Alex Ray is the owner and founder of The Common Man Family of Restaurants, and is known just as much for his family-style restaurants across New Hampshire as he is for his tireless philanthropic work in communities across the state.
Born on April 6, 1945, Alex moved to North Conway at the age of 14, where he attended Kennett High School. During high school, he worked as a cook at "The Eatery" at Cranmore Mountain Ski Area.
In 1970, four years after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Alex opened Pineshore, a little summer restaurant on Squam Lake in Holderness, NH. He opened the first Common Man in Ashland, NH in November of 1971, and since then has built a thriving hospitality business throughout New Hampshire including 18 restaurants, two Common Man Inns, a Spa, a Company Store and The Flying Monkey Movie House & Performance Center, employing more than 1,000 people.
Click here to read "Our Story" about the growth of The Common Man family over the past 39 years.
Alex's mantra for The Common Man family has always been "Do Good," and he encourages all employees to get involved with their local communities, through hosting fund-raisers at each location and volunteering their own personal time. He allows employees a paid day off to contribute to a charity important to them, and supports employee efforts to raise funds for local organizations, sometimes making his own personal contribution.
Not one to sit still for long, Alex recently completed a Common Man Inn and Common Man restaurant in Claremont, having partnered with Meredith entrepreneur and long-time friend Rusty McLear to revitalize old mills that stood decrepit and defunct for decades. Alex also renovated the historic Daniel Webster homestead in Franklin, NH, preserving the historic structures and converting them into a non-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center called Webster Place Center.
The newest additions to the Common Man family are a Common Man restaurant in Portsmouth, Alex's first foray to the seacoast area, The 104 Diner in New Hampton, and a defunct movie theater which underwent extensive renovations and has now re-opened in downtown Plymouth as The Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center. In March 2015, Common Man Roadside in Hooksett opened at the new New Hampshire Welcome Centers on Interstate 93. The unique public-private partnership resulted in the renovation of the welcome centers on both sides of the highway. The facilities now feature food courts comprised of all Common Man-made food, a 24-hour NH General Store, expanded New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets, renovated bathrooms, 300 parking spots, Irving fuel pumps and Tesla electric car charging stations. The northbound building was named in honor of the late Executive Councilor Raymond S. Burton and also features a Merrimack County Savings Bank branch and a retail store for the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.
It's easy to see that the drive and creativity Alex had when he opened his first restaurant in 1971 has never diminished, and that he continues to inspire his staff and guests with his unending support of businesses and charities throughout New Hampshire.
Diane Downing is the Vice President of The Common Man family of restaurants.
Diane has been a part of the Common Man family since the 1970's, when the first Common Man restaurant was opened in Ashland. With the possible exception of owner and founder Alex Ray, no one knows more about The Common Man family, or has been more involved, than Diane.
She has worked at every level, filling in for servers on the floor, managing individual locations and developing the company's first wait staff training program. From the expansion of the original Common Man in Ashland to the construction of Airport Diner in Manchester, Diane has been involved in the development and building of all Common Man locations.
Diane developed the concept for The Common Man Company Store, and was its original buyer selecting merchandise and buying antiques for the converted Ashland Post Office building. She recently moved some of The Company Store's best sellers to an online store to make them available to guests near and far.
Her creative eye and flair for finding down-home Yankee decor is behind the distinct design of each Common Man location, and she never stops searching for those additional perfect pieces that make each Common Man location a home.
Her wine knowledge is behind the eclectic wine lists and the Common Man's own private label wine, found by Diane and Alex on a trip to Northern California.
Her influence on The Common Man's mantra of "doing good" has led to support of dozens of non-profit organizations over the years, including the American Cancer Society's Breast Cancer Research and the NH Humane Society. Diane also organizes the annual Winnipesaukee Wine Festival each summer to benefit local charities, as well as the BAD Jam Family Fun and Music Festival to benefit music scholarships.
Prior to joining The Common Man, Diane worked in management at The Lakewood Summer Theatre in Skowhegan, ME, The Manor on Winnipesaukee and at the Lakeview Restaurant in Wolfeboro.
Vincent Vella is the chief operating officer for The Common Man family of restaurants in New Hampshire, and oversees the daily operations of the hospitality family’s 16 restaurants. He is also charged with implementing strategic initiatives, driving business growth and leading the operations and management teams.
Vella came to The Common Man in 2014 and brings with him more than 30 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry in both the United States and overseas. Vella began his career as a general manager with the Riese Organization in New York in 1983, and served in that same role for Bennigan’s Grill and Bar, Bertucci’s Brick Oven Pizza and Ground Round Restaurant over the course of 15 years.
In 1998, Vella became the food and beverage director for Dave & Buster’s in New York, until 2001 when he joined the Flat Out Crazy Restaurant Group out of Chicago as operating partner, overseeing the opening and entire operation of a $3 million+ restaurant in Wes Nyack, NY. Vella moved into various roles with Flat Out Crazy Restaurant Group over 12 years, including regional partner and vice president of operations, where he oversaw $80 million in annual sales and was responsible for all new unit expansions for Stir Crazy and Flat Top Grill concepts.
