Martin's set to uncork 6th banquet hall

Staff at new Cockeysville facility races to handle prom, 2 weddings

May 18, 2007|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Sun reporter

As of Wednesday, just two days before a wedding and a high school prom, just three days before a 400-person Greek wedding, dozens of tradesmen scrambled to finish the first new Martin's Inc. banquet hall in two decades.

Workers installed gold railings on a sweeping staircase. Paperhangers smoothed wallpaper into place in the grand lobby. Faux painters re-created one of the ballroom's ornate walls onto a huge room divider, brushing on intricate veins of marble and mirrored panels.

In the ballroom of the new Valley Mansion by Martin's in Cockeysville, Martin Resnick, founder of the 43-year-old catering business, was surrounded by stacks of plastic-covered chairs and leafy plants yet to be arranged. His staff busily set up the kitchen and arranged glasses, plates and coffee cups to comply with a Resnick-devised color-coded system in the storerooms.

It seemed like a million details were left to be checked before the first partygoers arrive tonight. But Resnick relishes handling the details of a business that he says has been built on details, one that has grown from a single catering hall in Towson where Resnick's mother prepared cold buffets and his wife checked coats to the state's largest privately owned catering company.

Today, Martin's boasts six locations, 800 employees and $32.5 million in annual sales. It has been the host for corporate conferences, political gatherings and private parties serving from 25 people to 5,000, and it is safe to say many Baltimore area residents have attended an event at a Martin's facility at some point.

The business is now evenly divided among conferences, trade shows and meetings; private parties; political fundraisers; corporate-sponsored and fraternal organization events, with Resnick's son, Wayne, as chief executive.

Martin's is estimated to be among the top 10 grossing privately owned catering companies in the country, said Michael Roman, president of catersource, a trade association of professional caterers based in Chicago.

"Certainly he would be a major player," Roman said of Resnick. "The most important thing about Martin's and Marty is he invented the new concepts of marketing, selling and performing what we call banquet service. It's an entertainment factor. He certainly has always had outstanding food, but what Martin pioneered is making customers and guests feel special."

Resnick won't let his staff use the word "small" to describe any detail.

"There is nothing small when it comes to a party," said Resnick on Wednesday, surveying the new, 1,300-person Cockeysville hall with its gleaming black granite floor, crystal chandeliers and illuminated plaster ceiling moldings that he and his son personally selected. "It is a detail crazy company."

That's precisely why bride-to-be Tricia Trintas chose to help break in the first new ground-up Martin's facility since Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt was built in 1986.

She's confident nothing will be left to chance tomorrow at her sit-down reception for 400, featuring crab cakes and prime rib, a champagne bar and a chocolate fountain. No matter that this newest $12 million hall was merely a demolition site when Trintas booked her reception in September. Or that it's not quite done - yet.

`I am not nervous'

"I am not nervous about that," said Trintas who said her large Greek family, in the restaurant and catering business themselves, has turned to Martin's facility's again and again for christenings, weddings and engagement parties, lured back by attentive service, good food and an atmosphere of elegance.

Trintas also organized her five-year high school reunion at a Martin's.

"I cannot imagine having my wedding anywhere else," she said. "Everyone keeps telling me, `You're so calm, you should be all wound up.' But not only will it be done, it will be fabulous."

For years, the Maryland Society of Accountants has scheduled its educational seminars at Martin's facilities, typically serving breakfast and a sit-down lunch to attendees about a dozen times a year.

"We go back to Martin's year after year because they're fantastic to work with, very conscientious," said Sandy Steinwedel,a coordinator for the society, which is headquartered in Westminster.

The catering business is something of a second career for Resnick, himself the son of a caterer. He was a 32-year-old buyer for the Hecht Co. department store chain in 1964 when he opened his first banquet hall, Eudowood Gardens, in a Towson shopping center.

He got started with a $15,000 loan from the Small Business Administration and some savings. Resnick's mother, Esther, cooked, mostly food for cold buffets. His wife, Thalia, recalls how she not only helped with the food, but checked coats and washed dishes. The business served more than 50,000 in its first year.

Resnick, 75, credits his company's growth to the return business of satisfied customers, loyalty of longtime employees and tight control over every aspect of the operation.

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