A Jewel of a Caterer,
A Gem of a Man
So many residents of Northeast Ohio have been to a special event at Landerhaven and many have a story to tell about it. The man with the most stories is the man behind Landerhaven, and Executive Caterers, Harlan Diamond.
Even his birth has a humorous story around it. Harlan Diamond was almost born in parking lot off East 97th Street.
His mother was walking their dog. The dog pulled her down to the ground and as a result, Harlan was born prematurely, "Either in the old Women's Hospital on 102nd or maybe it was Mt. Sinai, who can remember?"
Harlan was born and raised in Cleveland. He grew up on South Blvd. and spent his youth in "the world of the front porch." He first went to Doan School. "The rest of the family went to Miles Standish - the newer, better school. I guess I was punished right off the bat." And he laughs because he knows he had a happy, wonderful childhood.
His father was a podiatrist, Dr. Leo Diamond, his mother, Babe was a homemaker. They lived in his grandmother's house. Even though he only remembers 1 bathroom, he remembers times when ten-twelve people were living in the house.
His brother, Michael, is five years younger and is a retired surgeon, now living in Florida.
Diamond has been honored with "Lifetime Achievement" awards from both the National Association of Catering Executives and the American Culinary Federation.
Harlan is also honored to be a member of the Legends and Legacies of Glenville High School as well as the Cleveland Heights Hall of Fame.
He grew up in the Glenville area, so of course they are very proud of him. He graduated from Heights High in 1952 and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2004. "I had the best years of my life in High School. I really enjoyed being in school."
At his induction ceremony Harlan was asked for a quote, something to sum up his philosophy. The other inductees quoted famous men with deep, insightful words of wisdom. Harlan's original quote just may have been the wisest. "Don't fire the potwasher" he said "unless you're prepared to wash the pots."
Harlan went to Western Reserve and started in pre-Med, planning to follow in his fathers footsteps. But it only took him about 6 weeks to realize this was not for him.
When he changed his major he was forced to pay for his own education. He went to work for his Uncle, who was in the catering business. Harlan took to it instantly.
He worked for Tastee Shop Restaurants and Eden Catering at Park Synagogue. He enjoyed every facet of the business. By the time he was 18 years old he was running the whole show.
He then went to a Food Service College. He took Masters Programs at Florida State and Home Economic courses at Reserve. He never got his degree, but he soaked up all the knowledge he could.
He went to work at Lake Forest County Club, but he got sick and lost his job. He talked to his friend Billy Weinberger, who owned Gorman Restaurants. Billy told him he was going to put him in business.
Billy went to Las Vegas and gave his business to Harlan with partners Phil Kaufman and Willie Kahn. Harlan was newly married and only about 25 years old when this big break occurred.
November 15, 1960 Executive Caterers was formed and in 1983 they had the opportunity to buy Landerhaven. Shortly after (1987) they built an addition and closed down the old Executive Caterers on Chagrin Blvd. "This building is a tribute to the community. We're proud of it."
The building sits on 9 acres of land and provides both indoor and outdoor facilities. He credits his success to the nucleus of people surrounding him. "Executive Caterers is a family. This is the result of other people's efforts, not just mine."
Harlan claims he can't cook, can't serve, can't bake and doesn't even plan menus any more. But he is surrounded by the best in the country in all of these fields.
Harlan Diamond having fun at the (player) piano
Although he is hesitant to mention any particular people by name for fearing of leaving out someone, he can't help but mention Ada Davis and her daughter, Janie, who are not just terrific, creative workers, but also great friends.
"But I don't have one employee that isn't good - they're all good. I just stand back and watch the magic every day." Some of his employees, like Janie, have been with him over forty years.
He finds it especially important to hire good people for the Personnel Department because, they will hire in their own image. Therefore, if they are good, conscientious workers, they will hire good, conscientious workers.
Executive Caterers is licensed to cater in seven states. They have a traveling team that caters such events as the Grand Prix. They have catered for every president since JFK, every Governor of Ohio since the first Rhodes administration and every Mayor of Cleveland since Ralph Locher.
Every event they cater is important to Harlan. He acknowledges the amount of trust people put in him and his organization and he would not allow anything to betray that trust.
