PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston March 2021

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M ilton Townsend h a s b e g u n the new year w i t h s o m e exciting plans. A l t h o u g h last spring he suffered the devastating loss of his partner of 30 years in life and business, Jackson Hicks, founder of the famed special events and catering firm Jackson & Company, he has found solace in a plan to honor Hicks' legacy. His loss was only compounded by a challenging year of isolation, but as spring turned to summer and summer to fall, an opportunity that had long been brewing came to fruition. It all began with the gracious gourmand Jackson Hicks, dubbed the Prince of Parties, who started his entertaining firm nearly 40 years ago, creating a reputation for polished service, attention to detail, and innovative fare. He organized memorable events at the White House and Buckingham Palace, as well as fundraising galas for hundreds of charities and Fortune 500 companies. But as Hicks grew older, he contemplated selling the firm to give his loyal employees more job security. In 2003, an unlikely suitor entered: Aramark, the publicly traded hospitality company that would acquire his enterprise. The match proved a challenging acquisition. But three years ago, Townsend made a fortuitous introduction to the powers that be at Aramark that resulted in the October 2020 sale of Jackson & Company to Houston-based White Glove Productions. White Glove principals Joe Pachioli and Romain Kapadia, who also manage the Arts District space The Astorian, had long been searching for an exclusive catering company to service their venue. Partnering with Townsend also bought access as the preferred caterer at The Corinthian, the entertaining space he and Hicks helped redevelop in 2002 in the historic former First National Bank building downtown. After Hicks' death, ownership of the catering kitchen and the offices at the historic brick-front house on Hawthorne Street went to Townsend. He realized he had an opportunity to reassess those spaces and renovate the latter's interior. Both properties, which are located within feet of each other, could present a chance to one day carve out a restaurant space, too. "Our catering kitchen is busiest in the mornings. Between 2 and 4 pm, the meal prep is on its way to its catering destination, freeing up the kitchen for a potential dinner service," Townsend says. "I'd like to develop a beautiful outdoor patio in our main building with the help of decorator Richard Holley, and open a casual American bistro with great food and wine. It could be the kind of place you would stop by at 4 o'clock for a glass of wine and a charcuterie board. Later in the evening, we might serve dishes like cheese soufflé with salad, biscuits and gravy, our orange rolls — made famous at our former restaurant JAGS in the Decorative Center. We would name it Hawthorne." As for Jackson & Company catering, "My focus this year is to work with new hires and instill the standard of service and quality that made Jackson & Company's reputation," Townsend says. "We don't know what 2021 will bring, or when it will be safe for people to gather, so our focus is more intimate. We're hand-delivering treats to our customers to let them know we're here for small, socially distanced dinners at home and events to-go." Like many in the restaurant industry, Townsend and his partners are pivoting their business model to cater to the way we'll entertain and dine out in 2021 and beyond. Stay tuned for more developments on Hawthorne. BY LAURANN CLARIDGE. PHOTOGRAPH JACK THOMPSON. A HERITAGE RESTAURANT CALLED The legacy of Jackson Hicks inspires a new American bistro. HAWTHORNE Milton Townsend is ready to roll out Hawthorne. 32

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