Elia Group Logo

About Elia

Iconic is
our baseline

We’re a bold and imaginative team with a proven record of seeing otherwise hidden opportunities and turning spaces into inviting places. Collectively, our team has successfully negotiated transactions in excess of $1 billion.

We’ve elevated customer experiences through a focus on every detail, garnering consistently high reviews and accolades. We’ve broken down preconceived notions of what’s possible to build communities and improve neighborhoods. And more than ten years in, we’re just getting started.

We’re investors, developers, managers, designers, and big-picture thinkers dedicated to crafting experiences that define expectations for our guests, businesses, developments, cities and partners. Everything we do, design, and develop becomes iconic.

Ford Building

The Difference Makers

How We Do It

Iconic Experiences

| 01

We create iconic experiences

Our people-first approach is the key to unlocking destination spaces, off-market transactions, and impactful cultural moments.

We’re always expanding our network of strategic relationships to drive business development, access to capital, tenant opportunities, and a reliable supply chain. Each component is essential to consistently delivering results for our partners as well as the community.

| 02

We’re obsessed with the details

Meticulous design and expert execution are what bring our unique spaces to life.

Our robust team has extensive subject matter expertise and cohesive team chemistry in every facet of our business. We’re strategic-planners and boundary-pushers in the best possible way.

Lamborghini Company Holiday Party
Zuzu Tunnel

| 03

We gravitate to unexpected and imaginative spaces

We tackle projects with an experiential mindset to deliver high-growth, high-impact opportunities for our partners.

Our ability to see opportunities others dismiss given our perspective as both a real estate investor/developer and hospitality venue owner/operator is one of our greatest strengths.

| 04

We change the course of communities

Our team thinks and invests as long-term, neighborhood-minded owners and operators.

“People first” is not just a catchy tagline, it is the ethos that guides our creative vision and the decisions we make every day in our businesses. We move with the utmost consideration and care because we’re all in it together.

Brisabar outside
Parc Detroit

| 05

We cultivate long-lasting relationships

Whether it be with a potential business partner or a new guest to one of our restaurants, we go to great lengths to make sure we exhibit just how much it means to us when someone gives us the opportunity to serve them.

We strive to truly understand our relationships and exceed their expectations in every way.

The Elia Team

Meet Our Visionaries

Zaid Elia

Zaid Elia


Zaid and his team lead over 500 people, creating landmark properties that help communities thrive and leave patrons and guests with a memorable experience. He achieves these remarkable results through a focus on implementing best industry operating practices and connecting with communities to generate strong sales growth. He also generates exceptional value by assembling strategic tenants to create synergies, and further enhance the economic stability of his projects.

RJ Wolney

RJ Wolney

Chief Investment Officer

RJ has over 20 years of experience working at the intersection of investment, operations, entrepreneurship and capital markets. He is responsible for shaping investment strategy, directing the deployment of capital and building teams to deliver successful execution of the company’s vision. Prior to joining Elia Group, RJ acted as Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at Bedrock Detroit for over nine years investing in real estate and entrepreneurial ecosystems to drive economic development and human capital attraction in Detroit.

Randy Awdish

Randy Awdish

General Counsel

Randy is a trusted advisor to C-level executives and business teams, providing strategic and pragmatic legal solutions that balance business needs and risk. He has 20 years of legal experience and has counseled clients ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies on a variety of corporate and real estate transactions. Randy has also received numerous accolades from his peers recognizing his legal expertise, including dBusiness’s Top Corporate Counsel and Super Lawyer.

Wesley Lyon

Wes Lyon

Chief Financial Officer

Wes oversees the financial planning and analysis, accounting, and business intelligence at Elia Group. He has over 15 years of experience in finance and accounting, specializing in driving efficient growth at fast moving organizations. Wes has worked in both the public and private sectors of accounting at high growth organizations including JACK Entertainment and Xenith LLC.

