By Community Contributor Mary A. Compton
Chicago Tribune/Orland Park Patch
At 11 years old Tim McEnery would stand in the kitchen of Green Garden Country Club washing dishes.
While other boys his age were playing baseball, he was dreaming of owning his own restaurant.
Today that boy Tim McEnery is now the Founder/CEO of Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants.
” I always had a passion for the restaurant business,” said McEnery. ” I hoped one day I could start a business of my own. Never in a million years did I think it would be this.”
Catholic-educated, McEnery, raised in Orland Park spent eight years at St. Michaels, graduated Marist High School in 1994 and earned a Degree in hospitality management from Purdue University.
A motto from the university states: ” What we make moves the world forward.”
McEnery has certainly learned to live by this, with grace.
He hosts a wine golf outing each year that supports the Keep on Keeping on Foundation. This non-profit organization assists the special needs in the community.
Walking through the Cooper’s Hawk offices in Countryside, ( which he calls the restaurant support center) he makes sure he says hello to everyone. ” Every day I think about the 2300 people that work for Cooper’s Hawk. Bringing on all these great people has enabled us to do what we do, ” McEnery added.
Today there are 16 Cooper Hawk Winery and Restaurants in six states. Two more will be added by the end of the year, one in Springfield the other in Richmond Virginia.
South suburban residents are excited to see another Cooper’s Hawk in their own backyard, Oak Lawn. ” I’m excited about this one, it should be open around March ” McEnery said. ” I have no doubt that there could be 100 Cooper’s Hawks in the United States. What is most important to me is that we do it in the right way.”
” Growing up in Orland Park made a huge impact on my decision to open the first Cooper’s Hawk there. We had looked all over the Chicago area , there was only one guy crazy enough to give us a shot, it was in Orland Park,” McEnery said.
” Serendipity,” he said with a smile.
Orland Park welcomed Cooper’s Hawk with open arms. “Over the years Mayor Dan has been one of the best supporters of ours,” adds McEnery.
Mayor Dan McLaughlin feels the same way as he sent the comment;
“As mayor, I am especially proud of watching Tim McEnery grow up in Orland Park, make his dream a reality in his own hometown and become hugely successful. Cooper’s Hawk is a great restaurant, offering its own wines and a unique gift shop, making it truly a hot spot in the southwest suburbs. I am very happy that Cooper’s Hawk started in Orland Park and wish them continued success.”
What makes the place so unique? A variety of reasons, from the perfect tailored wine to an American cuisine that rivals any Chicago fine dining establishment.
The next four weeks are the busiest as grapes travel from California to Cooper’s Hawk plant and offices in Countryside Illinois. The grapes will go into the stemmer and then go into the tanks for fermentation.
One of McEnery’s favorite times. ” Tasting and smelling the wine is the most important thing that we do, to make sure they are the right quality,” he said.
Cooper’s Hawk features about fifty wines plus the twelve wines of the month.
” As McEnery points to the barrels, ” We do twelve different wines every year for the wine club. Occasionally we add a different style of wine. The wine club is where we do innovations, different blends.”
McEnery doesn’t let anything go to waste. Environmentally savvy, Cooper’s Hawk is the only winery that recycles their bottles.
” Obviously the concept of Cooper’s Hawk is very unique,” McEnery said. ” I always tell everyone in my meetings, coming up with the idea was the easiest that we’ve done, it takes an incredible amount of hard work to keep this going.”
Everyone in Cooper’s Hawk, from the server to the CFO, goes through fundamental wine training. It is a five day course for a new server but as McEnery explains ” the wine education continues daily, through the course of their career.”
Cooper’s Hawk boasts a full menu, from tortilla soup, ribs, steaks, gnocchi, even featuring a gluten free menu.
So what is Tim McEnery’s favorite dish? ” That’s like picking which of your kids you like best.”
” If I had to choose a favorite dish, today it would be Chicken Giardiniera. Cooper’s Hawk is a great place to go out for dinner, even if you don’t drink wine.
McEnery offers advice to those wanting to start a business. ” Once you get the first business going, everything falls into place. Persistence and hard work is number one. Then surround yourself with great people.”
Rob Wehmeier, successful business owner of Wehmeier Portraits and Orland Park Area Chamber President, encourages those to come and learn from Tim McEnery.
“I’m really looking forward to hearing his presentation at the Monthly
Member Meeting, said Wehmeier. ” I love the atmosphere that he created at his restaurant and have enjoyed our member event we have held there, it makes a memorable night for everyone. I am looking forward to hearing his story about how he as made such a recognizable brand.”
As McEnery prepares to speak at Silver Lake, his humble attitude speaks of his success.
” There have been so many people that have made us successful, whether it was the Orland Chamber or the Small Development Center at Moraine Valley College. We try to be as generous to help others, we wouldn’t be here without a lot of help from a whole lot of people.”
To hear the story of Tim McEnery, CEO/Founder of Cooper’s Hawk attend the Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce meeting on Wednesday, October 22nd at 7:45am. The event will be held at Silver Lake Country Club, 14700 S. 82nd Ave., in Orland Park. Chamber members with RSVP are $15. Non-members and at the door is $20. Breakfast will be served.
To RSVP or if you have additional questions, please call the chamber office at 708-349-2972.