Michael Zislis, Owner & CEO
Michael Zislis --serial entrepreneur-restaurateur-hotelier and philanthropist-- captures the essence of Southern California's Beach Cities with his well-known and highly successful establishments.
A native of Palos Verdes and current resident of Manhattan Beach, California, Michael was an enterprising fellow at a young age. Only 13 when he brewed his first beer for a school science experiment, he became a Master Brewer by the time he was an Economics major at the University of Southern California. Possessing an insatiable entrepreneurial spirit, Michael opened a brewery fabrication company and started building brew pubs all over the world, parlaying that experience into running his own extraordinary restaurants, which today include Brewco, numerous Rock & Brews, Rock'n Fish and The Strand House.
Continuing on the entrepreneurial path, in 2004, Zislis segued into the hotel business and opened Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach. Listed as Conde Nast Traveler's #6 reason to visit Los Angeles, the wildly successful luxury boutique hotel also landed on the prestigious publication's Hot List for 2007, one of only 19 U.S. properties named. Now that winning concept of an intimate, beach chic, boutique hotel will be repeated at another location a few miles down the coast. Shade Hotel Redondo Beach is near completion, slated to open in August 2016 and is a cornerstone in Redondo's waterfront revitalization project.
Given his love of wine and the wine country, it's no surprise that Michael and his wife Andrea are also partners in a winery, collaborating in 2014 with Comstock Winery in Dry Creek, Sonoma County, California. They opened the winery's door this summer, and Comstock will no doubt grow into yet another expression of excellence in pursuit of a person Zislis passion.
While Zislis is known in the South Bay for his tremendous success as a businessman, he is also known as a committed and generous philanthropist and family man. He sits on the Foundation Board of Directors for Torrance Memorial Medical Center, and along with Andrea, is an avid supporter of numerous educational and children's charities, as well as the local, sustainable and organic food movement. With all this activity, Michael still finds time for the most important things in his life: quality time and travel with his wife and their six children.
Shaunna Hatcher, Vice President of Operations
A Manhattan Beach native, Shaunna started her career in hospitality managing nightclubs in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, but she couldn't stay away long. In 2003 she moved back to Southern California to attend UCLA. Shaunna joined the Shade Hotel events team in 2007, was promoted to Food & Beverage Director and then General Manager in 2013. Shaunna is now the VP of Operations for all Zislis Group properties. "Hospitality allows me to take care of people-both guests and my team- for a living. Taking care of others and being of service is the ultimate 'Career' because the more you give, the more you receive. It's the ultimate 'win-win'. When Shaunna is not working, you can find her exercising and meditating on the beach. Her favorite Zislis Group dish is the Ciopinno at Rock'n Fish, with any Strand House dessert to finish!
Fun Fact: Shaunna used to ride a motorcycle
Jenna Ritter, Director of Marketing
Born and raised in the US Virgin Islands, Jenna's passion for hospitality started at a young age. She grew up helping her mom host dinner parties and worked her way through high school and college hosting, waiting tables, catering and working behind the bar at a wine tasting room.
After she graduated from University of Oregon in Journalism & Communications, Jenna started her career in advertising at Saatchi and Saatchi Los Angeles, launching several successful vehicle and Super Bowl campaigns for Toyota Motor Sales. Most recently Jenna worked for TBWA\Media Arts Lab on Apple's creative work as well as a non-profit client, Conservation International. Jenna is thrilled to combine her passion for hospitality and her skills in marketing to help promote all of the Zislis brands. A beach girl through and through Jenna's passions include traveling, cooking, surfing, hiking & wine tasting. Jenna loves all of the Zislis Group properties, but her favorite dish is the Blackened Ahi Skinny Tacos from BrewCo.
Fun Fact: Jenna could swim before she could walk
Tracy Pesic, Human Resources Director
Tracy has been working in the restaurant business since she was 18. She joined the Zislis Group family at Shade as a cocktail server while she was in school at Cal State Dominguez studying Human Resources. During this time, she transitioned to Human Resources, and as Michael started opening new restaurants, she helped to create Zislis Group.
