will work in partnership with DeMarinis, who will focus on the construction and infrastructure sides of the equation, while Corduff will be handling day-to-day operations.

While doing so, his primary mission is to maintain the group’s reputation for quality — at all levels of its operation, from weddings, which are perhaps its hallmark, to a Friday-night dinner at the Delaney House, to a weekend stay at the hotel, now managed by Corduff’s wife, Dana.

“We’re known in the community as a quality product, and we aim hard to maintain that standard,” he said. “We have to adapt because the business is constantly changing and evolving.”


More Growth on the Menu

Looking back on the past 25 years or so, Corduff said that, for much of that time, he was back-of-the-house and more behind the scenes than the colorful, always-quotable Rosskothen. But later on, he started becoming more visible, and people could put a face with a name.

Or a voice with a name.

Indeed, Corduff was prominent in radio spots for the Log Cabin and Delaney House, specifically their steaks, made famous by the word ‘marbling,’ which Corduff would pronounce slowly for added effect. Later, he became more known through the opening of the Mick, a tavern of sorts within the Delaney House providing casual dining and live music.

With the change in ownership consumated last fall, he now assumes more responsibilities, especially in the big-picture planning for the future.

“My managers know that I will run into the hottest fire,” he told BusinessWest. “So whoever needs me, I’m there. And a lot of what I do now, mapping out the year and planning out the seasons that are coming, is making sure that we have the right people in the right places, making sure everyone’s ready to do whatever it takes and trained in the art of war and the art of optimization.

“In the catering world, you can be doing a wedding in a tent under a tree out in the woods, no power, no water, so we have to plan it all out,” he went on, using that example as metaphor for business in general and the need to be ready for anything.

And, as noted earlier, the two partners are entrepreneurial, intent on expanding this business group and making more changes.

One ongoing project is to essentially separate the front (lower) parking lot at the Log Cabin from the rest of the property, with the intention of it becoming home to a Dunkin’ Donuts and the fifth Delaney’s Market, an operation that will be Rosskothen’s domain as part of the buyout agreement.

The larger and more ambitious plan, however, calls for redevelopent of the upper parking lot.

“The vision is to build a hotel in the upper lot,” Corduff said, adding that DeMarinis, the engineer, is developing plans to move dirt and create more space to park cars in that area while also identifying a footprint for a hotel and acompanying restaurant. The hotel would be a smaller, boutique facility, similar to the D. Hotel at the Delaney House, with maybe 60 to 80 rooms.

“We really want to bring to it some of the Log Cabin character, some of the New England character, with some of our own touches,” he said, adding that a rooftop restaurant, one with dramatic views down the mountain, is also within the plan, one that will likely take shape over the next three to four years.

As he talked with BusinessWest, Corduff recalled what he called a “sendoff” for Rosskothen the night before at the the Mick. It was an occasion to mark the end of an era, the end of a business relationship, and the start of the next chapter.

“It was a kind of a thank you and sendoff, and it was cool to see,” he said. “We had some staff that don’t work here anymore that came to say ‘hi’ and ‘bye.’ There was a lot of gratitude in the room last night; there’s been a lot of years of hard work together.”

And many more to come, Corduff added, noting that, with the passage of one era, another has begun. And as it does, he will certainly fall back on that chef’s mentality (not to mention the chef’s coat) he mentioned earlier.

And that means keeping a level head and always treating people with respect.


Daily News

HOLYOKE — Michael “Mick” Corduff announced that he is stepping into the role of chief operator and executive chef of the Log Cabin, Delaney House, and D. Hotel & Spa, all in Holyoke. He is replacing Peter Rosskothen, who has sold all his shares in the company to Corduff and his new business partner, Frank DeMarinis.

“I am very excited to lead our amazing team, a team that has the best proven hospitality track record in the market,” said Corduff, who is also excited about the opportunity to work with his wife, Dana Corduff, who is joining the D. Hotel management.

