If you’re a kid, chances are you call her Grandma. If you’re an adult, you probably greet her like an old friend. With her gracious smile, genuine enthusiasm and heartfelt sincerity, Eden Prairie’s Elaine Cleveland just has a gift for connecting with people. It’s a talent she puts to good use as social director at Cuzzy’s Brick House in Chaska. “I thoroughly enjoy it here,” she says. “It’s added a dimension to my life.”
Cleveland loves her job and it shows—work isn’t work when you have as much fun as Cleveland does. Silver-haired and sharp-tongued, Cleveland is as quick with a joke as a smile as she greets everyone who walks through Cuzzy’s door. “The people that come in here are marvelous,” Cleveland says.
Prior to her work at Cuzzy’s, Cleveland worked at her family’s businesses: a florist, gift shop, hardware store and even a concession stand at the Minnesota State Fair. “My background started out in the restaurant,” she says. “I always worked with people. I have had a lot of fun along the way and always with people.”
From day one, Cleveland was a cornerstone of Cuzzy’s. First she served solely as a hostess, but general manager Gary Rasmusson had the foresight to know Cleveland could do more. With the grace of a ballroom dancer on a polished stage, she strides around the floor. As social director, she makes a point to greet everyone table to table at least once. “We give personal attention where many restaurants do not,” Cleveland says.
Just let Cleveland know about your anniversary or birthday and the occasion gets bigger. Birthdays get special treatment with a group sing-along of “Happy Birthday” and complimentary brownie sundae with a glowing candle on top.
The day-to-day fun grows with special activities. Adoring customers join Cleveland for restaurant events. A short list of her Cuzzy’s social calendar includes holiday visits with Santa, a Hawaiian luau customer appreciation party and sponsored buses to all home Viking games. “We finally got her a bull horn so she can speak to everybody,” Rasmusson says.
Cleveland enjoys little touches, too. Her business cards are somewhat of a collector’s item. How many people use a purple background on their business cards, while sporting a solid red business suit and 3D glasses? The one-of-a-kind look of her cards is a good reflection of Cleveland’s upbeat nature. Bright, sassy and vibrant colors catch your eye. Once Cleveland had the cards available, everybody wanted one.
Customers notice if Cleveland misses a day of work. “She’s an attraction,” Rasmusson says. “People always ask where she is.”
The secret to her success is really no surprise. According to Cleveland, it is vital to have good management and a great boss, especially during one’s golden years. Cleveland has a deep respect for Rasmusson and the entire Cuzzy’s staff. “She makes my job easier,” says Rasmusson. “She has such pride in the place, she doesn’t need a boss,” Rasmusson says. After a pause, he reflects, “I can’t imagine this without her. She’s a definite part of our success and even as a friend.”
What are the future plans for the social director? “I will go until I can’t go any further, because they’re so good to me,” Cleveland says.