Another special event at Landerhaven
He remembers the opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with 3500 people being served; Cleveland's Bicentennial on the Hope Memorial Bridge and; The Grand Prix where almost 50,000 meals were served over the weekend. "Some events are more famous, but each one is special."
And of course "the ones you remember best are the problems". For example somehow between Executive Caterers and a party in Shaker Heights they lost a stove. Until they received a call from Shaker Heights police telling them it was at the corner of Kinsman and Shaker they didn't know what to do. Party saved.
Or the time that they were in the middle of a party for a huge dignitary when the sprinkling system went off. The ground was wet and soggy. They dug a French drain. Party saved.
Or running out of alcohol at a party on a boat and sending a speed boat out to get more. Party saved.
Or even holding onto a tent in a tornado as the winds dragged them around the Columbus state fair grounds and then dropped them! But, as always, the party was saved.
In addition to Landerhaven, Executive Caterers is the official caterer of the Cleveland Convention Center, The Rock Hall and Tower City (English Oak Room).
Ask Harlan to play you a song
Harlan is very active in the world of charities. "I was born into a world of charitable services. My grandmother and my mother were leaders in charity in the Jewish community and I now have an opportunity to share in fund raising events."
In 2001 he started Philanthropia, with his partners The Plain Dealer, Channel 5 and National City Bank. Every year in December there is a luncheon. The cost of admission is a check to one of the participating 501(c) 3 non-profit organizations. Last year they raised $87,000.
Philanthropia began after 911. "I could tell by the mail I was getting that all of the charitable money was going to New York - and who could say this is wrong? But I could see that the smaller, local charities were being hurt." He saw the need for charitable dollars to be invested in our own community and Philanthropia was the result.
The next step for Harlan is the completion of a new hotel being built on 3 acres adjacent to the existing property. Groundbreaking should be happening any day.
It is an Intercontinental hotel project and is billed as an extended stay hotel. The Staybridge Inn, as it will be called, will be able to accommodate corporate guests as well as out of town guests coming to weddings and other events.
Harlan was first married in 1956 and had his only child as a result of this marriage. His daughter, Michelle, is now married to Dr. Jeff Baker and is the mother of Harlan's two grandchildren Andy (4) and Cameron (7).
He was married and divorced again in 1973, but has not been married since. ("My last wife was my last wife").
Harlan decided to get a dog. He had grown up with dogs and missed the companionship. He got a Schnauzer from a friend who raised them and it worked out fine. The dog didn't bark and that was important since Harlan lives in a condo in Bratenahl.
When that dog died he thought he'd replace it with another Schnauzer and that is when he discovered that every dog has its own personality and he and this new Schnauzer did not get along. So he gave it away and talked to a friend who works with a number of rescue organizations.
He went to her house thinking he was going to get a Beagle and instead met an Irish Wolfhound, Dune. He never thought it would work, but he and the dog came to an instant understanding and he is now on his 4th Irish Wolfhound. He is now the owner of a fabulous 7 year old Irish Wolfhound, Mickey.
Harlan Diamond and Mickey
Harlan even replaced his Corvette to accommodate the huge dog, but wouldn't have it any other way. He's sweet and loveable and has earned the breed's nickname "Gentle Giant."
Family is very important to Harlan and he is happy to have had both of his parents with him "deep into my life." His father died in his 90's and his mother was 94. "I've only been an orphan for about 3 years which isn't bad when you're in your 70's!"
As a very eligible bachelor, Harlan jokes that his ad in a singles column would read "OBFJWM/D" - (Old, Bald, Fat, Jewish, White, Male with Dog).
What it actually should read is "SKCCA/D" or Sweet, Kind, Caring Class Act with Dog, for that truly describes Harlan Diamond.
Update: The successful Corporate Club series of business luncheons is now (Jan 2009) 20 years old!
Michael Settonni and Harlan Diamond at the Corporate Club January 15, 2009
See more about Harlan Diamond and listen to him speak about Landerhaven, Cleveland and more.
Profiled by Debbie Hanson
Harlan Diamond announced a record Philanthropia donation of $145,052 on 12-13-2010
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