In the ever-evolving world of hospitality, few individuals possess the drive, determination, and entrepreneurial spirit of Adrienne Cole. From her early years as a front-of-house manager in bustling high-volume restaurants to opening a small café inside the Waystar office building in 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky, Cole perpetually strives to achieve bigger dreams.
In 2019, Cole and her husband and head chef, Kris Cole, opened Marigold Catering Company, which quickly developed a loyal following. But when the pandemic hit, Cole was forced to lay off her staff and close the café, though she retained the kitchen to operate her catering service. “Everybody became a caterer in 2020,” she says. “So I really wanted to think of something that was kind of fun and innovative, that was going to set us apart from what everybody else was doing.”
The end result of her brainstorming became Marigold Mobile Bar and The Golden Girls—which brought an elevated bar service to the restaurant-style dinners that Kris had started making for people at home. The Golden Girls, meanwhile, is the couples’ fleet of custom-built tap vehicles equipped to serve a variety of beverages, which can be rented for weddings or other events, allowing guests to enjoy a custom cocktail with a lively touch of style.
Still in the midst of the pandemic, Ford Motor Co. reached out to Cole one day, asking to partner with Marigold Catering to deliver meals to 3,000 healthcare workers. “They highlighted us before the Kentucky Derby. It was a really special opportunity for us,” Cole says. Additionally, starting in March of 2020, The House of Marigold fed 18 elderly people hot meals five times a week for an entire year. “It just felt wonderful. It was rewarding; there was no compensation, it was just what we wanted and felt like we needed to do.”
When the lease on Cole’s office café ended, the dynamic duo decided it was time to open a brick-and-mortar, full-service restaurant—and The House of Marigold was born.
“My mom and grandmother always kept fresh flowers. They always believed fresh flowers brought good luck, my mom particularly, so I looked at Kris one day and said, ‘What do you think about marigold (for the name)?’ And he was like, ‘Oh I love it,’” Cole says. “We want people to come and feel like they’re at home. It’s about seasonal comfort and it’s very bright and very floral and welcoming. We want it to feel like somewhere you can come and spend time.”
The restaurant held a soft opening with friends and family on March 19 this year, which Louisville Mayor-elect Craig Greenberg attended, and declared it “House of Marigold Day,” according to Cole. They officially opened to the public a few days later on March 25. “We were all just trying to stay above water, not thinking 300 people would walk through that door. It was wildly humbling and just a lot of fun, and a huge learning experience,” Cole recalls.
While Kris focuses on all things culinary, including designing menus, Cole does “everything else,” she says. “I’ve had phenomenal teams with me to get us where we are, from design to purveyors to vendors. We’ve had lots of helping hands along the way. I’ve had great people that have allowed me to dream, and then they brought my dream to life and we’ve just created something that feels like me.”
“How we describe [The House of Marigold] is, it looks like me and it tastes like Kris,” Cole quips.
Cole also aspires to be a source of inspiration for Black women in the industry, creating a platform that celebrates diversity and champions underrepresented voices. “In our industry, there’s not a ton of representation in regards of Black women in the forefront and in ownership and management, and so for me, it just felt like a natural opportunity to be a vessel for other Brown and Black and female people within the industry to have a space,” she says.
As for the future, Cole envisions The House of Marigold growing and eventually embracing new markets. “I feel that the brand itself has an opportunity to be so much. I really absolutely believe that it can be a national brand where we can open multi-locations and bring this feeling into other cities,” Cole says, voicing her desire to also open a fast-casual spot “where you can come in and get drinks and pitchers and really beautiful plates for dinner. We want to open an event space where you can do really cool events, but make it modern and fun with a rooftop.”
The plan is to grow to three locations in the triangle area close to Louisville, including Indianapolis; Cincinnati; and Nashville, Tennessee. “And then see what happens,” Cole says.
“I certainly think that being in that corporate structure within restaurants has provided me the ability to take the bigger picture, to look at things and not necessarily see things as a day-to-day operation,” she says about her prior experiences working as a front-of-house manager. “What’s our growth plan? What’s our process and procedure? How do we scale? That’s given me the ability to really be able to manage the brand and put people in places that I know I’m not strong, and then put myself in the right place when I know I can be of service.”
In the end, her mission is to reinvent the way people dine by focusing on the experience above all else. “Doing things that are just fun and exciting and wrapped around an experience, but by also providing ultimately what you came out for, which is just a beautiful dinner or a beautiful breakfast,” she adds.