In early 2013, when Seattle Fish Co. president James Iacino, Matt Selby (now the exec chef of Central Bistro & Bar) and then-partner Scott Kinsey unveiled the Corner House in Jefferson Park, a neighborhood that's slowly turning into a restaurant hamlet, Iacino, who, at the time, lived in a loft above the Corner House, envisioned a restaurant that would give Jefferson Park residents a place to gather among friends. "We really want this to be a community-driven space that responds to the needs of the neighborhood," said Iacino when I interviewed him in January of that year. But on Saturday night, Corner House shuttered.
Leigh Sullivan, the founder of FIVE and Leigh Sullivan Enterprises, a company that does marketing and branding for local food-and-beverage-related companies, became a co-owner of Corner House in November of 2013 after she and her team were originally hired by Iacino to consult on everything from hiring and training staff to building the bar program. "I loved the Corner House, and I really believed that with our leadership and really talented staff that we could turn it around -- plus, I missed being in the restaurant business -- so I became an owner, but the reality is that I was an absentee owner, and the numbers just weren't where we wanted them to be," explains Sullivan.
Selby, who parted ways with Corner House in November, was replaced by chef Sharif Villa Cruz; and Gordon Cresswell, formerly of TAG and Harman's Eat & Drink, was hired as the general manager. "Sharif and Gordon are badasses, and make no mistake: They did a fantastic job, especially considering the inherited a lot of baggage that needed to be fixed," says Sullivan, noting that both employees "have been fairly taken care of with a severance package."
Ultimately, adds Sullivan, "we all wanted to simplify the service and the menu and make it more affordable and neighborly, and we threw everything we had into -- and behind -- it, but it just didn't work." And while she calls the shuttering of Corner House "bittersweet," she admits that her priorities are to her family. "It turns out that I really look forward to coming home to my amazing kid and husband every night, which is hard to do when you're running the day-to-day operations of a restaurant," she admits.
Still, the initial plan, reveals Sullivan, was to close Corner House, re-brand it and open it as an entirely new concept, but "divine intervention," she says, encouraged her to reconsider. "I had a meeting with management to talk about doing a new concept, and the next day, while I was meeting with a local chef about something entirely different, he asked me if I knew of a good restaurant broker, and when I asked him what he was looking for, I knew I had the perfect place," says Sullivan. That chef, who is still under wraps, toured the space, loved what he saw and is currently in the process of taking over Corner House.
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"Without giving too much away, I can say that it's an up-and-coming chef with an incredible amount of talent, and I'm super-excited to see this guy fulfill his dreams," says Sullivan. "I'm excited for the neighborhood, I'm excited for him, and he said that he would do our beautiful restaurant proud, and I truly believe that," she concludes.