Alli Jarrett’s giving spirit was forged in small-town roots dating to her youth in South Carolina; it has never left her even as she’s ventured about 1,000 miles from where they began.
Heights residents know Jarrett as the owner of Harold’s Tap Room and Restaurant, and a giver of everything from her time to her restaurant. Whether during her time with the United States Golf Association, involvement at St. Andrews Episcopal Church or renovating former clothing store “Harold’s in the Heights” into the southern cuisine restaurant residents love, a piece of her soul has always resided with her community. Forever the giving spirit, Jarrett has subsequently been selected as The Leader’s 2017 Leader of The Year.
Coming from a family wholesale business, in Kingstree, SC, that her grandparents owned and operated for over 50 years, Jarrett already understood the implicit meaning a spot’s history can have before moving to Houston 20 years ago, and immediately attempted to pour back into the Heights in keeping the Harold’s name alive when she bought and renovated the spot overlooking 19th Street in 2012-2013.
“We kept the name because of the importance of preserving history in the neighborhood. The Heights is a small town in a big city,” she said. “The whole reason for creating this business was that I wanted to live where I work, and work where I live.”
In her spare time, Jarrett is an avid golfer; she previously worked for the USGA for 15 years – even becoming the first woman in the organization’s history to chair a men’s championship – before breaking away to run her own business. And even though she broke away to become a small business owner, an unusual chain of events over the last year brought her full circle – combining her passion for golf and her heart for others.
The U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur was scheduled to be in Naples, Fl. this past October. However, Hurricane Irma wiped out the golf club slated to host the tournament. Subsequently, Robin and Jack Burke of Champions Golf Club in Houston offered to host it instead – pulling Jarrett out of retirement, so to speak, to help run the event. She never batted an eye, and the club pulled off in 40 days what most clubs pull off in about two and a half years to cement the experience for golfers who came from around the world and raved about the final product.
On the surface, it was a massive undertaking. But for Jarrett, her motivation remains simple, and extends to her Heights home: she’s passionate about providing the southern hospitality she learned all those years ago.
“It’s about people helping people, and that’s what we’re all about here. We’re trying to be all about our guests and the experience they have here,” she said.
Walk the walk
It’s not often you’ll find a business owner more invested in the community than the almighty dollar – but Jarrett’s impact on the Heights extends far beyond Harold’s delectable tastes in food and wine or helping push the recent vote to fully repeal the private club portion of the former Heights dry laws.
She was one of the first members of the Heights Community that The Summerhouse Founder and Executive Director Donna Fruge sat down with in 2014 to discuss the possibility of employing one of its members so they could learn the ropes of the working world at Harold’s.
And despite knowing very little about The Summerhouse prior to the meeting, Fruge remembers Jarrett couldn’t jump high enough or utter the ‘Yes!’ fast enough.
“She was just so open and more than willing to see if this was going to be a real workable partnership for us,” Fruge said. “It’s sometimes hard to understand especially when they don’t have anyone in their family with a disability and have never experienced that particular life. But [Alli] was more than willing to listen and educate herself and decide if this was possible for both the young lady working there and for her. It wasn’t just about the job performance, it was about education and diversity in her workplace.”
And one needs to look no further for the impact Jarrett had on another’s life than that. The young woman has now worked at Harold’s for more than a year, and will be increasing her hours at the beginning of the new year according to Fruge.
She credits Jarrett’s willingness to take a chance as a simple gesture which changed the girl’s life.
But that’s just who Jarrett is. Summerhouse has even immortalized her with their annual Impact Award for her efforts in helping the program grow.
“Alli is the one who really opened the door to have that dialogue and education in her workplace; she values all types of people. She doesn’t let stereotypes direct her opinions or willingness to give someone a chance,” Fruge said. “She values every person for their talents and what they can give to society. She walks the walk. Alli knows everyone has a set of gifts, and doesn’t take someone just at face value. She digs deep and looks at what their true gifts are.”
Similar tags sprang up whoever you spoke to, including those at St. Andrews’ Episcopal Church, where Jarrett is a member of the congregation, was recently elected to serve on the Vestry and reads scripture during the church’s services.
“She has such a large, gracious and humble heart,” said St. Andrews Rector Rev. Jimmy Grace, who has known Jarrett for four years. “She’s always asking to be involved in a number of various ministries here, which is a gift.”
And on it goes. Jarrett is always quick to lend a hand to as many fundraisers as she can dole out, whether it be for a local school, business or the like. Harold’s has also supported organizations such as Women of Wine Charities, The Beacon, Rebuilding Together Houston (which fostered a project in Independence Heights last February) and March of Dimes. Amid Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts in the Heights, Jarrett and her staff even worked double time to feed first responders.
“That’s how I was raised. We need to help our neighbors,” she said. And help, she has. From that small town in South Carolina to this small town within the big city, her passion and heart for people has never wavered, and it was evident just that morning as The Leader spoke with her when she joyfully greeted one of the restaurant’s farmers. It’s just who she is.
“[Alli] really has a servant’s heart. As talented, accomplished and successful as she is, she’s such a humble person, and I have never heard her be condescending to another person. It just doesn’t seem to be who she is,” Grace said. “She’s just an extremely warm, open and gracious woman who is so kind and loving. Truly a wonderful woman.”
She won’t trumpet it, but that spirit of a servant will be Jarrett’s legacy – at least as far as the Heights is concerned – that will never be forgotten. Fruge summed up Jarrett’s contributions to the Heights perfectly.
“She’s a giver; a giver of herself, her time, and her talents – it’s truly for the Heights community.”