Both Peter and Linda Rosskothen will step down from their day-to-day activities within the company. The business focus for Peter will be Delaney’s Market, an independent company with stores in South Hadley, Westfield, Longmeadow, and Wilbraham.

“Both Linda and I have lived an unbelievable dream with this great group of employees and this amazing business, but the time has come to let it flourish further without us,” Rosskothen said. “We consider Mick a brother, and we know that, under his management, the business will only get better.”

Linda and Peter Rosskothen will stay involved in supporting Mick and Dana Corduff, as well as their new partner, in any way needed.

DeMarinis is the president of Sage Engineering & Contracting Inc. in Westfield, and is a local developer, builder, owner, and manager of more than 25 commercial real-estate properties in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He is also the founder and owner of Roots Sports complexes in Westfield and East Longmeadow and Roots Learning Centers.

Corduff and DeMarinis plan to combine their skills to develop and grow the business to new locations.

“Our hotel and spa, restaurant, and event venue are uniquely positioned to continue benefiting from each other, synergies that no other locally owned and run company has in the area,” Corduff said. “I am proud of our brilliant team and look forward to further growing with them.”

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Episode 38: Nov. 9, 2020

George Interviews Peter Rosskothen, owner of the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House

Peter Rosskothen

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien talks with Peter Rosskothen, owner of the Log Cabin Banquet & Meeting House and other hospitality-related businesses. The two discuss the state of the local events industry, the new restrictions imposed by the state, and how this vital sector of the economy is pivoting and looking for new and viable sources of revenue in these difficult times. It’s must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk.

Also Available On

Daily News

SOUTH HADLEY — This is the final week for the COVID-19 pandemic food pickup taking place at Curran and O’Brien Funeral Home. Orders for the final week are being accepted until 2 p.m. today, June 3. Visit www.facebook.com/beth.w.dowd to place an order.

For the past five weeks, local South Hadley resident Beth Dowd has worked with the Delaney House restaurant coordinating individual meal pickups for the South Hadley community out of the Curran and O’Brien Funeral Home parking lot.

“I had been ordering meals through the Hadley pickup set up by RuthAnn Fitzgibbons, and she encouraged me to set up a South Hadley location because of the demand she was seeing for the South Hadley area,” Dowd said.

Much of the South Hadley community has taken advantage of this discounted meal opportunity, purchasing individual meals that are easy to reheat at a discounted rate of $5, she added. “Our first week, we had 125 meals ordered. Now we have grown to over 400 meals purchased each week.”

For many, this has been an opportunity to give back. Thanks to the generosity of the South Hadley community, monetary donations have been made to the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Food Pantry, and meal donations have been made to the South Hadley Police Department and Fire Post #1 and Fire Post #2 for the South Hadley Fire Department. Since Dowd continues to work full time from home, she enlisted the help of her family, especially her daughter, who is finishing up college, and her husband.

“I could not have done this without the help of my daughter and husband,” Dowd said. “My daughter is home from college and was able to treat this almost like an internship. It gave her some great work experience.”

Daily News

HOLYOKE — Many people and organizations are looking for ways to help others during this trying time. In that spirit, the Delaney House and Log Cabin have created the “Feed a Local Hero/Someone in Need” meal-donation program. People can purchase meals at a discounted rate, which will then be distributed to local businesses with essential employees or community members struggling to gain access to fresh food during this difficult time.

Some of the organizations that will receive these donations are Baystate Health System, Providence Ministries (Loreto House), Amherst Survival Center, Mercy Medical Center, Springfield first responders, Holyoke first responders, and many others.

To donate, visit www.delaneyhouse.com/feedalocalhero.


Strength in Numbers

Sue Tansey, co-owner, with her husband, Mark, of Partners in Agawam and the Cup in West Springfield

Bill Collins says he was bought to tears by the edict from the governor that banned people from dining inside restaurants across the state — and he certainly wasn’t the only one within this sector to have such a moment.

