DANBURY, Conn. — Two men in the midst of the second of their successful careers received the 2014 Macricostas Entrepreneur of the Year Award from Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
John Royce and Thomas Montague founded and operate the catering business that provides wedding venues at The Fox Hill Inn and The Candlewood Inn, both in Brookfield, The Waterview in Monroe and The Riverview in Simsbury. The four facilities are among the most popular wedding destinations in Western Connecticut, known for impeccable service in beautiful settings. Royce and Montague were recognized for their entrepreneurial achievements as recipients of the annual WCSU award sponsored by the foundation of Brookfield industrialist and philanthropist Constantine “Deno” Macricostas and his wife Marie.
Royce and Montague met while both worked in the business of international shipping, Royce as a broker and Montague as a ship operator. They worked together on deals that helped open markets in Brazil and China in the 1970s and 1980s and then formed their own shipping business.
“We started doing really, really well,” Royce said. “And then we lost everything. When you lose everything, you learn who your real partners are.”
The business rebounded but the pair looked for new opportunities and in 1985 bought the Fox Hill Inn as a real estate investment and soon began running the restaurant in the building. After a year, they realized a daily restaurant operation wasn’t in their future.
Instead, they converted the operation to catering, with weddings a specialty. In 1999 they purchased and renovated the Candlewood Inn, followed in 2004 by The Waterview in Monroe, and The Riverview in Simsbury, which the partners designed and built in 2008.
“Being in the right place at the right time is useful. But luck is just as important,” Montague said.
A key to their success, they say, is their ability to bring business discipline to an industry where much of the competition consists of people who are excellent chefs or event planners but who do not have experience running a complex enterprise.
“Having goals in business helps guide you through the highs and lows to a successful conclusion,” Royce said.
Royce and Montague are among the few who operate multiple locations that are devoted solely to catering and weddings, as opposed to venues that are attached to country clubs or restaurants.
“You will never see Tom and me at a wedding unless we’re invited,” Royce said. “We hire managers to attend to our customers’ needs.”
“For us, the only question is, are we running it properly or not?” Montague said.
Running the business well means understanding how to create a memorable experience for the wedding party and guests, which includes being up-to-date on the latest wedding trends.
“If you’re not checking the activity that’s out there, you’re not keeping up,” Royce said.
They also extend their services to several nonprofits, offering their venues and services at no charge to Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut, The Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, and Interval House, a domestic abuse prevention facility in Hartford. Royce also volunteers with Men Make a Difference, Men Against Domestic Violence. “The economic engine of America is driven by entrepreneurs who see a need and fill it, and, in doing so, create successful businesses that create jobs for other people,” said David Martin, dean of the Ancell School of Business at WestConn. “This is what John Royce and Thomas Montague have done and will continue to do and we are proud and very pleased that they are this year’s recipients of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.”
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