In The Kitchen With The Moonhanger Group

In order to discuss the current revitalization efforts of downtown Macon’s young business class and to clearly understand the pulse, energy and creativity that is energizing and exciting locals and tourists alike, we have to take a closer look at the Moonhanger Group and its mission and vision of our community.

Formed in 2009, the Moonhanger Group began as a modest venture between two buddies to breathe new life into the Rookery, a spot that held both nostalgic and strategic value to the new partners.  Wes Griffith and Chad Evans, old friends with a love of music and literature and values in family and community, put together a plan to purchase and renovate a cornerstone downtown bar and grill and began on a journey that has changed the landscape of downtown Macon.

So, they really did breathe new life into the Rookery.  A whole lot.  Then there was Dovetail, a thoughtfully crafted second level space above the Rookery that demonstrates the companies commitment to locally sourcing as much as they can imagine.  Then, the boys put their resources into the historic Capitol Theatre, a room that in recent history has been untameable.  And they have tamed that beast, and now it is a very active regional draw with sellouts becoming the norm around Second St.  Wes and Chad then resurrected the H and H Soul Food under the guidance of the very storied Momma Louise.  And that place is seeing it’s best days ever.  Oh, and they dropped a taco joint next to the Capitol.  The beast needed some reinforcement, I guess.

In order to get a better grasp of how all this happened, we sat down with Chad Evans, Micheal Dean and Katelin Yates to discuss the Moonhanger Group, what that means, and how it works.  Here is a little glimpse into what we learned.

The Moonhanger Group has a mission statement, and it’s posted in every dining room and kitchen in the company.  They use it daily at huddles and in meetings as a constitution for their behavior and to help guide decision making, and it is referred to in coaching and learning moments to inspire and direct.  Look for it the next time you’re on a Moonhanger property.

After spending 30 minutes with these guys and watching them interact in their environment, the smoothness and warmth of their conversation and the way they work together illustrates a very happy and healthy work culture, which surely has to be one of the secrets to their success.  They refer to themselves loosely as “the Good Shepherds”, which seems to be a colorful term for something resembling a board member or management team.  The three of these guys, along with Wes, meet daily to discuss operations, culture, and to continually beg and vet ideas and visions with each other.  Everyone seems to have equal footing in these discussions.  And you can tell these guys love each.

Other observations.  It seems Chad has been spending a lot of time in an RV lately, and Michael informed me that he was the poet and singer “Hank Vegas”. Chad grins and humbly agrees that there are some new tour dates pending.  Michael Dean is planning the opening of a small grocery or market, call the Bodega, located right next door to the El Camino, another Moonhanger property,  on Second St. Katelin is a smartly dressed young transplant from Memphis who seems to keep the guys together.

The word culture comes up continually in the conversation, and Chad apologizes but explains that conceptually, the emphasis is like a famer’s attention to soil.  Culture is not something that they aim to get to someday when things slow down for them, but a topic with which they are committed to starting each day.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, said Chad.  Not getting the proper emphasis on real human values and enjoying the good work while you do it is not a regret we’re gonna have around here.  Doing good work well is written into the DNA of the Moonhanger Group.