Michael Zislis, Owner
Serial entrepreneur, restaurateur, hotelier and philanthropist, Michael Zislis has captivated consumers with his wide-ranging portfolio of well-loved and highly successful hotel and restaurant concepts.
It all started with a fascination for beer. Michael brewed his first beer for a school science experiment when he was 13 years old. By the time he was a student at USC, he was a master brewer. In the late 80's, Zislis opened his own brewery, one of the first in California, Manhattan Beach Brewing Company. Subsequently, he has helped open more than 140 breweries worldwide.
Michael launched his first full service restaurant concept - Rock'N Fish, a seafood and steak house in Manhattan Beach in 2000. In 2009, he opened a second Rock'N Fish restaurant at L.A. Live located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.
Adding hotelier to his many titles, in 2004 Michael transformed an urban revitalization project in Manhattan Beach into the area's first and only luxury boutique hotel, Shade. The hotel has received many accolades, including a place on Condé Nast Traveler's Hot List, in addition to being the magazine's #6 reason to visit Los Angeles. Shade was also named one of the top 25 trendiest hotels in the U.S. by TripAdvisor. In October 2016, Michael expanded his hotel brand, opening the second Shade Hotel on the water's edge at King Harbor in Redondo Beach. This project is considered a cornerstone in the City of Redondo Beach's waterfront revitalization project and has already been awarded recognition as the best hotel in Redondo Beach by the media.
In 2011, Michael opened The Strand House, a highly acclaimed restaurant featuring farm fresh fine dining in an environment that is reminiscent of an elegant yet welcoming oceanfront beach house, complete with stunning ocean views. The Strand House is also home to the Culinary Masters Series, which is an ongoing series of dinners that welcomes celebrated chefs from around the world into the restaurant's kitchen for one night, bringing their signature cuisine to the South Bay.
In what could be considered a "perfect storm", Michael's love of great food, craft beer and rock & roll collided in 2012, when he became a co-founder and one of the visionaries behind the rapidly expanding Rock & Brews restaurant and entertainment brand. The one-of-a-kind, family-friendly, rock-inspired concept, features quality American comfort food and local favorites, a broad selection of craft and international beers, and an energized, rock-inspired environment. Today, there are more than 20 restaurants, including freestanding, airport, arena/stadium, and casino locations.
Michael's greatest passion lies in his philanthropic endeavors. Each year he enthusiastically helps raise significant funds and awareness for health, education and environmental causes and serves on the foundation board of Torrance Memorial Medical Center. He is an active supporter of causes and organizations such as Walk with Sally, Growing Great, and several education foundations.
"Success means nothing if it is not shared with others who are less fortunate," says Michael. "I am grateful that my successes have afforded me the opportunity to do so."
Shaunna Hatcher, Senior 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
Bill Matthews, Vice President of Operations
Bill was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona by his grandparents, where he later studied Business and Marketing at Arizona State University. Bill started out as a dishwasher when he was 15, and worked his way up through the ranks. He's run everything from intimate luxury properties like Las Casuelas Terraza in Palm Springs, to the Catering Division of Wolfgang Puck. He was one of the original five people to start the Cheesecake Factory brand. He was most recently the Director of Operations / Sr. General Manager for Crews of California, where he oversaw 8 restaurants at L.A.X.
Bills genuine love for hospitality, keen attention to detail, and ability to both work hard and have fun makes him a perfect fit for Zislis Group.
Bill resides in El Segundo with his wife. He is an avid fisherman, cyclist, surfer, quoter of Danny Meyer, and of course, foodie. Bill's favorite Zislis Group dish is the Pistachio Crusted Cod from Sea Level Restaurant at Shade Hotel Redondo Beach.
Fun Fact: Bill's drink of choice is Jack Daniels on the rocks
Jenna Ritter, Director of Marketing
Born and raised in the US Virgin Islands, Jenna's passion for hospitality started at a young age. She worked her way through school waiting tables, catering and managing a wine tasting room bar.
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 and trying different cuisines, 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
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!