Vella became the chief operating officer for AFAB Group in Saudi Arabia in 2013, and was involved in the planning and development of corporate infrastructure to support current and future operations, as well as oversight of all operational functions of four franchise businesses totaling more than 200 units.
Vella is a graduate of De La Salle College in Cospicua, Malta and resides in Laconia with his wife. He is also the proud father of four children.
Erica Auciello Murphy
Erica Auciello Murphy is the Director of Communications and Community Relations for the Common Man Family of Restaurants.
Erica joined the Common Man family in 2005 and leads all marketing, public relations, social media, branding, advertising, and media relations efforts for The Common Man. She also manages all charitable programs and contributions made by the family of 18 restaurants, two Common Man Inns, a Spa and Salon, Company Store and Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center.
In 2011, Erica was named a Woman of Influence in the Food Industry by The Griffin Report and in 2010 was selected as one of The New Hampshire Union Leader's Forty Under 40. Erica received the Media & Public Relations Award from the New Hampshire Travel Council in 2008 for her work with the Common Man and contributions to the travel industry in New Hampshire.
Prior to joining The Common Man, Erica worked for eight years as director of media relations and account director at High Point Communications Group, Inc. in Bow, NH, developing and implementing public and media relations strategies for more than a dozen of the firm's major accounts in health care, retail, hospitality, finance and other sectors.
Before joining High Point, Erica worked for WMUR-TV, New Hampshire's largest television station, as a news producer and freelance reporter. She has also worked as a staff writer for Neighborhood Publications and as a reporter for WZID-FM.
Erica graduated cum laude from the University of New Hampshire in Durham in 1995 with a BA in Communications. She is also a graduate of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Leadership Manchester 2000 program, and served for 10 years as a member of the Leadership Manchester steering committee, organizing Media and Communications Day.
Erica also volunteers her time and public relations experience as a member of the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association's events committee, as a board member for the Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction and on the New Hampshire Food Bank's marketing committee. She is a past President and board member of Noahs' Ark Child Care Center in Manchester, a former board member of The New Hampshire Travel Council, The Cinderella Project of New Hampshire and the Greater Manchester Chapter of the American Red Cross. Erica is often called upon to speak at conferences regarding The Common Man's implementation of social media in its marketing efforts, and has served twice as a panelist for the "A-HA" Social Media Summit.
Sal DeLorenzo is the Director of Operations of the six Common Man branded restaurants within The Common Man family.
Prior to joining our family, Sal held positions with fine dining and casual dining groups in New England, including Area and Regional Director. Throughout his career, Sal has successfully opened more than 30 restaurants. His accomplishments include several awards, and he is known for his high standards of excellence, focus on guests, and development of his teams.
He is a graduate of Boston College High School and The University of Massachusetts, Boston with a degree in Business Management.
Cindy Bates, PHR, CHT, is the Director of Training for The Common Man and has spent
more than 23 years in various roles with the independent hospitality family in
Bates’ career with The Common Man began in 1992 as part of the opening team for the Tilt’n Diner in Tilton, where she started as a server and worked up through the ranks of assistant manager and eventually to general manager in 1998.
In 2006, Bates was named Director of Training and took on the role of enhancing training programs, developing a management mentor program and conducting various training seminars across the company. As a member of the Operations Team, Bates continually works with management to implement best practices that lend to the company’s staff providing “WOW” guest service. She also advises on human resources policies and procedures and leads recruitment of new talent.
Bates is a Certified Hospitality Trainer (CHT) recognized by the National Restaurant and Lodging Association, and in 2014, achieved a Professional Human Resource designation (PHR) from the Society of Human Resources.
As part of The Common Man’s mantra to DO GOOD, Bates has always been actively involved in giving back to the community. In her time at the Tilt’n Diner, she led many fundraising efforts for local organizations including hosting benefit dinners and providing food and support for Cash N Cans and the WLNH Children’s Auction. She has also participated in the Made in NH Expo at The Common Man’s table, selling crab cakes to benefit CASA of NH, and contributes to numerous other Common Man charitable events each year.
Bates also represents The Common Man family as a member of the educational board of directors of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association (NHLRA), and serves as an advisory board member for the NH Technical College culinary program as well as the Hout Technical Center in Laconia and the Plymouth High School educational advisory committee. On a national level, she represents The Common Man family at several regional training programs and national conferences held by the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART).
Bates is a graduate of Colby Sawyer College and resides in Belmont with her husband. She is the proud mother of three daughters and grandmother to five granddaughters.
Maurice "Moe" Lafreniere
Maurice "Moe" Lafreniere is the CFO for The Common Man Family.
Moe joined the family in 2000, and spends a good deal of time on special projects, including property acquisition, site development and technology infrastructure.
Prior to joining The Common Man family, Moe owned and operated textile manufacturing companies in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont
He is a Trustee of Meredith Village Saving Bank, and past board chairman, board member and treasurer of First Star Tonight, a local non-profit which assists terminally-ill children. Moe is also a trustee of the Squam Lakes Science Center, a Rotarian, and serves on various committees in the lakes region
He received his degree from New Hampshire College.