Friendship grows by leaps, bounds — and stories
Sometimes, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment a good thing began.
What’s certain is there were lots of Flyers, all coming to UD for the first time, meeting new friends and forming new groups in the social ways students do at UD. Among them were an engineering major and a business major. Years later, that friendship would help them build great things.
Greg Stevens ’93 came to college from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, with an interest in civil engineering and joining the family business; his grandfather founded the Cold Heading Co. in 1912 to supply parts to the automotive industry.
Michael Ansley ’93, from Springfield, Ohio, came to UD to study marketing. His father was a painting and roofing contractor, and Ansley knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur — he just wasn’t sure what kind.
“I’ve always been intrigued by business,” he said. When he learned of the Stevens family experience, Ansley asked for advice. “Even though he was an engineer, we talked a lot of business.”
After graduation, Stevens went back home to Michigan. Ansley headed north as well, to operate his first restaurant franchise, a Buffalo Wild Wings. The friendship picked back up with gusto, each introducing the other to their high school friends — and the group grew. “All of a sudden, everybody just kind of started sticking together like magnets,” Stevens said.
“All of a sudden, everybody just kind of started sticking together like magnets.”
Similar family values cemented the duo’s relationship — Catholic, conservative, dedication to family and an emphasis on education. Plus, they shared an appreciation of the Marianist values taught at UD. Stevens remembers the 10 p.m. Sunday Masses in the neighborhood: “If you didn’t get there a couple minutes before 10, forget it, you weren’t even getting in the door; you were on the porch.”
The Marianist education they received both in and out of the classroom influenced both men.
“It permeates your whole life, from your family relationships to new friends to how you run a business,” Stevens said.
Ansley said he thrived in the restaurant business. When he took the business that included Buffalo Wild Wings public, he recruited Stevens for the board. Stevens has offered insight on employee relations, debt and financing, and — from a civil engineer’s perspective — constructing new
restaurants. Ansley sold controlling shares in that first business and a second that featured Bagger Dave’s Taverns. This summer, he opened a new location of Dave’s Hot Chicken, the third of 25 he and his partners plan to open over six years.
For Stevens, his interest in casinos led him and his brother, Derek, to Las Vegas. Their third location, Circa Resort and Casino, opened in 2020 as the first all-new downtown hotel in 40 years.
As the brothers got started in the hospitality industry, they tapped Ansley’s expertise.
“What do you do with your beer taps? How do you keep track of inventory?” Stevens asked Ansley. “For me, as an engineer, it’s an efficiency question.”
Ansley headed to Vegas and lent members of his team to Stevens to walk the brothers through setting up best practices for restaurants and bars.
“Although we’re in much different businesses, there are a lot of similarities,” Ansley said. For example, economic stresses that cause families to cut discretionary spending first hit restaurants and lag in their impact on the casino business. “Those conversations are always invaluable.”
The lines of business and friendship never crossed so well as they did last February. Stevens invited Ansley and members of their extended friend group to Circa for a joint 50th birthday celebration. At Circa’s Stadium Swim with its six pools, the men lounged in a rooftop cabana and watched the Super Bowl on the 148-foot-wide screen.
And while the large friend group continues to sustain them, it’s the personal relationship between the engineering major and the business major that explains the most about this duo: Stevens is the godfather of Ansley’s youngest child, Maddy, and Ansley is godfather to Stevens’ middle child, Bobby.
“I guess that sums it up: If you trust somebody enough to be godparent and take care of your kid if something ever happens to you, that’s a pretty good sign,” Stevens said.