Indiana 250: Craig Huse

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Craig Huse is leading his family’s business as it transitions from an organization built around its highly regarded downtown restaurant, St. Elmo Steak House, into a regional restaurant operator and specialty food and beverage retailer. Its third 1933 Lounge is under development, joining three Indianapolis Harry & Izzy locations and the HC in Fishers. Expansion into other states is planned. Further expansion also is expected in the company’s retail division, which includes its cocktail sauce, seasoning blend, condiments and alcoholic beverages. Total company sales now reach $70 million annually.

First job

My first job was as a dishwasher at Poor Richard’s Restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana, when I was 14. My second job was as a warehouse associate at a carpet business. I never left the restaurant business again after my second job.

Favorite thing about being a leader

Supporting the career growth of others. We continue to grow Huse Culinary so that others can advance professionally. We are fortunate to have had many educated and driven folks that have taken an hourly opportunity and grown that into a salaried leadership position.

Admires most

They say success has many fathers (parents), and I owe mine to my father, Steve Huse. He showed me how to treat ALL people with kindness and respect, which, sadly, can be a lost trait in today’s world. Kindness matters, and I avoid anyone that doesn’t live that. One cannot extend kindness, crucial to hospitality success, in a negative environment.

Favorite device

I’m a tech geek, and my texts appear in a blue bubble. Sorry.

Toughest challenge

The COVID-19 pandemic. With restaurant dining shut down for two to three months, depending on the county, followed by slow reopenings while still keeping all staff members paid throughout, [the situation] provided stress like never before in the hospitality industry. I was proud of how our leadership team guided the organization and treated the 800 employees during that challenging time.

Advice for a young person

Say “yes” to any opportunities that are presented to you. Be the person that says, “I’ve got this,” then own it and finish the process to 100% completion. Organizations need risk-takers among the ranks to thrive.

Something to change about Indiana

Attitude. We need to increase our confidence in being a business-friendly state. Downtown Indianapolis should aggressively and creatively incentivize and support businesses, law firms and construction/architecture/design firms to be headquartered in the central business district. Leadership should be as hungry and competitive as suburban leadership is.

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