Our Team


 

Colleen Kaney Smith

Founder

Meeting Colleen (Co) Smith feels a lot like coming home. Her smile, positivity and demeanor are genuine through and through as reflected in every nook, cranny and nuance of Cohen’s Retreat.

A retired educator with a passion for creative endeavors, Co’s present-day job description is to promote peace, harmony and creative growth in the conceptual development of Cohen’s Retreat.

Who wouldn’t want that every day?

Co’s role at Cohen’s Retreat is a sentimental one, as she has fond memories as a child visiting the residents when the estate was known as “The Cohen’s Old Man’s Retreat”. She remembers the quirky characters and the intriguing life stories they told her under the oak trees on the orange benches, which continue to grace the campus today.

In 2012, when the estate became available for sale, Co and her husband, Sidney (affectionately known as her real-life Prince Charming) purchased it and today’s modernized version of Cohen’s Retreat was born. With a desire to continue the legacy of Percy Cohen, one of Savannah’s generous philanthropists, the main building still bears his name as a respectful tribute to the past. Moving into the future, Co’s vision for Cohen’s Retreat is the creation of an eclectic destination capturing the spirit of the South with fabulous food, unique shopping, charming cottages and memorable celebrations of each and every day.

Outside of Cohen’s, Co is a proud mama of three children, Bo, Kaney and Gracie; daughter-in-law Gabby; and CoCo to Bonnie, Hazel, Niko, and Ben.

Chances are, when you visit Cohen’s, you will undoubtedly bump into Co bustling about while you meander the halls, break bread with friends and browse the Brown Dog Market. But even if you don’t see her, you will feel the presence of the very heart and soul of this enchanting lady and her beloved Cohen’s Retreat.

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Gabby Ballance

Director of Special Events & Cottage Rentals

When she’s not keeping up with her two young daughters, Bonnie and Hazel, in the park, or cheering on Clemson football (while husband Bo, roots for the Georgia Bulldogs), you will find Gabby Ballance happily planning pitch-perfect events at Cohen’s Retreat.

A 2010 graduate of Presbyterian College, where she was an art major, Gabby has been with Cohen’s Retreat since the beginning in 2012 and is your go-to gal for festive celebrations and Cohen’s cottage rentals. From a full-blown wedding (bachelor and bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinner, ceremony and reception), to bridal and baby showers, milestone birthday parties, retirement parties, company gatherings and more (so much more!), Gabby will help you plan everything – tables, chairs, flowers, décor, food – believe us, she’s the expert you need to help your event at Cohen’s Retreat come together fantastically! Gabby considers it her personal mission to ensure all guests make the most of the ‘retreat’ that is Cohen’s Retreat, after all, it’s her family’s business.

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David Landrigan

Executive Chef

Being a Chef is not just something you do; it’s a calling. And for Chef David, that calling came to him when he was just 13 years old. He was working as a dishwasher at the Original Brew Pub in Saratoga Springs, New York when he realized, at least for him, the controlled chaos was a whole lotta fun. “I just remember thinking, I’d fit right in here,” recalls Chef. Fast forward through years of culinary experience and training, and Chef David found his niche in French Cuisine as Executive Chef at Circa 1875. After 11 years with Circa, Chef David joined the Cohen’s team in March of 2023. Today, Chef David is embracing the exciting, and sometimes unexpected day-today at Cohen’s, which he describes as “more than a restaurant, it’s a venue,” where he is responsible for keeping special-event guests and regular customers, hungry for more. “I want everyone to leave here saying, ‘that was REALLY good – we’re coming back’ – so Cohen’s can become a go-to, that place where you know you’re always going to have a great meal.” When he’s not  at Cohen’s, Chef David loves to play golf, go to the beach, and even just go for a walk, seeing life in Savannah as an opportunity to feel like you’re on vacation any given day. As for his vision for Cohen’s future, Chef David is ready for the next step, “We want to make sure Miss Co’s ideas are executed – we want to keep moving forward – it’s a great thing.” And while he may have a background in French Cuisine, Chef David admits, ‘comfort style’ is his niche. And to that we say, “Bon Appetite, y’all!”

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Nikki Davenport

General Manager

Whether you come to Cohen’s for dining, shopping, celebrating, or toasting at the bar, you can be sure Nikki has had a hand in your enjoyment! Nikki first came to Cohen’s in 2016, working as a bartender a few days each week. With every drink she mixed, shook, stirred, and poured, Nikki infused her love for people into every drop (and they love her right back). Her passion for the restaurant industry began in college, where she was studying to become – wait for it – a math teacher! But as she began bartending and waitressing to make extra money, she soon realized what she really wanted to do. Following her instincts led her to Cohen’s and over the years her involvement has blossomed from a few days a week to now, as General Manager. On any given day, Nikki knows what’s happening in every space and how every employee is doing, making sure things are running as smooth as the libations they’re serving up at the bar. When she’s not at Cohen’s (which is rare), Nikki and her family love to travel, which inspires new ideas she gladly brings back with her. Nikki sums up Cohen’s best when she says, “It’s so great because you get to experience the vibe of downtown in the heart of Southside Savannah; our customers absolutely love it,” – we’ll raise a glass to that!

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Lindsay Morin

Director of Retail Services

May 2014 marked a milestone time in the life of Lindsay Morin in more ways than one. That’s when she graduated from the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a Minor in Fashion Merchandising and also when she was first hired by Cohen’s Retreat (which, at the time, had only been open to the public for three months). She’s done a little bit of everything in her time at Cohen’s, from working in the Brown Dog Market to serving as interior design assistant with Curry & Co (look at our artists’ listing for more on them), as well as creating one of Cohen’s first websites, overseeing social media, and her latest endeavor, launching Cohen’s monogram shop. Thankfully, she draws plenty of inspiration from the creativity that surrounds her at Cohen’s and it shows in every artist’s installation and pop-up shop she masterfully orchestrates. Outside of work, her loves include her husband, Tyler, miniature dachshund, Bennett and reenergizing herself with sun-kissed ocean breezes at the beach. In case you hadn’t guessed, Lindsay is a multi-talented, multi-faceted asset to our Cohen’s team (and the genius behind that just-right item waiting for you in the Brown Dog Market…we can’t wait for you to see it)

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Kim Demarco

Shift Manager

Kim DeMarco can be likened to your favorite dish at Cohen’s — once you’ve experienced it, you just HAVE to have more. After Cohen’s owner, Colleen, recognized Kim’s stellar talent as a server, shift manager, and head of hostessing and reservations, she asked Kim to join the Cohen’s family. Today, Kim devotes her wealth of experience as shift manager to the Retreat. Even though Kim has been in Savannah since 1985, she has retained her Massachusetts accent, albeit with a ‘y’all’ thrown in for good measure.  On any given day, Kim wears many hats, including managing her shifts, overseeing reservations, expediting kitchen service, and even washing linens! For Kim, work mimics life, where every day brings something new – from cooking to gardening, tackling home improvements, and throwing the tennis ball for Scooter (a miniature Schnauzer) and Bentley (an English Pointer) – Kim never shies away from trying new things. Her zest for life is naturally seen in her work, which, for Kim, never really feels like work at all, “I love the restaurant business because I love to feed people, make them happy, have repeat customers – it’s an instant gratification thing with me – wow them and they’re ready to come back.” We couldn’t have said it any better than that.

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