For more than 100 years, the Union Club of Cleveland has upheld its standard of excellence in the heart of downtown Cleveland.
The iconic sandstone structure, built on its current site at the Euclid Corridor in 1905, appears to be nameless until visitors reach its main walkway. A gold plaque on a column leading up to the entrance simply reads, “The Union Club, founded 1872.”
Pull open the majestic, dark brown, wooden door and walk into a business club that remains inconsistently consistent.
Union Club General Manager/Chief Operating Officer Lawrence McFadden says the continued growth of the club is built on its service model and standards of excellence in every detail from wedding planning to sending out surveys for membership feedback following every event and fresh flowers on display daily.
While Union Club maintains consistency with this thriving reputation, it’s inconsistent with its offerings of services, events and trends in order to support continued growth, which is expected from a world-class brand, explains McFadden.
“The Union Club continues to evolve like it always has,” says McFadden, who joined Union Club in June 2015. “It continues to forge forward with the growth of Cleveland just as it has since its inception.”
Proof of Union Club’s continued success is evident in its membership, which this year reached its second highest in history. This is due, in large part, to a partnership with the Intown Club, a prominent Cleveland women’s group. The partnership grants Intown Club members, of which there are 160, membership to Union Club as it vacates its home in Playhouse Square.
Membership is expected to increase to 1,160 this year. The highest membership on record was 1,340 in 1947.
“The growth in membership at Union Club over the last few years has been extremely impressive,” says Union Club past president Randell McShepard, who served from 2014 to 2016. “What stands out most is the fact that growth has happened across demographic groups, as well as through new partnerships such as former Club at Key Center members and the Intown Club.
“The current spirit of the club is to remain growth-orientated, whether you are a membership committee member, a board member or club member. That spirit will surely continue the growth trajectory and will drive the extraordinary club services and events that attracts high quality members.”
The expansion of events includes culinary experiences with Union Club Executive Chef Arnaud Berthelier during the Community Chef’s Table on Friday nights. The clubs within the club range from Bow Tie Society, Cuvee Club, Emerging Leaders Club, Fitness Club, Golf Society and Running Club.
“Members have formed clubs within the club to pursue an array of interests from arts and culture, wine, books and bowties to fitness, golf, fishing and a lot more,” says Brent Ballard, Union Club president since 2016 and managing partner of Calfee, Halter and Griswold LLP. “Members are delighted with all these activities.”
Since being designated among the nation’s best wedding settings by the most visited wedding planning website the Knot, the club was honored as a Hall of Fame venue by the site. The Best of Weddings Hall of Fame recognizes wedding vendors that earned a Best of Weddings award at least four times. The club has been recognized four years in a row from 2016 to 2019.
“The Union Club’s wedding business is bustling,” says Cindy Schulz, past president of Union Club from 2013 to 2014 and senior advisor at Calfee, Halter and Griswold. “With the elegant, historic mansion as its centerpiece, the club consistently rates five stars for weddings. We recently hosted our daughter’s wedding reception at the Union Club to rave reviews.”
Additional ventures at the club include a program which welcomed seven new staff members from the Philippines. The club set up housing for the international staff and hosts regular activities including trips to local museums and sporting events. The goal is it to teach them entrepreneurial skills so that they may return to the Philippines and start their own businesses.
“Their desire and drive to improve has pollenated our entire staff,” says McFadden. “They have inspired our staff to look at things differently. You start on a journey and you wind up with a completely different learning in the process, that is just a little snippet of the club’s evolution.”
Through evolution, the club continues to build on its reputation of rendering excellence not just in the cuisine, events and clubs it offers, but in its ability to provide memorable experiences which have sustained members and their guests for almost 150 years.