Dine in style at Ray’s on the Green

Published 10:32 am Thursday, April 3, 2014

Rays on the Green opens April 7 inside the Berrien Hills Golf Club in Benton Harbor. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

Rays on the Green opens April 7 inside the Berrien Hills Golf Club in Benton Harbor. (Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN)

BENTON HARBOR—It started out as simply an idea tossed around between friends after a game of golf. Soon though, that idea will become a reality as Ray’s on the Green opens its doors within the Berrien Hills Golf Club.

The grand opening will take place on April 7.

“Two and a half years ago, in Sept. of 2011, Ray and I were sitting, having a beer on the deck after Dr. Kasewurm’s annual golf outing,” recalled Dave Vonk, general manager of the golf club. “We’d known each other for a couple years before that, and Ray said, ‘If there are ever any opportunities out here, let me know.’”

That opportunity arose in the fall of 2013, and the partnership between Ray Mays and the Berrien Hills Golf Club began.

“It just got to be the perfect time for Ray, and it got to be the perfect time for Berrien Hills, so everything just kind of fell into place in the fall of last year,” Vonk said.

Mays, who has held top positions at both the Pump House Grill in St. Joseph and The Friendly Tavern in Coloma, sees great potential in all of the amenities that the Berrien Hills Golf Club boasts.

“I really want this to compete with the yacht clubs and all of the other clubs around here” Mays said. “It’s not just a golf club any more. It’s a venue. We’ve got a pool, and we’ve got potential for anything that any other venue has.”

The veteran restaurateur is looking forward to his new role as the owner of the eatery, and he’s received a lot of support from both family and friends in this venture.

“I was in charge at both the Pumphouse and the Friendly Tavern, but this is the first time that it’s mine,” Mays said. “My best friend since kindergarten is a silent partner, and he encouraged me to do this project, so here I am.”

Mays has also brought in Chris Waggoner and her company, Sweet Dreams Baked Goods, as the in-house bakery, which will supply all of the breads, cakes and pastries for the restaurant.

“I heard through the grapevine that Ray was looking for a baker, and I did an audition for him at my home,” Waggoner recalled. “It actually wasn’t the desserts that sold him. It was the bread—the rolls. They are the yeast rolls that my grandma used to make.”

While Waggoner learned to bake from her grandmother, she has developed many of her own recipes for the delicious and beautiful desserts that she has been creating in her home kitchen. Each dessert is served with a natural flower as decoration.

“I started baking in my home, doing special orders for friends,” Waggoner said. “Through the encouragement of my family, my friends and Ray, I was given the opportunity to join him and a wonderful group of people.”

Since October, the renovations on both the main floor and the lower level of the club have been completed, lending a fresh look to the historic club.

“The main dining room will be in the barroom, and of course, on the deck. If the weather is bad, we will push the dining out here,” Mays said, referring to the club’s spacious ballroom.

Along with the barroom, the lower level of the club has received a lot of attention.

“The downstairs room has been totally recarpeted,” Vonk said. “We’ll serve meals down there, and we maintained the bank below the deck. It’s really a special view.”

The lower level will also be available for private parties, providing space for about 80 guests.

While the restaurant, located at 690 W. Napier Ave., will be open for business starting on April 7, Anne Vonk, event coordinator for the club, noted that there is a special event planned for April.

“We’re going to have a wonderful buffet on Easter Sunday with two seatings. There will be crab legs and prime rib and turkey and just everything. You name it, it’s going to be there,” Anne said.

Reservations can be made by calling the club at (269) 925-9002.

As the partnership matures and the day of the grand opening approaches, the excitement is palpable, and the hopes are high.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Ray, and I think he will succeed in getting this place hopping,” Dave Vonk said. “Ray’s been a pleasure to work with, and we’re happy to have him. We’re going to have a lot of fun at Berrien Hills!”