Randy and Mary Marriner never wanted their daughters to work for a family business.
"We're both products of family businesses, and we swore to each other that we would never subject our children to working in the family business," says Randy, the 68-year-old CEO of Victoria Restaurant Group.
Mary’s family owned Blob's Park, a former German-style beer hall in Jessup, and Randy’s family owned Highway Supply Corporation, a third-generation specialty subcontractor.
“Because when you work with your siblings, some work harder than others. And most families are dysfunctional,” Randy says.
But there they were, sitting in their newest restaurant, Clarksville’s Food Plenty, with their daughters as co-workers. The family has become one of the most powerful players in Howard County’s food and beverage scene, operating three restaurants and a brewery.
The Marriners’ youngest daughter, Victoria “Tori” Buscher, was their entree into restaurant business. During the 2000s, the 36-year-old graduate of Baltimore International College was working in various kitchens trying to carve out her career in the food industry.
“How many W-2s did you have that year?” asks her older sister, Rachael Mull, who prepared Tori’s taxes when she worked more than a half-dozen jobs.
At the same time, Randy and a business partner owned a former Bennigan's building that needed to be developed. Tori was dating chef Joe Krywucki, who came up with a business plan that turned the building into the British-themed Victoria Gastro Pub in Dec. 2007. (Krywucki left the restaurant in 2015, and Tori married Mike Buscher the same year.)
Randy named the first restaurant and the restaurant group after Tori, which is completely fine with Rachael, the company’s chief financial officer, who says she prefers a behind-the-scenes role.
The names of their subsequent ventures are just as meaningful.
Food Plenty, the 9,000-square-foot restaurant with a rustic interior and exposed wooden beams that crisscross the barn-like ceiling, is a nod to the early 1800s Quaker farmhouse in Windsor Mill where the family lived in from 1980 to 1994.
Manor Hill Brewing, named after the family farm where it’s located, opened in June 2015. More than 5,000 barrels of beer are produced there a year.
And its namesake restaurant, Manor Hill Tavern, opened in historic Ellicott City last year.
During a late lunch at Food Plenty one Friday, the family’s conversations range from the everyday — toddler poop and nasal aspirators, thanks to Tori’s and Rachael’s small children — to the challenges they’ve faced through the years.
“We’re celebrating Rachael being cancer free,” says Mary, 65, dabbing at the corners of her eyes.
Rachael, 40, was diagnosed with stage three colorectal cancer in October 2017 and completed her last round of chemotherapy in September. She says her family was instrumental in her recovery and offered her the flexibility to work from home on the tougher days of her cancer battle.
“They’ve done everything from helping out with my kids, doing laundry and cooking meals. I think my husband misses my mother doing laundry. I don’t fold clothes as good, apparently,” she jokes.
It’s a much different atmosphere from her previous career as director of financial services for MedStar Health in Columbia.
“I wore suits and pantyhose to work each day. It was very rigid,” she says. Now she can come work in flip flops if she wants.
Her husband, Corey Mull, the company’s chief marketing officer, joined the family business in early 2017.
Mary, who used to handle all the “back-of-the-house stuff,” now watches Rachael’s children during the work day. She’s also the head of design — responsible for the interiors and decor for all of the restaurants, their Ellicott City home and the brewery.
“I started because I couldn’t afford to hire anyone to do it, so I did it all myself,” she says. The dining room where she’s seated is adorned with commissioned art of chickens from the family farm. A large faux maple tree she created resides in the kitchen, dripping with orange and red leaves.
Tori says her mother is the “heart and soul of everything we do. She’s instilled in me a steward’s heart and German work ethic.”
As the company’s chief experience officer, Tori is the people person of the family. She has two speeds, her sister says: “really crazy on, or asleep. She comes in like a tornado. We just step back and let her go.”
“She can work a room better than anyone I know,” Randy adds. “And it’s not fake.”
Rachael, on the other hand, is “exactly like her mother — detail-oriented, focused,” he says. “Rachael is happiest with a spreadsheet. She is uber-organized.”
The love and respect shared among the family members is apparent, but they're quick to point out that they aren't perfect. They know each other’s quirks and moods—especially bad ones.
“We’re good at seeing when those moments are coming on and giving each other space,” Rachael says.
The family appears built for the fast-paced rigors of the restaurant industry. When the devastating flood ripped through Ellicott City in May, the family leapt into action.
Although Manor Hill Tavern lost $10,000 worth of food and beer due to power outages in the region, the actual restaurant suffered no structural damage.
The restaurant provided free meals to the affected residents, the first responders and shop owners during the weeks following the flood.
“It was surreal,” Randy he says. “The town hadn’t been opened, and I couldn’t be to only guy making money. What better way to give back to the town to be a beacon on the hill.”
In addition to providing food, bathrooms and an air-conditioned space as a reprieve for flood victims, the family made sure that employees from the restaurant kept jobs within the organization during that time.
Behind the scenes, they were also dealing with the grief of losing Maryland National Guard Staff Sgt. Eddison Hermond Jr., who worked for Victoria Gastro pub. Hermond drowned trying to rescue a woman during the flood.
“Eddie was one of our original employees in 2007,” Randy recalls. “I was shocked and in disbelief. There was extreme sorrow. He was a family member.”
The family helped set up a memorial fund in Hermond’s name through the Restaurant Association of Maryland Education Foundation.
Today, Manor Hill Tavern is back to business as usual, and the family shows no signs of slowing down.
They have a booming event services company, MHF Productions, that Randy says complements his background in advertising.
“We do decor, lighting — all or whatever the client needs,” he explains.
Howard County Times: Top stories
Meanwhile, the brewery is in the process of doubling its capacity to producing 10,000 barrels of beer a year.
“The busier we are, the more fun we have,” Tori says. “This business is not for sissies. You work nights and weekends. But we’re here together.”