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Lee founded the company in 2000 with the assistance of a talented group of professionals in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and corporate headquarters in Ohio. Since then, the business has grown to 28 cafes and over 1,400 associates. Past business and civic experience includes developing cable TV systems in the U.S. and Europe, building a medical-related real estate company, representing the United States at the United Nations under President Clinton and Chairing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum. Lee’s biggest thrill is working with talented and caring people who know how to deliver exceptional customer service.


Lee Howley

Senior Vice President Tom Howley has a particular focus on real estate development, legal matters, marketing strategy, franchisor/franchisee relationships, and facilitating strong critical thinking at all levels of the company.  Tom is Co-Chair of Panera’s national franchisee/senior management advisory board.  Prior to joining HBG, Tom was General Counsel of Au Bon Pain and Panera Bread, LLC. Strong collaborative leadership based on respectful, engaged, authentic listening and critical thinking is a guiding principle for Tom. An active citizen volunteer in his community, Tom has served as Chairman of the Winchester Planning Board and Board of Selectmen and was named Winchester’s 2013 “Outstanding Citizen of the Year." He enjoys family, exercise, music, reading, sharing good food with friends, and being around water.

Senior Vice President

Tom Howley

Ernie is focused on the financial, accounting, payroll, risk management, employee benefits and IT functions of HBG.  Prior to joining HBG, Ernie was the Chief Financial Officer for American Environmental Group LTD. Ernie previously worked for KeyBank N.A. in the commercial lending and investment banking groups and with Arthur Andersen as a Senior Tax Manager.  Ernie has his Juris Doctorate from the University of Notre Dame Law School and his Bachelor of Arts from Augustana College.  When he is not working, Ernie enjoys playing golf and hiking with his wife, Sonia.

Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Ernest L. Vallorz, Jr.

Bahjat oversees the following HBG departments: Operations, Training, Human Resources, and Bakery Operations. Bahjat is a board member of the National Restaurant Association, Rhode Island Hospitality Association, and Rhode Island Hospitality Education Foundation. Rhode Island’s Governor appointed Bahjat to serve on the Governor’s Workforce Board, which is responsible for developing policies and programs to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the State’s workforce development system, increase the education and skill levels of the RI workers, and address the workforce needs of RI employers. He is also an active member of Children’s Friend of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Commodores. Bahjat was one of the three recipients presented with the National Restaurant Association’s 2012 Faces of Diversity American Dream Award, which honors individuals in the restaurant industry who have realized the American Dream through hard work, determination, and enterprise. Bahjat enjoys spending time with his family, flying, and boating.

Operating Partner and Sr. VP of Operations

Bahjat Shariff

Leslie oversees the design and construction of all new cafes and remodels, including HBG’s maintenance department and techs which provide support to all of HBG’s cafes. After graduating from college, Leslie came to work for Lee Howley and has not left! For over 25 years, Leslie has worked on the development and construction of many projects including sophisticated medical buildings and office buildings as well as 28 Panera Bread cafes. During this time she has also managed all aspects of the ongoing physical operation of these buildings. She is an active volunteer at her children’s school and some of her more skilled accomplishments include being President of the Westlake Soccer Mom’s Cheerleading Squad, and Social Secretary and Private Driver for her two children, Maks and Natalia.

Vice President of Administration/Construction

Leslie Pakush