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 Richardson 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.
Katie-Marie is a hometown sweetheart raised in Madison, Georgia. After graduating from the University of Georgia in 2018 with a Fine Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Art and Design, she was introduced to Hallie and began working events. She fell in love with the wedding industry and later on transitioned to her current position in Sales & Event Coordinating. Her favorite part of working at Empire Mills and Hallie Jane's Catering is having the opportunity to build memorable relationships with clients and having the privilege of watching their special day come to life.
When Katie-Marie is not at the office, you can find her in the kitchen or hunting for unique pieces to decorate and furnish her new house.
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.
Hope Hewatt started working for EM/ HJC in March 2021 not long after retiring from colligate and amateur golfing. Hope’s favorite part about working for EM/ HJC is taste testing new dishes as well as connecting with our clients and fellow vendors on social media. She also enjoys creating content for EM/HJC as well as planning marketing events. When Hope is not in the office you can probably find her out on the golf course or doing other outside sports and activities with her fiancé, Cole.