“There is nothing about this that’s not going hurt — I mean really hurt,” said Collins, owner of Center Square Grill in East Longmeadow and HighBrow in Northampton, referring to everything from the ban on indoor seating to the inability of serve alcohol, a huge profit center for most all restaurants. “This is heartbreaking, but I usually don’t cry in my restaurant.”

But not long after reacting emotionally, Collins summoned some internal strength and determination to try to do what every business in this region — and, indeed, across the country — is trying to do: get to the proverbial ‘other side’ of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It won’t be easy, but Collins and other restaurateurs are responding with equal doses of grit and imagination, with initiatives ranging from a gift-card sales effort called Strength in Numbers (more on that in a minute) to Collins’ plans to essentially bring the restaurant experience into one’s home at a time when they can’t actually go to a restaurant.

“We’re putting together packages now for parties of two to 10 — $75 per person that would include a chef, a server, the food, and have us come over,” he explained. “We’ll try to create some of that restaurant feel.”

In many ways, the restaurant business, and the larger hospitality sector, is the tip of the spear with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. The results are immediate, and so are the emotions, the responses — from layoffs and closures of some establishments to creation of new revenue generators — and optimism, which is hard to come by in these unprecedented times, but it’s still there.

The immediate response taken by most restaurants was to adjust staffing as necessary, lock up the alcohol, clean and sanitize their businesses, and then figure out what to do next, which in most cases means finding ways to offer takeout and curbside service. For many, the painful layoffs have begun, and the cuts are deep.

“We’re putting together packages now for parties of two to 10 — $75 per person that would include a chef, a server, the food, and have us come over. We’ll try to create some of that restaurant feel.”

“The word ‘layoffs’ was very moving for me — in the 55 years we’re been in business, we’ve never had to deploy that terminology or even exercise the notion of laying off our most valuable asset — our employees,” said Andy Yee, a principal with the Bean Group, which operates a number of restaurants across the area, including the Student Prince in Springfield and Johnny’s Tavern in South Hadley, noting that the company had to let more than 350 employees go. “It was very painful for my family and I to go ahead and lay off the majority of our workforce because of this horrific turn of events. Nonetheless, when there’s no revenue coming in, there’s no other choice but to exercise that dreaded word.”

Sue Tansey, co-owner, with her husband, Mark, of Partners in Agawam and the Cup in West Springfield, said the company, which focuses on breakfast, lunch, and catering, is seeing all aspects of its business impacted, with the catering all but wiped out. The Cup has been closed, while Partners will carry on with carry-out, curbside delivery, and online ordering.

“We’re trying to utilize as few employees as possible,” she said, adding that, nonetheless, the company is trying to preserve as many jobs as it can while also provide services to a public that is often challenged to cook.

With this is mind, the company will expand its offerings to what Tansey calls “family meals” — takeout offerings that include soups, chicken parm, turkey, and, for St. Patrick’s Day, corned beef and cabbage — and also extend its hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (previously, it was open 7 to 2).

Collins, who has closed HighBrow, said he’s trying to find ways to keep as many of his employees at Center Square Grill (95 of them by his estimate) working, even  if it’s part-time.

“We’re going to take the opportunity over the next three weeks to do some deferred maintenance, cleaning, and painting, and we’re going to offer that out to people,” he explained. “If the response is more than the workload, we’ll at least give people part-time shifts. My goal is to support all 95 people, in one shape or form, through this.”

Local and state governments are supporting local restaurateurs in other ways. For example, Massachusetts will postpone the collection of taxes to provide relief to the state’s restaurant and hospitality sectors by delaying the collection of sales tax, meals tax, and room-occupancy taxes, while also waiving all penalties and interest. Meanwhile, the city of Springfield has introduced an initiative called Prime the Pump, offering $222,679 in grants, up to a maximum of $15,000 for qualified restaurants.

