Hen + Hound’s Plans for their Culinary Corner
Blue jeans and baseball caps are the typical uniform you might find downtown restaurateurs Dave and Chris Henderson in. The Lynchburg natives that founded The Water Dog and The Glass House have expanded their portfolio to bring Fratelli Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar and No. 7 Rooftop Bar into their new management group, Hen + Hound.
“Truth be told, we didn’t set out to start a management company,” Dave said.
Seeing the potential growth in their current businesses, Dave and Chris wanted to elevate their management team to run both sites effectively, with clear, delineated tasks for everyone.
“So out of necessity, we created the management company, and my chef suggested the name and we immediately loved it. ‘Hen’ is short for Henderson, and ‘Hound’ because we love dogs.”
Aside from adding new restaurants to Hen + Hound’s portfolio, the Hendersons also plan to reinvent The Glass House.
“While we desperately wanted to maintain it as a small music venue capable of bringing in local and regional musicians, COVID-19 forced us to make some pretty difficult decisions on the future of The Glass House,” Chris said.
Anyone walking down Jefferson St. will likely have seen the packed-up patio furniture, and maybe even pressed their face up against the glass of the former music venue to see what all the changes were about.
“Our goal with The Glass House now is to create an upscale, sophisticated cocktail bar and lounge with a hyper-local, seasonal tapas-style menu capturing the essence of elevated southern cuisine,” Chris said.
According to Dave, Hen + Hound plans to reopen The Glass House “in late spring or early summer.”
The philosophy of innovation and elevation extends beyond The Glass House. Dave says that Hen + Hound’s management of Fratelli and No. 7 came about through happenstance.
“Those two establishments were going through a management transition and, frankly, we happened to be at the right place at the right time. We took over operations of both establishments on November 1 of last year with a six-phase plan to reintroduce them to Lynchburg,” Dave said.
While some of those phases concern behind the scenes operations, If you recently visited either restaurant, you may have noticed a few changes.
According to Dave, the six phases for the restaurants are: keep the doors open and make sure everyone gets paid; transition into new administrative systems, contracts, and suppliers; elevate existing menus; introduce local and sustainable food systems into the menus; delivering new experiences to customers, such as jazz nights at Fratelli, or bourbon and cigar pairing nights at No. 7; and the potential extension of hours to be open earlier and possibly introduce weekend brunch.
Phases one through three of Hen + Hound’s reinvention plan are complete, while the following three are in progress or still in the concept stage.
Both Dave and Chris have professional histories that uniquely qualify them to play a part in expanding the downtown restaurant scene. While Dave has experience on the financial side as a banker, Chris spent most of his life drawn to restaurant work of all kinds, either through necessity or preference.
“Everything I’ve done professionally in my life has led me to this moment with Hen + Hound. At the most basic level, I’ve worked my entire life for others to build and maintain their restaurants. Now we get to level up and build establishments with our own hands and our own vision for the restaurants and how they fit within our community,” Chris said.
Considering the varied food, drinks, and experiences you can and will be able to have at the four Hen + Hound restaurants, the Hendersons are still aiming for a fairly simple goal.
“The downtown community is now more than ever looking for new experiences that break the mold of the traditional restaurant experience. I think that we have a really unique opportunity—and, frankly, a responsibility—to help create a stronger and more vibrant community,” Dave said.
In just about every word they speak about their new undertaking, Dave and Chris agree that the key element of Hen + Hound is community.
As they spoke, Dave and Chris pointed out the various quirks and kitsch elements that make The Water Dog a fun and unique dining experience. It’s that point of difference that Dave feels the downtown food scene needs to draw customers in and make them feel like a business is more than “just a restaurant.”
“A strong vibrant urban core is vital to the success of our region. The Water Dog has embraced their location in the core of downtown as a catalyst for dynamic growth, success, and community.
A successful downtown requires activity and The Water Dog has become the hub for community engagement, a hub for community,” Megan Lucas CEO and Chief Economic Development Officer for the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance said.
The Hendersons suggest they have some exciting developments on the horizon for Hen + Hound. And, although they’ve received offers to bring other businesses under the newly formed management group, for the moment they are content with honing the formula with their current portfolio.
“We are pretty happy just trying to help make our little corner of the world in downtown Lynchburg, the kind of place we know it can be,” Chris said.