A Heart for Hospitality
Goodfellow Construction makes commercial clients’ design dreams come true
Lorena Goodfellow, President of Goodfellow Construction, grew up in the construction and design world in her native Colombia. Her father was an architect, and her mother was an artist who loved interior design. Lorena studied accounting and finance at University of Maryland and became a CPA, working in public accounting. But since her heart remained in construction and design, Lorena and her husband, Parker Goodfellow, founded Goodfellow Construction in 2012.
Goodfellow Construction is a woman-owned general contracting and construction project management company located in Washington, D.C. The company serves the retail, restaurant and hospitality markets in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, helping clients to navigate complex construction projects from high-end restaurants and tenant fit-outs to religious facilities. They also provide their services to homeowners through the firm’s residential division. Lorena’s finance background has proven to be essential for managing client projects and leading the growth of the company.
Parker, a native of Washington, D.C., developed a passion for building as a teen, spending summers working as a volunteer on construction projects for the Appalachia Service Project. As Partner at Goodfellow Construction, Parker has been able to apply his understanding of the processes required for successful project and team management. He started his construction career working for a small general contracting firm that focused on residential construction. Then he pivoted to commercial construction, serving as project engineer and estimator for higher-education and high-end restaurant projects.
Designs that Welcome and Function
“We understand how a restaurant functions and the extreme attention to detail required to create high-profile restaurants,” Parker says.
Lorena and Parker first met while working at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. At that time, Parker was considering a career in the hospitality industry and Lorena had just moved to the U.S. Their early, hands-on experience dovetails well with the projects they manage today for boutique and high-end restaurants with single or dual locations.
The Goodfellows are accustomed to being around the busy working kitchens of family restaurants: Lorena’s large extended family is in the hospitality business. “We’re able to go into a kitchen, see how it works and reflect that in our designs,” she says. They’re able to talk knowledgeably with chefs about the physical needs of a restaurant space, from how the kitchen functions to how servers perform their tasks. “We understand their requirements and can provide guidance on how to optimize the workflow,” she adds.
“Restaurant owners have the expertise to run the business, but not necessarily to build it. I work my magic for them,” says Lorena. “It’s like a puzzle, putting small pieces together.” She guides them through the decision-making process. ”We provide certainty, trust and comfort during that process. In the end, the owner has a beautifully decorated space. It’s such a satisfying feeling!”
“Lorena is able to take a small restaurant space and do some fantastic interior decorating,” says Parker. The company transformed Los Cuates, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Washington, D.C., from its traditional Mexican-tile decor into a modern space featuring stainless steel and other contemporary finishes. The owners couldn’t “see” the final vision until the end of the project. “This is where we come in with our creativity to help move ideas into reality. They love the result,” he adds.
A Tale of Two Continents
Parker was the general contractor for the singular Punjab Grill in Washington, D.C., a project that required detailed coordination between project teams in the U.S. and India.
The restaurant owner wanted a general contractor who would be deeply involved. Parker had built a restaurant for him in the past and was asked to lead this new project. “Punjab Grill represents one of the highest levels of finishes we’ve ever developed,” says Parker. “It required dedicated, clear communication throughout the eight-month project.”
The owner’s vision for the space entailed authentic materials and working with artisans in India to source and custom build most of the interior finishes for the walls and floors, fixtures and hand-carved wood screens. The best way for the owner to communicate his desired outcome to the design team? He brought them to India to show them in person.
Parker and Lorena traveled to India for two weeks of coordination, including marble slab selection inside a Punjab area warehouse on a 120-degree day. (Parker recalls it feeling even hotter inside the warehouse.) Logistical challenges for the team included a 12-hour time difference and precise conversion of U.S. customary units to metric.
Once they were built in India, the interior components were disassembled and shipped to the U.S. for installation under the design team’s attentive supervision. The steel ceiling to be installed above the marble bar was dismantled into 32 pieces before it was shipped from India. “We helped the owner engage an engineer to create a reinforced structure to allow it to hang securely from the ceiling.”