Tracy's passion for Human Resources comes from being able to understand employees' needs and how her team can make them happy at work. "I love being a part of making our company the best it can be for our employees," Tracy says. She is grateful to work for such a family oriented company that recognizes the importance of a work/life balance. Tracy's favorite Zislis Group dish is the Kapalua Rib Eye and Blackened Salmon Penne Pesto from Rock'n Fish.
Fun Fact: Tracy accidentally has Irish Twins
Kevin Kruft, Vice President of Finance
As Vice President of Finance of Zislis Group, Kevin is responsible for overseeing all finance and accounting operations. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor's degree in Finance, Kevin got his start at Rock & Brews as a bus boy to make ends meet while searching for a job in the financial sector. Between the food, beer and culture of Rock & Brews, Kevin never took the corporate finance job and quickly rose through the ranks from busser to server to bartender to manager. During the remodel of the original Rock & Brews in El Segundo, CA, Kevin joined Zislis Group as a temporary staff accountant. From there Kevin moved back to the restaurants as General Manager of Brewco. He eventually came back to Zislis Group as Corporate Controller and eventually Vice President of Finance, a position he now holds with Zislis Group and Rock & Brews. Kevin has been able to pair his restaurant operation background with his financial knowledge to help lead Zislis Group into its vast expansion. His rise from bus boy to Vice President is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit that is Zislis Group.
Kevin says: "The politician in me wants to say that I love all Zislis Group dishes, but man, I really do love the Asian Wings at Rock & Brews. Pair those with an ice cold IPA in the El Segundo beer garden on a beautiful day and there may not be much else better in life."
Fun Fact: Kevin shares an office with his older sister (who's also on this page)…. Guess who!?
Katie Kruft Richardson, Director of Culture
Katie has been with Zislis Group for 11 years. She was hired as Shade's opening Rooms Division Manager, was promoted to General Manager, and finally conquered all by becoming Executive Vice President of Zislis Group. After having her adorable daughter, Indiana (named after Indiana Jones), Katie scored her dream part-time gig as Zisils Group's Culture Director. Katie's responsibility is to find and hire the most amazing people possible, ensure they're impeccably trained, and maintain an amazing work environment so they want to stay at Zislis Group forever. Katie is extremely passionate about hospitality, and loves nothing more than to inspire others to provide genuine hospitality to their guests and each other. She has conducted her famous Hospitality Training over 50 times and is still completely over-the-moon excited about it. Katie has her Masters degree in Spiritual Psychology and is a certified Professional Coach. In her free time, Katie loves eating, traveling, decorating, entertaining, dancing, and eating. Katie's favorite dish is The Kale Salad at The Strand House. Yes, it's that good. Especially if you order the donuts for dessert afterwards.
Fun Fact: Due to her introspective nature, Katie's work nickname is 'Kruftologist'
Gabriela Herrera, Corporate Controller
Gaby graduated in Finance & Economics from Cal State Los Angeles in 2005. She started her career in hospitality as a Front Desk Agent at the Four Points by Sheraton before moving on to the Accounting Department for Marriot. In 2006 Gaby joined the Shade Hotel family as an assistant Controller and is now the Corporate Controller for all of the Zislis Group properties. When Gaby is not balancing our books, she loves spending time with her two young girls, especially in the kitchen together making dinner! Gaby loves the Paella from zinc@shade.
Fun Fact: Gaby was born and raised in Guatemala!
Kerry Fechter, Executive Assistant
Kerry started working in the hospitality industry at the Jersey Shore when she was 14. She knew she wanted to return to the west coast and attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for Hospitality Management. While and after graduating, she worked for a small luxury inn and fine dining restaurant, The Cass House, but had her sights set on something bigger and moved to Los Angeles in 2014. Through a series of fateful events she wound up working in our office and now supports our owner Michael Zislis. She also keeps our entire office running smoothly. When Kerry is not at work, she enjoys playing tennis, swimming, hiking, cooking and eating. Some of her favorite things include flowers, nature and the beach. Her favorite Zislis Group dish is the zinc chopped salad.
Fun Fact: Kerry makes homemade pizza on the regular. Sauce and all!