Fast forward 22 years and through many changes to the Lighthouse brand – Andresen helped his parents open Lighthouse’s San Rafael location in 2003 and moved it to Corte Madera in 2013 – and Andresen is back at Harbor Point, shaking hands and exchanging hugs every day with many of the same Club members he knew as a kid attending Tam High.
But now, Andresen runs the Lighthouse Bar & Grill, the two-year-old restaurant, bar and event venue that has solidified its place as a community gathering spot for not only Club members but also residents of Strawberry and beyond. Lighthouse took over for the Nourish restaurant in April 2015, with Andresen serving as the general manager. The family did so knowing that running a restaurant that is open to the public but within a private club is a unique challenge.
The family decided that the most important thing to make sure they got it right was to have Andresen focus on Lighthouse’s Strawberry location almost entirely. “This is my baby,” he says. “Well, my other baby” – he and his wife have a 15-month-old daughter.
Andresen says it was important to approach things wisely right out of the gate, catering to Club members reticent of change but also making subtle changes that opened up Lighthouse to non-members who wanted to a community gathering spot. American Californian menu staples like burgers, salads and sandwiches remained, but Lighthouse signatures appeared as well. The Danish family, which moved to Marin in the early 1990s, has always sprinkled their menus with Danish favorites, and that has continued in Strawberry, with Frikadeller (Danish meatballs), the Copenhagen Burger and Smoked Norwegian Salmon BLT all getting plenty of attention.
Andresen says the gentle-yet-strategic approach has paid off. When Lighthouse opened, its customers base was approximately 90 percent members of the Club at Harbor Point. Today, it’s closer to 65 percent, Andresen says. The reputation of the other Lighthouse restaurants has helped,” he says. “But it’s primarily been word of mouth, and members telling friends and so on.”
To hear The Club at Harbor Point’s Director of Operations Patrick Kaliski tell it, Andresen nailed it.
“Bringing in a new restaurant to this community with a longstanding membership base presented us with a significant challenge, but Kenneth, his family and his team have not only handled it extremely well, but they have actually helped us grow that community,” Kaliski says.
With that success in mind, Andresen now is the time to deepen Lighthouse’s ties to the community. They just finished a significant expansion of the waterfront outdoor dining deck overlooking Richardson Bay, a move that makes Lighthouse a standout in Mill Valley.
Andresen has also made great strides in making Lighthouse a post-work happy hour and after-dinner destination, booking local favorites like Void Where Prohibited and Heartstrings Bridge for live music nights as well as a regular karaoke night on Fridays. Bookings for private events like weddings, anniversaries and reunions have also picked up, he says.
“This is the year,” Andresen says.