Mar 25, 2018 - Business

Small Businessperson of the Year finalist: 5 questions with Jeff Tonidandel, CEO of Crepe Cellar LLC

Our inaugural Small Businessperson of the Year award is proudly presented by the Small Business Center at CPCC, assisting more than 2,500 startup entrepreneurs and small business owners annually through networking events, free seminars, no-cost counseling, a business resource library, and tuition-based and non-degree courses.

If it’s date night in NoDa, you’re probably heading somewhere run by Jeff Tonidandel.

He’s the guy behind Crepe Celler Kitchen and Pub (which opened in 2009) and Growler’s Pourhouse next door, which opened a year later. Both have been rousing successes — and Tonidandel is a partner in Sea Level and Flat Iron for good measure.

The Davidson grad did it again last year, as Haberdish quickly became one of the hottest restaurants in Charlotte.

That’s translated to business success, as well. Revenue more than doubled in 2017, and the restaurant group has grown to 85 employees.

All that led Tonidandel to be named the finalist for our Small Businessperson of the Year award in the Food + Beverage category.

Get to know Jeff Tonidandel better and learn from his success with these five questions. Responses have been edited for space and clarity.

What’s the first hour of your day look like?

My morning duties usually entail making breakfast for the kids and helping to get them out the door to school. Then my wife, Jamie Brown, our youngest child and I, head out on a walk to one of a number of our favorite coffee shops. We talk about our day and play with the little guy (usually Transformers) over some lattes and a steamed milk. Luckily service industry staff are not the earliest risers, so the mornings are pretty peaceful. Then I’m prepared for the important stuff to begin, like changing light bulbs and fixing toilets.

What’s the most valuable business lesson you’ve learned?

From my amazing wife, who runs our marketing, to our fastidious prep and kitchen staff, on over to our head chefs and our hosts and bartenders — all our employees at our restaurants are better at most jobs than I am.

So, I have learned to empower and trust them to do great things and provide awesome service on their own. I truly see this team as my family, and I want them to feel loved and respected — and not like they have some dude looking over their shoulder all day long. For my style of management, delegation is a win/win for all.

What’s a recent purchase of less than $100 that you love?

I guess my brand new $37,000 doughnut machine doesn’t make the cut, so I’m going to go with the Aeropress ($30) and siphon coffee ($50) makers I bought. I have gotten really into coffee this year in preparation for running a doughnut shop and even ventured to Counter Culture’s training center in Asheville for a day-long coffee immersion class. I love diving in hard on topics — learning and exploring — and these tools have helped me do that.

What’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?

Chad Robertson’s bread-baking book, “Tartine,” is a favorite read of mine. While I’ve had it for a few years, I just read it again to learn more about his magical trade in the hopes of making some truly magnificent bread in this city someday.

What other small businessperson do you admire?

I’m not sure he is a small business person anymore, but Danny Meyer — the New York restaurateur — is an incredible role model for me. And he probably would be for anyone in the service industry. His commitment to a truly caring type of hospitality has changed our industry for the better.

Photos by Lauren Rosenau Photography 


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