Hallie Duan- The Owner
Empire Mills is owned by Hallie Duan, the owner of the well-known local catering company, Hallie Jane's Catering. Hallie moved to Madison 25 years ago from the northeast to raise her family in a town offering all of the benefits of small-town America. With a culinary background developed during years of dining in the New York metropolitan area and traveling abroad, Hallie fell in love with foods from all corners of the globe. After establishing her catering company, she started scouting locations for her next venture- a venue. Due to working in the catering industry for many years, Hallie acquired an extensive amount of knowledge and experience regarding weddings and events and knew that Empire Mills would be a step in the right direction. The 17,000 square foot property sat dormant since the 70's until purchased by Hallie in 2012, and the rest is history! When she's not in the kitchen or office, you can find Hallie traveling, spending time with her three beautiful daughters, or dreaming up her next big idea.
Alex Corley- Chief Financial Officer/Staffing
Alex has been in the service industry for over 15 years. He started with a local catering company while attending college at The University of Georgia. After graduating with a business degree from Terry College of Business in 2004, he went on to manage Harry Bissett’s in downtown Athens where he met Hallie. Five years later Alex began working events at Hallie Jane’s Catering. He quickly rose through the ranks utilizing his service and management experience becoming HJC’s first salaried Staffing Manager. In this role, he specializes in hiring, training, scheduling and maintaining staff for all of HJC’s events. Within a short period of time, Alex’s incredible attention to detail and accounting abilities earned him another promotion to his current position of Chief Financial Officer. In this role, Alex manages monthly and quarterly taxes, reconciles monthly books and manages all accounts payable/receivable and payroll. In his spare time you can find him playing tennis, mountain biking, running races, or playing poker. He currently lives in Athens, Georgia with his wife Evelyn.
Kathleen Richardson- Director of Sales
Kathleen Ruark started working for Hallie Jane's Catering when she was in high school. Since starting out on the wait staff at age 15, Kathleen has seen all sides of the catering and events industry. After working with the company on and off over the years, she officially returned to HJC in 2009 as an event coordinator after graduating from The University of Georgia. Her years of experience to every possible situation, client, style of event and inside look at the HJC approach to servicing these variables has made her a connoisseur of sorts and invaluable to the HJC and EM team. Kathleen is one of the three main points of contact when planning your event here at Empire Mills. In her down time from being the hardest working employee, you can catch Kathleen relaxing in the mountains with her husband Robert and their dog, Snoop.
Carla Bristow- Sales/ Event Coordinator
Carla is a recent addition to the Empire Mills/HJC family. She moved here from Charleston, South Carolina and began working with us in October of 2018. She has since proven to be a valuable asset to our team! Carla has worked in the food and beverage industry since she was 14 years old. She graduated from The Culinary Institute of Charleston in South Carolina in 2009. After graduating, she worked in multiple restaurants in the Charleston area such as Cru Café and 82 Queen. Eventually, she went into the operations and catering program development side of food and beverage where she found her niche outside of the kitchen. Her favorite part of being in this industry is getting to talk about food all day, every day! After almost 15 years in Charleston, Carla decided to leave the city and move to Madison where her sister resides. She currently lives on her wanna-be farm with her three littles: Keegan, Daily, Georgia and their dog, Cozy.
Alex Ugolini- Creative Director/Senior Event Manager
Alex grew up in Madison but started working at Harry Bissets in Athens alongside Hallie and Alex Corley. Here is where the wondrous triad originated. Alex began working events with HJC in 2012 and has been with us on and off for around 8 years. While he was absent from HJC, he lived in Europe working for his father and in numerous bakeries and pizzeries in Italy. Upon returning back to Georgia, Alex continued working in various restaurants in Athens including Harry Bissets, Speak Easy, and East West Bistro. He took a break from the food and beverage industry and got back into his grassroots of food working as an organic farmer at Crystal Organic Farms in Newborn, Georgia. Eventually, Alex phased out of the farm and reconnected with Hallie. Hallie knew right off the bat that Alex would become a crucial asset to the up and coming venue. Popularly known around here as a modern-day renaissance man, Alex utilized his skills, both physical and creative, to help make Empire Mills what it is today. Alex participated in the construction and preservation of the property, while also creating and building props and decor for food and drink display. He continues to bring to life prospective clients requests and has proved himself an amazing event manager as well. In his down time you can find Alex running with the bulls in Spain or playing a Kirby Smart acting double.
Abby Knight- Media & Marketing Director
Abby began working with the HJC/EM team in September of 2017. She graduated from Georgia College and State University in 2016 with a psychology degree, but soon realized her chosen field of study wasn't the career path she wanted to take. Luckily, she reconnected with Hallie during the same time she was looking to expand her team. With Empire Mills being up and coming, the main position Hallie needed to fill was a marketing position. Although Abby didn't have any experience with marketing, she was up for the task, knowing she had something to offer the team. Due to growing up in the digital age, Abby knew how important it was for a business to have an online presence, so she began curating and creating content for all social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Aside from representing both companies online, Abby manages google ads and both the Hallie Jane’s Catering and Empire Mills websites, as well as all branded materials. In her free time, you can find Abby playing ultimate frisbee or making pottery at good dirt in Athens.
Tammy Vick- Kitchen Manager/Chef
Tammy joined the HJC team five years ago, bringing thirty years of culinary culture and diversity with her. Originally from Space Coast Florida, Tammy has dined with Mickey and Minnie and also watched astronauts lift into space. While living in Florida, she managed two restaurants, totaling her twelve years of managerial experience. With her strong background in management along with her culinary training, Tammy has become an invaluable asset and leader for the HJC kitchen. Daily responsibilities for Tammy include ordering trucks, trips to farmer’s market/Sam’s club, inventory management, scheduling support staff, cooking for client tastings, costing and quantifying recipes, and of course, lots and lots of cooking for events! When she’s not in the kitchen, you can find Tammy traveling, spending time with her fur babies, and rescuing animals.
Lisa Frazier- Executive Chef/Menu Development
Lisa has worked on and off with Hallie Jane’s for many years. She was born and raised in Philadelphia where she attended the well-known culinary school Le Cordon Bleu. Eventually, she found herself in Georgia and while living here, worked in numerous restaurants in the Atlanta area. In time, she opened up her own soul-food restaurant in Athens called Talk of the Town. Due to being a successful business owner, she later tried her hand in the hospitality industry, implementing and managing the catering program at The Hotel Indigo in downtown Athens. After working on and off with us since 2008, Lisa ultimately decided that HJC is where she wanted to be. Aside from the daily task of cooking, her extensive knowledge of food she has acquired over her lifetime has made her quite the connoisseur of food pairing, and because of this, she is often looked to in order to help create specialty menus. You can even find her experimenting in the kitchen with new food ideas she wants to try. In her free time you can find Lisa riding her motorcycle, taking photos, reading, or traveling abroad.
Tanner Jensen- Sous Chef/Pitmaster
Tanner has been in the food and beverage industry ever since he was a teenager. He originally started working at the local Amici in Madison upon graduating from Morgan County High School. After working there for a few years, he tried another career path - being an industrial electrician. He soon realized this was not the job for him and once more returned to his Amici family. Since, he has worked in restaurants around the lake area including The Harbor Club and Da Corrados where he was an executive chef. In 2018, Tanner reconnected with Hallie, a long-time family friend, and both decided that HJC was where he belonged. He has been with us for around a year now and the rest is history! In his free time Tanner loves to spend time with his fiancé and his son, Hires. He also enjoys cooking at home where he gets to continue practicing his true passion-smoking meat!