“I watched the artisans assemble the mirrors for the restaurant’s Sheesh Mahal room,” says Parker. This mirror- covered design is found in sumptuous places in India. “The result was gorgeous. “From the light of a single candle, the room glitters like stars at night.” “We love creating ambience and experience,” he adds. “The demand for sit-down restaurants is never going away.”
Retail that Touches History
Parker was the project manager for construction of the National Park Service’s store at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. The gift shop is a steel structure clad in stone and glass and the only building on the site.
“To be a part of project development at a landmark that will be around for generations is truly rewarding,” says Parker. “It was fantastic to work with so many qualified and competent team members, from stone masons to underground utility contractors. What was produced was just gorgeous.”
Big, fast-paced projects are a fit for the Goodfellows’ abilities. Parker served as project manager for the $500,000 renovation of the East End Restaurant at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum completed in just 27 days. The space was modified for new equipment, partitions and millwork, and the scope of work included deep cleaning the extensive tubular truss system that supports the glass pyramid above the 20,000-square-foot space. During the project, there was a one-day shutdown to accommodate filming of a scene for Wonder Woman 1984.
Parker was also project manager for construction of the North and South Gift Shops on the upper level of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. The project required strict safety and security protocols and certified payroll and accounting procedures. “We’re proud of it,” says Parker. “The level of finish is gorgeous. The North Gift Shop features custom millwork throughout. Being involved at the federal level was a wonderful experience for us.”
Religious Institution Work
Completing projects for religious institutions is also a natural fit for the Goodfellows. “We were both raised in religious families and attended religious schools,” says Parker. Both contribute their skills at Potomac United Methodist Church in Maryland where they are longtime members. Lorena serves as Treasurer and Parker is a member of the board of trustees.
Their personal experience gives them an inside understanding of the challenges board members face when making decisions on behalf of a congregation. “We also know how a budget is approved internally within a church,” says Lorena. Insights they’ve gleaned from serving in these roles help Parker and Lorena to better prepare for design-review meetings with church building committees.
“It’s easier and faster to secure approval for a budget that stays below a given threshold,” Lorena continues. “Understanding the process and guiding clients through it is part of what we do.” That guidance might include adding an electrical circuit to the budget for ongoing capital improvements instead of listing it as part of a bathroom remodel project.
Clear Communication is Key
“We’re normal Joes,” says Parker. “We’re also parents and part of a large extended family. We bring a down-to-earth reality to conversations. We don’t embellish, and we don’t sugarcoat bad news. We’re clear and concise and straightforward in our communications with everyone, from owners to the trades people on-site.”
They value the same level of communication within their team. “When you walk onto one of our job sites, you will find our company representative. Our Field Superintendent, Sean Kiley, has 25 years in commercial construction and quality control. He’s the constant touchpoint on-site for the client and the team,” says Parker.
The carpentry team is focused on the details and finishing touches on projects, from interior framing and drywall, down to the way wood trim is mitered. “That level of detail gives owners a high degree of confidence that the project is built well. Master Carpenter Nick Antipov leads the crew. “He brings a refinement to details. He also produces our millwork,” says Parker. Nick and his team handled most of the installation at Punjab Grill.
The focus on clear communication extends to Parker’s volunteer work with the youth of his congregation. He recalls leading a teen mission trip organized through Habitat for Humanity to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It turned into far more of a life-changing experience than planned.
Their planned community renovation project—painting and repairing homes—was upended by serious flooding. The group’s basecamp at a local community center quickly became an emergency shelter that housed 150 displaced people. The teens and their chaperones worked through the night until the American Red Cross took over, giving away their own extra clothes, blankets and food to people who’d lost everything. “It may lead some of these kids to follow different paths and new dreams!” says Parker.
The Goodfellows relish being in the dream fulfillment business. “Taking a client’s dream from an idea on paper and bringing it to life, making it tangible reality, is our biggest motivation,” says Lorena.
“I live for the challenge of building,” says Parker. “Coordinating all of the steps, handling the endless calls and emails and hitting project milestones. It brings me to the table every day.”