John Crabtree

Owner of Crabtree’s Kittle House

There’s a phenomenon at Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua that’s been called by the owner, John Crabtree, the “family motif”—people come to work at the Kittle House and never leave. Maître’d Gustavo Zuluaga has been there since it opened 32 years ago; Event Coordinator Kimberly Wahl lays claim to 27 years; and Dining Room Manager Leo Erazo is nearing two decades.

It’s not for nothing that they’re called family. “I expect all of my managers to behave like they’re the owners,” says Crabtree. Nothing, for example, pleases him more than hearing his general manager say “my restaurant,” which could irk the ego of quite a few business owners. But Crabtree holds his staff to the same high standards he sets for the proprietary bloodline. “You have to take ownership of the business to care about it and make it succeed,” he says.

Crabtree became a boss much earlier than he’d anticipated. After graduating from Columbia, he reluctantly agreed to help his father restore a dilapidated old building in Chappaqua. They transformed it into the Kittle House and he, too, fell victim to the motif; 32 years later, Crabtree finds himself at the helm of what is now one of the County’s most revered restaurants/inns/event halls, bursting with happy, loyal employees. 

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Donna Fehn, an account administrator, says Crabtree “is truly a remarkable man” who “is determined to ensure that all who walk through the Kittle House doors are made to feel like family and have a wonderful experience—and that includes his employees.” 

The praise heaped upon Crabtree by Business Manager Nancy Bryson, who’s been working for Crabtree for 27 years, could well trigger a stampede towards the Kittle House’s hiring office: “He is the quiet, gentle strength and force behind our success, and the leader of our team, the president of this white house.”

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