Birmingham lawyer expands his business footprint with downtown restaurants

By Mike Scott

Legal News

Birmingham resident Jason Hegedus grew up in an entrepreneurial family. The lawyer not only established his own firm, but he also has expanded his business interests to one of the most challenging industries--food.

Hegedus is part owner with a friend and client of three restaurants in Birmingham. They opened Chen Chow Brasserie more than three years ago and the adjacent Quattro and The Hamilton Room last year. Now he is part of an ownership group hoping to open a new restaurant--one with even more ambitious goals to bring family entertainment to the bustling downtown community.

Yet for a restaurant owner, Hegedus certainly knows where his bread is buttered--literally and figuratively.

"I am first and foremost a lawyer," said Hegedus, a commercial litigation attorney and managing partner of Jason F. Hegedus, a firm within walking distance of his three restaurants. "I have been fortunate to have some great opportunities, but it started with my legal work. I especially love running operations and giving general business advice."

Hegedus was approached by a client and friend that he was advising to invest in Chen Chow, a popular, upscale Chinese restaurant in downtown Birmingham. But his day job is working with clients on a variety of business needs, including transactional work.

He grew up in the area, attending Cranbrook High School in Bloomfield Hills. His parents owned Delray Steel Casting, a small steel foundry in Melvindale. After graduating from the Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University in 1997, he spent several years starting a software consulting business with a former high school classmate in Boston in early 2000.

"It was fun and I enjoyed living in Boston but our timing wasn't great--right at the end of the dot-com boom," Hegedus said.

So he came back to Detroit a few years later and worked for a large national firm. After that firm folded, he had enough clients to feel comfortable hanging out his own shingle.

His favorite legal work is providing input and consulting for businesses that need to set up new entities. He has been able to provide a similar level of services for his own restaurants, including the ability to develop legal protections and addressing business challenges that arise from one industry to another.

"I love working with closely-held smaller companies and other entrepreneurs," Hegedus said. "I will help some of them find new capital and investment opportunities and other sources of funding."

More than six months ago Hegedus started another legal business, Credit Law Services in Southfield. With 15 employees including lawyers, paralegals and support staff, he works with clients to help them restore their credit under established rights made possible by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

"It's important to provide client options in a legal way and the right way so that they can get out of debt," Hegedus said. "There are a lot of scams out there for (so-called) experts who say they will help clients but it ends up being a rip-off."

But spend a few minutes with Hegedus and it is clear he enjoys the restaurant business as well. In fact, he is working on a restaurant/entertainment concept that, if approved by the Birmingham City Commission, would create a center covering nearly 25,000 square feet that includes games and events of children and parents alike along with a restaurant setting at 270 N. Old Woodward.

Known as Play Birmingham, the business, would be a high-end entertainment and restaurant facility that offers something for every member of the family, according to Hegedus. Games and activities will include bocce ball, bowling, billiards, ski ball, darts, a moon walk, a golf simulator, and other modern video games.

If approval through the city of Birmingham goes smoothly, Hegedus anticipates that construction will begin this spring and Play Birmingham could open by October.

"We want to create a family fun center that we don't believe exists in this market," he said. "It'll include bowling, burgers, a variety of beers, electronic games for the kids and more."

And expansion could extend beyond Birmingham for future restaurants, Hegedus said. But as part of the ownership of The Dali Restaurant group, he is taking it one day at a time. Already he overseas more than 300 employees at the three restaurants. He handles not only the legal issues related to the business, but also has learned a lot about human resources as well.

"It's a very difficult business," Hegedus said of the restaurants. "It's very unique and comes with unique challenges. I wouldn't want to be running the day-to-day operations, but my legal expertise really has helped us in managing the restaurants."

Published: Wed, Mar 30, 2011

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