HALF-FINISHED BUILDINGS, disrepair and historical regulations would put off many, but it doesn’t stop Jeanne and Frank Cretella of Landmark Hospitality. This dynamic husband-and-wife partnership has more than 25 years of experience under its belt, and polishing diamonds in the rough is what they do best.
It all started with a concession stand, grew into a catering business and eventually blossomed into a company that now owns and operates some of the most storied and beautiful venues in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Liberty House Restaurant was Landmark’s first N.J. property. The Cretellas were at a nearby concert when Frank spotted a halffinished project of rusting steel in Liberty Park-one that just happened to have fantastic, postcard-worthy views of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. "Frank said it had to be a restaurant gone bad and he called the very next day," says Jeanne. That was 12 years ago, and it’s been one of the most successful properties in their portfolio ever since.
In stark contrast to the cosmopolitan flavor of Liberty House, the Cretellas then purchased Stone House at Stirling Ridge in Warren several years later. The 10-acre country estate set in the Watchung Mountains is just a quick drive from Jersey City, but a world away from the hustle and bustle. "We wanted a place where our Liberty House clients could go for something different but within an easy drive," notes Jeanne.
Of course, the feather in Landmark’s cap is the reopening of the storied Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station. It’s difficult to take an award-winning favorite and make it even better, but the Cretellas have succeeded. The restaurant reopened in 2012 to rave reviews, while special event space attached to the original home opened in early 2014. The addition of a 40 room inn is expected in 2015.
Landmark’s portfolio also includes Staten Island’s unique Snug Harbor and New Hope, Pa.’s Hotel du Village. Running five properties and an office in Jersey City leaves little time to pursue other interests, but Jeanne is passionate about what she does. "I particularly love the creative side of the business." She also likes to share the wealth, adopting the H.U.G (Help us Give) program in all of her restaurants. "Ten percent of the check from the top tables goes back into the community," she notes. On a recent busy day, Jeanne welcomed former President Bill Clinton at a charity fundraiser, then hosted a tree decorating party for Jersey City public school students. "We live in Staten Island," she says, "but New Jersey is our home.