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Exploring Life & Business with Jessica Levin of Consortium Holdings

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Levin. 

Hi Jessica, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
As a kid, I always loved going out to eat, and I looked up to servers in restaurants. I thought they had the coolest job. I got my first job in a restaurant in high school. After graduating, I went off to a university to study biology, thinking I would become a researcher or maybe even a medical doctor. Through college, I worked various restaurant jobs, from slinging clam chowder bread bowls to pouring beers at a local brewery, to serving at a fine-dining Italian joint. I was a supervisor at a cafe. I catered weddings. I always loved it, and it allowed me to support myself through school. 

I finished my degree and it brought me down to San Diego to get into the growing biotech industry. I took a corporate job, working 9-5 for the first time. I found myself missing the restaurant life, so I picked up a part-time position cocktail serving at a fine-dining spot in La Jolla. Within a few months, I had fallen back in love with restaurant work and quit my 9-5 and went full-time at the restaurant. I became a server and bartender. 

COVID hit, and I lost my gig at the restaurant. I saw an opportunity to get back into biotech. I worked for a company that was actually contributing to COVID research, so that made me feel useful and led to the opportunity to take over my department and become a manager. I picked up a lot of skills, but I knew once the novelty of the situation wore off, the corporate life was not for me. I began putting the feelers out for a new job, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. 

Things began opening back up after the pandemic. I was thrilled to go out to eat again, as I’d always found it to be this special place where one can let go of life’s stressors and enjoy the company of others, and get to eat something delicious, too. I met a kind woman at Born & Raised one night, as I was out to eat with a friend who was in town from Portland. The woman gave me her business card in case I ever became interested in working for CH. I held onto the card for months. After sitting on the idea for a while, I decided to reach out. 

One conversation led to another, and I got hired on as the Assistant GM at Craft & Commerce. I got to combine the skills I had learned from the corporate life, how to be an effective manager and build a team, with the passion I truly had for hospitality and what a restaurant represents, along with all the tricks of the trade I had picked up from working various restaurant jobs over the years. The team at C&C and the group as a whole made me feel at home right away. I found success in my role and with this group, and it led me to accepting a promotion to become the General Manager of Craft & Commerce. For the first time, I felt like my job is allowing me to fulfill my purpose: taking care of others – making them feel valued, heard, respected, and appreciated. I get to do this on two levels now, with my team and those I work alongside, and with the guests that come through the door. It really is a dream. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Of course, it hasn’t all been perfect. There have been plenty of obstacles I’ve faced, some internal, some external. There was a part of me that was disappointed in myself when I left my corporate job. It was a tough pill to swallow when I realized the thing, I had studied so hard and worked so hard to do, ended up not being right for me. I thought maybe I was selling myself short, like slipping back into hospitality was not “enough”. I had to fight that narrative in my head. It took a lot of courage to leave that job and want something more for myself. 

Stepping into the hospitality space during a global pandemic was definitely tricky. The government was issuing new guidelines and recommendations often, forcing us to stay on our toes and modify how we ran things. We had find a way to approach the situation sensitively and mindfully, to make guests and team members feel safe, but also realistically, knowing this is a business and we need to keep it alive. 

We had team members fall ill, mostly in waves, as this thing is pretty contagious, so we were short-staffed sometimes and had to ask a lot of our employees. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
I manage Craft & Commerce, which is one of the restaurants that is owned and operated by Consortium Holdings (CH), a restaurant group local to San Diego. 

CH is a relatively new restaurant group, and each restaurant represents a brainchild of our owner Arsalun Tafazoli. He opened his first restaurant, Neighborhood in Downtown SD, in 2007. From there, this has grown into 17 different concepts scattered across San Diego, and it’s still growing. 

CH believes in creating places that matter – places that people from all walks of life can enter and experience something special, and receive exemplary hospitality to match. Each place is completely unique, and the details are really thought through on a deeper level, from the lighting to the music, to the temperature in the room, to the decor, to glassware, to the menu style, everything. It’s all been hand-selected by Arsalun and his team to create a desired setting for guests to experience and to interact with as they pass through. Love is in the details. As the group grows and grows, and new concepts emerge, it’s really special how each place is able to maintain its unique charm, continue to thrive, and push the boundaries for what is expected of a restaurant. I am proud to be a part of this and to be trusted with Craft & Commerce and its operations. 

Each person that thrives working in a CH project has bought into this idea, too. We are all on the same team, working as one to make some magic happen for our guests and for each other along the way. Everybody really cares, and it’s refreshing to work with people who feel this way. 

Here at Craft & Commerce, we want to provide guests with some sort of a “shelter from the storm”, a place where they can enter, whether it’s for brunch, happy hour, dinner, a drink at the bar, or a nightcap, and just… be. A place with plenty of thought-provoking decor to stimulate intelligent conversation and to discuss ideas, or just to sit at a fire pit and catch up with an old friend. A place where everyone is welcomed and encouraged to come as they are, and leave as they are, but while they’re here, maybe they can try something they’ve never tried before, like bone marrow or fried quail, or maybe they just want something comforting, like a burger and fries. 

What do you think about luck?
I believe luck comes into play from the day you are born. You’re born into the family, into the circumstances that exist, and it’s all just luck. It could’ve played out a billion different ways. I feel extremely lucky to have been born (in the first place), to have two parents that love me and raised me well, to have had a stable home life with food on the table, and to have received an education, all the things that I think many take for granted. That was all just luck, or divine intervention, whatever it is you choose to believe. I do believe I was born with immense privilege and I recognize that. 

From there, I don’t think luck has much to do with anything. The things that happen to you or for you in your life are products of the choices you make. You can create your own “luck” by simply being a good person and choosing the higher road as much as possible. The relationship you have with yourself, valuing and respecting yourself, that’s the foundation for all things in life. 

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Shannon Partrick

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