“While the small-business support being advanced by the federal and state government is beneficial, it is clear to me that more creative and flexible financial lifelines need to be established for the small businesses, especially restaurants which have disproportionately felt the economic impact resulting from the coronavirus mitigation measures designed to protect us all,” said Tim Sheehan, the city’s chief Development officer.

Still, restaurants are finding ways to stay nimble in response to the crisis. While most had some form of takeout and delivery services, they now find themselves ramping up those efforts, many with curbside service that will enable customers to pick up dinner without going into the restaurant or even getting out of the car.

Overall, things got off to a somewhat slow start with such initiatives, said Yee, who theorized that this results from people having crammed freezers and refrigerators as a result of panic buying, and a desire to eat what they have.

He predicts — and really hopes — that, over time, people will want to get back in the habit of eating out — even if it’s still in their own home.

“This is old terminology, but people are loaded for bear — their refrigerators are chock full,” said Yee. “That first night, it was pretty much crickets when it came to people thinking about getting takeout. I think that’s going to change in time; people will say, ‘I’m tired of sitting home eating spaghetti and meatballs — I want a pizza,’ or ‘I want sushi.’”

Peter Rosskothen, co-owner of the Delaney House in Holyoke and several Delaney’s Market facilities where consumers can buy prepared meals, said that, after careful consideration, he decided the Delaney House was not well-suited to takeout and delivery, so efforts are being focused on the markets.

And at those locations, business has been “steady,” he said, echoing those thoughts about people eating what’s in their own freezers at the moment.

“We’re not going crazy, but we’re not slow, either,” he explained, adding that those facilities also do delivery, and if anything, he’s worried about being able to keep up if demand for that service increases dramatically. If it does, that will be a good problem to have at a time when people in this sector could use one.

But despite their lives and businesses being turned upside down, restaurateurs, at least the ones we spoke with, are trying to remain positive and look for opportunities to succeed both now and when they get to that other side.

“I think we’re all in the same boat; we’re just getting hit first,” Rosskothen said, referring to the broad hospitality sector. “Only time will tell. The best we can do is utilize our smartness and fight through this as much as we can. We’re a very resilient country; we’ll come out of this, and something good will come out of this — I’m convinced of that. We might be struggling a little bit, but something good will come out of this.”

Collins also chose to find a bright side to all this.

“This is opportunity … everybody has to stay positive and say, ‘how am I going to come out of this?’” he told BusinessWest. “Maybe it’s with a new and exciting menu and a cleaner restaurant that’s in better shape than it’s ever been. People can give careful thought to promotion and how to operate on the other side, and also charge their batteries. A lot of people burn out in the restaurant business — so take a break, collect your thoughts, and kick some ass on the other side.”

Meanwhile, many are already seeing some good in the form of the support they’re receiving from loyal patrons who want to help see them through these incredibly difficult times.

“We have a loyal following, and there are people out there supporting our initiatives,” said Yee. “I received a couple of texts last night … people saying, ‘I’m here, I got some takeout, I’m here to support,’ and they send along a picture of them with their takeout bag.”

And though they’re competitors, many of these restaurant owners are also collaborating, especially with the Strength in Numbers initiative.

It will run for three days later this month — March 28-30 — and incentivizes consumers to help restaurant owners by including a $20 gift voucher with each $100 gift card purchased.

The list of participating restaurants continues to grow, and includes the Fort and Student Prince, Johnny’s Tavern, Johnny’s Tap Room, Johnny’s Roadside Diner, the Halfway House, Union Kitchen, McLadden’s, Johnny’s Bar and Grille, IYA Sushi, the Boathouse, Wurst Haus, Copper House Tavern, the Delaney House, Delaney’s Market, the Mick, Center Square Grill, HighBrow, Spoleto, Mama Iguana’s, bNapoli, Lattitude, the Meeting House, the Federal, and others.