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. Coming in 2015 will be Common Man Hooksett, a unique project that will renovate and expand the state's service areas on Interstate 93 north and south in Hooksett and will include a food court made up of only Common Man concepts, a 24-hour convenience store, expanded state liquor stores and Irving fuel pumps.
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.
Jason Lyon is the CEO of The Common Man family of restaurants.
Jason began his career with The Common Man as a dishwasher at the age of 14 at The Common Man in Ashland. Over the years, he has held numerous positions within The Common Man family, including prep cook, server, bartender, general manager, executive general manager and director of operations.
In 2000, Jason was promoted to CEO overseeing the daily operations of the Common Man Family. Continuing in the grass roots tradition of Common Man Founder Alex Ray, Jason balances his administrative role with taking a hands-on approach to be able to monitor the true heart beat of the company. On any given day or evening, you may find Jason where you are dining - he might even be seating you or washing your dishes.
Jason says the most rewarding aspect of being CEO is being able to work within each restaurant, mentoring and coaching management teams and employees. He has a great passion for quality food and over-the-top hospitable service, and says that when he can ignite these passions within the Common Man team, he knows the company will continue to be successful.
Jason also plays a key role in ensuring all Common Man family members are invested in giving back to their local communities, spearheading community donations and charitable events at all locations.
A 1994 graduate of Plymouth State University (then Plymouth State College), he has a degree in business finance management with an economics minor. He graduated Summa Cum Laude and was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. Jason was inducted into the Inaugural PSU Business Hall of Fame in 2009 and is a member of Delta Mu Delta.
Jason frequently speaks locally and nationally about the Common Man's philanthropic efforts and counsels businesses and organizations on making charitable giving part of their business models.
Jason is Food Managing Professional (FMP) certified, ServeSafe certified, TEAM certified and is a Plymouth State University business student mentor. Jason is a current board member of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association serving on the organization's Marketing and Government Affairs Committees. He is also a member of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART) and a two-time conference team member. Jason is a volunteer for the Ashland Fabulous 4th Committee, and donates his time to numerous other community events.
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.
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 much of her time and public relations experience as a member of 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.
Roland von Gunten
Roland von Gunten is the director of culinary operations for The Common Man family, and joined the family in 2007.
Born and raised in Switzerland, Roland has vast experience in the hospitality industry, both internationally, and here in the United States.
Roland completed a four-year European culinary arts apprenticeship and moved into cooking positions with Alpine Resorts Hotels in Switzerland before moving to Boston, MA and becoming the executive sous chef at Swiss Hotel Lafayette.
He went on to become the executive chef at the Colonial Inn in Concord, MA and the executive chef at the Marriott Corporation in Waltham, MA. After seven years with Marriott, Roland moved on to take the director of operations position at Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C.
Cindy Bates is the director of training for The Common Man family.
Cindy joined The Common Man in 1992 as part of the opening crew of The Tilt'n Diner in Tilton. She worked as a server and assistant manager, and was promoted to general manager of the diner in 2001.
As general manager of Tilt'n Diner, Cindy led the staff in numerous charitable endeavors, including Light a Bulb, Cash N Cans, WLNH Children's Christmas Auction, Toys for Tots, Salvation Army, T.N.S. Santa Fund, and numerous spaghetti suppers to raise money for many non-profit organizations.
In 2007, Cindy was promoted to the new position of director of training. Cindy oversees the training programs for the company's more than 800 employees and developed a new mentor program. She is responsible for keeping staff current with safe food service practices, and for working with each restaurant team to ensure service and training standards are met.
Cindy is a graduate of Colby Sawyer College.
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.