Bursting With Pride: Kurt Beadell in Portland

Happy Pride Month, Yelpers! Each June, celebrations around the world commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969, a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality. Just as these events honor the struggles and advances of the gay rights movement, Yelp would like to celebrate how businesses with queer connections have shaped the cities that they call home. Follow along all month as we profile some of America’s top LGBTQ small business owners, all Yelper approved.

If you attend special events in Portland, odds are you’ve experienced the vision of Kurt Beadell. As an owner and the creative director of VT Group, Beadell has harnessed his passion for hospitality to form an enterprise that incorporates four high-profile venues, three unique catering concepts, two convenient cafés, and an innovative florist. With a full-time crew of over 80 and enough part-time and seasonal employees to bring the payroll north of 250, in VT Group Beadell has created a one-stop shop for upscale events. It’s a powerhouse that attracts brides and Fortune 500 companies alike.

Beadell first arrived in Portland at 19 years old, young, eager, and still in the closet. Ready to leave his home of Austin, Minnesota (population: 24,000 and the home of SPAM®), he followed a friend on a trip to the Pacific Northwest. To Beadell, Portland felt like home, and soon it was. He took jobs in the service industry, first at the iconic Pier 101 and then at Papa Haydn, which had just made a splash on the culinary scene.  At the same time, Beadell met a group of gay men that took him under their wing. With a comfortable job and a supportive network, Beadell was ready to come out of the closet as an openly gay man. He’s continued to live boldly ever since.

From baking to bartending to management, Beadell rose up the ranks at Papa Haydn and learned all facets of the service industry. When it was time for a new challenge, he was put into touch with the team at Salvador Molly’s, and he soon took a job revamping and running their catering operation. A chance encounter at the Portland Art Museum led to a new partner and an infusion of capital, on the condition that Beadell agreed to a rebranding. Vibrant Table was born.

Fast forward, and now VT Group functions as three distinct catering operations: Vibrant Table, Food in Bloom, and f&b café. Additionally, they are the exclusive events company for notable venues Exchange Ballroom, Treasury Ballroom, Lan Su Chinese Garden, and the newly-opened Loft at 8th Ave. With a wide spectrum of concepts and ample square footage at its disposal, VT Group regularly hosts special events for companies like Nike, Oregon Film, and Portland Timbers. They also afford Beadell the opportunity to support the causes closest to his heart: LGBTQ equality, healthcare, and the arts. Whether it’s hosting fundraisers for Pride Foundation, providing catering services to Cascade AIDS Project, or loaning equipment to BodyVox, Beadell makes sure that VT Group always leads with its values. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s also good business.

With 10 unique concepts under the VT Group umbrella, free time is not a luxury that Beadell often enjoys. On the rare day off, he can be found eating at his old stomping grounds Papa Haydn, or favorite neighborhood spots such as Roost, Castagna, or Devil’s Dill. He can spend hours exploring the Portland Art Museum or browsing his favorite retailer Cargo. To satisfy his green thumb, nothing works quite like a trip to Sauvie Island’s Cistus Nursery. And then it’s back to his offices at VT Group, where he’ll dream up more innovative ways to make Portland’s celebrations truly special.