By DUNCAN CRARY
TROY — After six years at Clark House Hospitality, and successfully keeping the collection of downtown restaurants, retail, and private event spaces afloat throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Troy native Zoë Krumanocker, 30, will be stepping down as vice president of culinary on Oct. 30.
In an email to staff sent Tuesday night, Krumanocker wrote: “Working here for the past 6 years with all of you has brought me immense joy and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to have shared the time with.”
She continued: “I know and expect that you will continue to do great things, because I’ve seen it first hand every day.”
“We did some incredible things together,” said Vic Christopher, president of Clark House Hospitality. “I can’t think of another person who would’ve done more to help the company make the transitions necessary to survive. But we’re OK now, because we created a true team environment and standardized menus with great pizza and pasta.”
The company has grown aggressively in recent years, even through the ongoing pandemic, shifting towards an Italian food focus, while opening a neighborhood grocery store.
Clark House Hospitality changed the former Peck’s Arcade restaurant to Donna’s Italian Restaurant in June of 2020, switching the format from vegetable-forward fine dining to Italian-American comfort food with an emphasis on take-out and delivery. Full dinner service at a renovated Donna’s Italian Restaurant resumed in June of 2021.
“In times of crisis, there is always a trend back toward comfort food,” Christopher said. “Peck’s Arcade was a special occasion restaurant — it may have been the best, but it wasn’t working in a pandemic environment. Donna’s Italian is an everyday restaurant, with a menu that’s relatable to everyone.”
In addition to Donna’s Italian, Clark House Hospitality’s holdings include The Grocery, Lucas Confectionery wine bar, The Tavern Bar, the Twenty-two Second Street natural wine shop, little pecks all-day cafe, and The Bradley, a neighborhood dive bar.
Clark House Hospitality now begins its search for a new executive chef to bring the restaurant group into the future with bold ideas and flavors.
“We’re excited for the next phase of our development and evolution. If the pandemic showed us anything, it’s that moments together with the people we love—friends, family, neighbors—matter more now. Clark House Hospitality is looking to bring our customers the very best of experiences,” said Paula Patterson, vice president of hospitality. “Whether it’s an outdoor after-work drink with a colleague you’ve only seen on ZOOM for months or a long-overdue engagement party, we’re here as a place for our community to gather, eat, drink and be merry.”
The restaurant industry is also facing a staffing crisis, with many restaurants struggling to maintain previous levels of kitchen staff, due in part to traditionally low wages and an archaic New York State labor law that prevents front of the house workers from sharing tips with back of the house staff.
Clark House Hospitality pioneered an equitable pay scale for all employees by creating a system where every worker shares job responsibilities, allowing them to pool tips. In the month of August, the lowest paid workers at Clark House earned $26.90 per hour.
Christopher said that Clark House is working on elevating team members internally into lead roles, and is also accepting applications for the executive chef position. Ideally, these promotions and new hires will be set into motion during the October transitional period.
Though Krumanocker hasn’t shared publicly what she will be doing next, Christopher notes that many Clark House alums have gone on to start other companies, including Quang Tran who established Quang’s Vietnamese Bistro, Charlotte Guyton who established Bard & Baker, Kelly Finn who established The Daisy, and Liza Morgan who established Liza’s.