Ron Lazarus spent a lifetime collecting and recently downsized to a condominium with floor-to-ceiling glass at One Museum Place while deciding what not to take.
Lazarus co-founded, with Scott Ardolino, one of Atlanta’s premier caterers and event production companies, Affairs to Remember, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in September.
Contrasting the smoky gray linen walls, the art is as captivating as it is engaging. “It’s what John Wise, my spouse, and I can live with,” Lazarus said. “We describe our style as modern classic. You have to see our home at night to appreciate the unique lighting and handiwork” by Yaacov Golan’s Lighting Loft.
Patrick Cuccaro, the managing director of Affairs to Remember, said: “Ron and Scott possess a pure entrepreneurial spirit and inspire us to think nontraditionally. They were truly pioneers and realized early on that putting a signature on the food industry included design and décor. They are constant reminders that at Affairs to Remember, we don’t just sell wonderful food; we create a total experience.”
This dedication to ambience and perfection continues into Ron and John’s home.
Come be welcomed by a 60-by-60-inch painting of a giant rooster by Iranian artist Mostafa in the entrance foyer.
Jaffe: Share the concept of One Museum Place, directly across from the High Museum of Art and the Woodruff Arts Center.
Lazarus: We downsized from a 5,000-square-foot Virginia-Highland home (after 42 years) to this 2,500-square-foot unit, one of 44 uniquely different homes in the complex. We actually don’t miss the space or the maintenance. We wanted an easy lifestyle filled with new and marvelous friends, which we have joyfully found in our new digs.
One Museum Place is the culmination of John Wieland’s 12-year effort to bring his dream of real luxury Midtown living to fruition. He generously rotates his personal art collection through our common areas. He has a curated, 30,000-square-foot warehouse gallery on the Westside housing his vast collection (not open to the public). His art has building/housing themes. The red Nagoochie sculpture at our front entrance is also his.
Jaffe: How did you launch into the catering business?
Lazarus: My very modest family home was in Miami in what is now Little Havana. As a child, I found great joy on Sundays helping prepare Romanian meals with my uncle. After earning an advertising degree from the University of Florida, I continued additional studies at Florida State in hospitality management. I’ve always loved throwing parties and planning menus. My hands-on direction came as a steward at the AEPi frat house, where I learned how to run a kitchen.
For those with long memories, Scott and I worked at the Crossroads Restaurant for a decade prior to starting Affairs to Remember. I also catered the senior luncheons at The Temple — many moons ago!
Jaffe: Affairs to Remember is reputed to be an industry leader in green initiatives before other companies got on board. Some call you a visionary.
Lazarus: I became aware of the importance of sustainability in the food industry and set on a purposeful path to become Atlanta’s first Zero Waste Zone caterer. After we reached the milestone of diverting 1 million pounds of recoverable materials from Georgia landfills, the city of Atlanta officially proclaimed Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014, as Affairs to Remember Day in recognition of our sustainability programs. It was a proud day for all of us, and we remain leaders in the nation in this regard.
Jaffe: How did you accumulate such magnificent art? Go ahead, name names.
Lazarus: Over the decades, we’ve had a personal relationship with Evelyn Lagerquist and Kay Bragg. Ninety percent of what you see here was collected from their eponymous gallery. Some of our favorites are Tina Stern, a local Jewish sculptor; Harold Kraus; Carol Connelly; Dale Rayburn (printmaker); Dodie Petro; Geoffrey Johnson; Billie Hightower; and Al Hirschfeld.
We mix it up, like this 1880 brandy set and urns my parents received as a wedding gift in 1926. There is art in the laundry room from the Metropolitan Museum 2002 Starving Artist Collection alongside a painting of David (1972).
For a bold, unique strategy right after 9/11 (when Manhattan was low on tourism), we flew up and made acquisitions at many of the galleries. They were happy to see us.
Kay Bragg (owner of Lagerquist Art Gallery): Ron and John, longtime clients, have become lifelong friends. Their taste and appreciation of art run the gamut from abstract to realism. They are not afraid to display bold art choices in a variety of settings and in unexpected surroundings. Their eclectic collection reflects their confidence in buying sophisticated art that stands on its own and not the latest trendy wave. Sculpture (bronze, wood and glass work), three-dimensional work, as well as works on panels, canvas and paper, round out their cohesive collection. Their home is their sanctuary, so what better place to be surrounded by artwork that not only inspires, but rejuvenates them every day?
Jaffe: So in the presence of a catering impresario, who is the chef here?
Lazarus: We actually prepare very simple things — soups, salads, roasted chicken, winter chili. My best secret is tuna salad. John is the baker. He has been taking neighbors his magnificent holiday cookies: chocolate oatmeal chunk with pecans and dried cherries.
We are both neatniks and love to entertain here. … Just figuring out who is gluten-free, dairy-free. … (Laughing) we ask for food credentials before planning the menu.
Jaffe: So what’s your tuna salad secret?
Lazarus: Dice the onions with a little olive oil, microwave them until they’re a little soft. Add celery, sweet relish, salt and lots of mayo. Voila!
Photos by Duane Stork