I was born and raised in Merrillville, Indiana and moved my family to Haddam Connecticut in 2006 to join my 3 partners to create and develop Riverhouse Properties LLC and The Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station Inc. I am the managing partner for the business operations for The Riverhouse, The Society Room of Hartford and Riverhouse Catering.
For the past 27 years I have been involved in food service and hospitality. I am a graduate of Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in restaurant, hospitality and institutional management.
I started in the foodservice business at age 15 cooking breakfast at Ma’s Diner before school. I have always had a passion for the hospitality business especially catering and specifically weddings!
My experience has been gathered from several positions in the hospitality business such as General Manager of Sails Cafe restaurant on the shore of Lake Michigan and one of Indiana’s oldest private Country Clubs, Innsbrook Country Club but the majority of my experience coming from my time with White Lodging Services. I held different positions such as Banquet Manager, Director of Catering, Director of Food and Beverage, Hotel General Manager and Director of Engineering. It is also important to note that I have also worked in nearly every food service position there is, dishwasher, line cook, busboy, waiter, bartender. This was extremely important as it taught me the inner workings of the business.
During my tenure with While Lodging Service I spent the majority of my time at a 347 room Presidential Star award winning Radisson Hotel which has 35,000 square feet of banquet space and an attached 3200 seat performance Theatre, The Star Plaza. I enjoyed catering to the performers…..Don Henley, BB King, Ted Nugent, Jerry Sienfeld, Christina Aguilera to name a few. We also hosted The Miss USA pageant where our catering operations were responsible for 90% of the events for the pageant and the contestants over the course of 2 weeks. I was fortunate enough to learn how to provide service to clients with extremely high expectations. I am able to use that knowledge and provide it to our clients in our company.
I feel my greatest talent is finding exceptional people to work with. The management staff in our company, I feel, is the finest in New England. We hold ourselves to extremely high standards and it shows…….just ask our clients!
Corporate Sales Manager
In the summer of 2010 I started working at The Riverhouse as the Assistant Banquet Manager. Coming from the Saybrook Point Inn’s restaurant I was eager to learn a new side of the industry.
I studied at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida where I specialized in Hotel, Resort & Restaurant Management with a minor in Marketing. I also attended Mount Ida College in Boston Massachusetts for a degree in Business Management. With my education and experience working with the Banquet Manager, I gained knowledge of event setup, floor design, staffing and execution.
My favorite part of the wedding industry was watching the ballroom come alive. From a bare room with just tables and chairs to all the glitz and glam of each event. I get excited over linens, flower arrangements, glistening votive candles and attention to detail. Watching the bride’s face light up at her first look to the room is the best feeling. I was happy to be a part of this, knowing that we did everything to make each event special.
In the last several years at The Riverhouse I have worked as the assistant banquet manager, wedding sales manager and have recently been promoted to the General Manager. Every department has given me a different experience that has enabled my knowledge for event planning.
With over 12 years of experience, Desmond Abdul has flourished within our company. His ability to work under pressure and still provide superb quality of service is remarkable. His passion for the food industry goes beyond business. He makes it his personal duty to execute each and every detail of the client’s request. He started working as a server and gradually worked his way up until he was given the opportunity to become the Assistant Banquet Manager. With that being said, Desmond has experienced all levels of operations. Desmond’s number one goal has always been to exceed the expectations of our clients. He has been an asset to the Society Room of Hartford because of his ability to make every event an experience of a lifetime. He adds his humorous, flamboyant and charming touch to make our clients experience memorable. We are honed to have Desmond as a member of our team and look forward to continue our endeavors with him.
Wedding Sales Manager
Julie graduated in 1997 with her degree in Elementary Education and began her teaching career in Glastonbury, CT. While in High School, Julie worked in her aunt’s restaurant and it was there that she discovered her love for the Hospitality Industry! Taking on more responsibility of the day to day, Julie realized that this truly was the career for her!
The restaurant was sold in May of 1999 and Julie stayed with the new owners and met her husband who was the Owner/ Executive Chef. Several years passed and both Julie and her husband needed to make the next career step which was to own their own restaurant. They purchased a restaurant in Kennebunkport, Maine. They owned and operated the restaurant for 5 years, they sold the restaurant and moved back to CT.
Julie started working at The Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in August of 2017 as a banquet server and loved it! In December 2018, she took the position for Store Manager of Perfectly Prepared Gourmet to Go & Pond View Café. The position for Banquet Manager opened in the Spring of 2019 and Julie accepted it!
Corporate Sales Manager
Kelley Smith brings 30 years of experience in the hospitality, event and sales industry to her current position as corporate sales manager at The Society Room of Hartford.
Kelley’s career began in 1987 at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa as a sales manager in catering. In 2004 Kelley served Pfizer as a meeting consultant where she offered support to planners and participants alike for events at five-star resorts across the U.S.
In June of 2007, Riverhouse Hospitality opened its very first event venue, The Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station. Just weeks after opening, the position of corporate sales manager was created for Kelley. Due to her very impressive background in corporate, wedding and social events, Kelley was an asset from the start. Kelley’s high standard of customer service, attention to detail and natural ability to build strong relationships helped her to smoothly transition into the position of general manager, where she continued the quality of service for which The Riverhouse had become well known.
After seeing two sons off to college, Kelley took a break from the hospitality industry. Just a short time later, however, Kelley was sought out to rejoin the Riverhouse Hospitality team, this time lending her talents to The Society Room of Hartford. Here, she offers a fresh perspective and an unparalleled work ethic while mentoring co-workers and focusing on overseeing and expanding the corporate sales market.