Name: Stuart Joselit
Business Name and Position: Armon Hall, Owner
Location: 2603 Nostrand Avenue
Years in Business: 6
Number of Employees: Varies
Where did you get the name?
Armon means palace in Hebrew so this name was chosen to differentiate the simchah hall from the Palace Café upstairs.
What prompted you to open a hall under your café (Palace Café)?
I decided to open because I saw a need in the neighborhood. There are not too many choices in this area for smaller simchas like sheva brachos, upsherin, or bar and bas mitzvahs. We offer a beautiful multi-purpose room which was designed by Edii Lieber Paterson Design. She is a design genius. We didn’t want the space to look too lavish for an upsherin, but on the flip side, we wanted it to be upscale and elegant enough for a sheva brachos. It’s the right balance of fancy and casual so it can accommodate all affairs. Check out some photos on www.armonhall.com.
You once told us that you do most of the cooking in the cafe. Do you cook for the hall as well?
We still use my recipes, but I don’t do the cooking anymore. I got too old for this. (Laughs.) I have sous chefs who focus on the food, while I prefer to socialize with the customers.
What advice do you have for baalei simchah?
When I sit down with clients, I always ask what their vision is for the party. Many do not have a clear vision, so we talk and we figure it out together. Through our discussion, I help facilitate what they would like to see when they enter the room on the big day. I help them discover their taste. We talk about seating options, centerpieces, layout, and color. Color is very important.
Color makes the affair personal. It also moves people. People often choose safe color schemes like black and white or grey. But I dig deeper. I ask: What do you think about purple? What is your favorite color? Based on their answers I help them pair interesting blends like blue and periwinkle or lime green and yellow for the summer months. I want the room to pop. Black and white is nice, but it won’t make the room pop. I like to help them come up with something different.
How far in advance should people book the hall?
I know it’s not always possible, but as early as you can. I had a man call me today (Wednesday) for a simchah on Thursday. Sundays and Motzoei Shabbos get booked quickly so you need to move fast. I would say six months in advance is a good time to book the hall. When I take the $500 deposit for the room, I don’t cash it until a day or so before the event. I wait to see if another party wants to book that date, and if they do, I call up the client and ask them again if they are sure they want to proceed. Sometimes people need to cancel or postpone the party, so I give them a chance to back out so we both don’t lose out. One time I had a lady who couldn’t fill the 30-guest minimum. For most halls the deposit is nonrefundable, but I don’t want to make my money that way.
Do you recommend hiring a party planner?
Yes and no. It really depends on your budget. I have seen party planners do amazing things with sweet tables and linens, but you have to know your budget. A wife of a rebbi couldn’t afford a party planner and instead did it herself by purchasing fake tree branches at Amazing Savings and decorating them for the centerpieces. It looked magnificent.
What do you do with leftover food?
It’s a big problem. I try to convince the hosts or guests to take it home. We break it up into portion control sizes, so it is easy to reuse. Pasta freezes well and can be easily reheated and eaten. There is a nice man who comes around and picks up the leftover food and distributes it to needy families and yeshivos.
Can you tell us about a memorable simchah?
That is a hard question because they are all memorable to me, but I will tell you about a party we had in our early years and what we have learned from that experience. A few sisters rented out the hall for a Chanukah sheva brachos party. Back then, we had a catalog menu consisting of four-course meal options, and for the entrée we gave people choices for pasta and fish. Well, at the party some of their 80 guests decided they wanted our pizza. But I explained to them that pizza was not one of the options. They figured that because we serve it upstairs, it would not be hard to get. Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get them all pizza. Since then, I only serve food that is on the menu. And pizza is now on that menu.
What do you enjoy most about your job? Does it get stressful?
Yes, there is definitely stress in this job. A man recently rented out the room for a sheva brachos and told me he’d have 40 guests. After reviewing the menu and changing it multiple times, he called to say that the number rose to 52 and would that be a problem. Making more food is not an issue, but the linens must be ordered in advance, so I had to rush and get more. Then, to top it off, he called me again and told me the guest lists was now 60 people!
What I enjoy most is when it all comes together and the baal simchah feel like a million dollars. I like seeing them relaxed knowing they are getting a stunning room and will have a great time.