Alex Root

Alex Root

Director of Real Estate

Alex oversees the acquisition and development of new properties and management of the existing real estate portfolio. He has ten years of experience in the commercial real estate industry and was previously a member of the Investment Team for Bedrock Detroit where he was responsible for a pipeline of over $1 billion in total investment and 1,000 multifamily units.

Leslie Youngblood

Leslie Youngblood

Sr. Director of Marketing

Leslie manages and executes all marketing, advertising, brand, and communication executions for Elia Group and its venues. She has 15 years of experience in B2C and B2B marketing, specializing in content creation, business development, and utilizing innovative efforts to drive optimal business outcomes. She has created work for noted brands including Dell Technologies, Mercedes-Benz, and Macy’s Inc.

Valerie Popelier

Valerie Popelier

Director of Human Resources

Valerie partners with the leadership team to acquire, develop, and engage talent. She has acquired over 15 years in Human Resources roles in the hospitality, real estate, automotive and healthcare industries. Throughout her career she has expertly led organizational development and engagement strategies for organizations experiencing tremendous growth.

Jordan Hoffman

Jordan Hoffman

Director of Culinary Operations

Born and raised in Michigan, Jordan Hoffman found a natural predilection to cooking and the idea of what hospitality is and could be. Now his illustrious food and beverage career spans four decades and includes working with multiple Certified Master Chefs and “Chef of the Century“ Joel Robuchon and renowned organizations including the Ritz Carlton, MGM Grand, The Light Group in Las Vegas, and Delano South Beach.

Richard Hatfield



Richard leads the event planning team, managing social and corporate events and executing plans that consistently surpass expectations. With over nine years in the events and planning industry, Richard’s additional background in sales has cultivated his high attention to detail and allows him to seamlessly navigate valuable relationships.

Khalid Diab

khalid diab

general manager

A consummate professional with a hospitality career that spans over five decades, Khalid Diab is a passionate restaurant operator who counts both national brands, luxury hotel properties and unique independent concepts as ventures that he has had the opportunity to shape and form. Khalid, though adaptable and well versed in many different operations and styles of management believes the key to success in this industry is in genuine hospitality, where relationships and care for guests is paramount above all else.

Jaime Cherkasky

jaime cherkasky

office manager

Jaime has worked for Elia Group for over 17 years. She is the executive assistant to Zaid Elia. Jaime is enthusiastic and professional and a proud graduate of the University of Michigan and University of Detroit Law School. Her experience in a wide range of real estate and administrative tasks allows her to expertly collaborate with the Elia team and act as a liaison between departments.

Kemper Hoglund


real estate associate

Kemper Hoglund is a Real Estate Associate with over six years of experience in real estate investment. Kemper is responsible for acquisition, development, and asset management activities. Prior to joining Elia Group, Kemper was a Business Development Associate at a residential co-ownership company called Pacaso and Senior Investment Analyst at Bedrock Detroit. Kemper received a degree in Economics from Miami University.

Hailei Ruhlmann


EVENTS manageR

Hailei started with the service end of Elia Group and now serves as Events Manager. She supports the vision and strategies of the Events Team and further builds vital client relationships. Hailei studied human resource management and psychology at Central Michigan University and graduated in 2020.

Andrew Banish


Sr. Accountant

Andrew manages the daily maintenance and recording of business transactions across hospitality and real estate, month-end closing journal entries and account reconciliations, and financial review. Graduating from the University of Illinois, Andrew started his accounting career at Xenith Sporting Goods and Manufacturing.

Nick Baumann



A recent graduate of Central Michigan University, Nick lends his talents behind the camera to create video and digital content. His unique perspective and innovative eye creates a hallmark style for Elia Group, engaging consumers and business partners across platforms.

Community & Sustainability

Rooted in


We create a sense of community with every new concept we conceive and space we inhabit. Throughout the geographic markets we serve, we engage with public sector and non-profit partners to develop programs benefiting each unique community.

We believe that we have a fundamental responsibility to make a positive impact in the communities where we do business and call home.  

Rooted in community