Wild Connections: June 2013

SSA’s latest “connection” with friends and staff includes updates on our mentoring program, culinary highlights at the Nashville and Cheyenne Mountain Zoos (including a tasty new waffle program), recent “best of” awards for SSA gift shops and quick service dining locations, and a round-up of the new developments with our employees, and our partners!

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It’s here! We’re happy and proud to announce the launch of our new website: www.kmssa.com. We wanted to create a site that’s as cool and exciting as our people, services and partners. We want every picture on our site to tell a story through smiling faces, stunning retail, impeccable food, and teamwork. We’ve put a fresh twist on the site’s navigation and design and hope that you enjoy poking around and checking out our web presence. Come back often as new pictures, recipes, stories and other content will be added to enhance each visitor’s experience.

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SSA mentoring program gets down to business

photo of tony, sean and steveIn 2012, six mentors and six mentorees participated in the Company’s first mentoring program where an experienced person assisted another in developing specific skills and knowledge that enhanced the less-experienced person’s professional and personal growth.  Senior Vice President/CSO Sean McNicholas was a mentor to Gary Schleuger, and Sean said he probably learned just as much as Gary did.  “It was a very important part of my year,” he added.

During the eight-month program, the mentees performed self-evaluations and identified areas in which they hoped to improve.  Each duo met or talked bi-weekly.

Mentors included Greg Edgar, Joann Berrios, Sean McNicholas, Eric Loyall, Jason Stover, Tom Kelly and Patrick Brown.  They were matched with their mentees by a selection committee.  Mentees included Doug Richter, Carla Albrinck, Gary Schleuger, Brandon Turner, Don Morgan and Eric Lachowski.

The program was developed and managed by Tony Smith and Jason Stover.  Tony shared that the Company has an obligation to offer this program as it’s a way to grow talent within the organization and create strong business relations between diverse individuals that foster extraordinary performance and the achievement of organizational goals.

Jason added that the company was founded on the philosophy of teaching and developing others.  “We are just continuing that company tradition and philosophy with this formalized program. It will help us build our future leaders.”

A recruitment campaign was recently conducted for season two participants.  The selection committee is in the process of selecting and matching participants.  Also, there are plans to create mentorship hubs in a few of the Company’s established locations, such as Denver and Cincinnati.

With these mentoring opportunities, the leaders of tomorrow just might be some of our hard-working hourly employees.

With these mentoring opportunities, the leaders of tomorrow just might be some of our hard-working hourly employees.

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New culinary eatery at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo honors Elson,
a beloved lion

Elson's Place 1Elson’s Place recently opened at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  The space is named after the zoo’s famous male lion, Elson, who died in May 2011. The 16-year-old Elson was known for being a magnificent ambassador for his species and for his uncompromising personality.

This trendy new food-truck-style eatery is nestled in the heart of African Rift Valley and is in front of the new lion exhibit. It features amazing sweets and homemade beverages. Its specialties are sweet or savory waffle cakes. Other items include homemade lemonade, soft-serve ice cream, flavored coffee and made-to-order gourmet egg sandwiches.

Inside the eatery, granite counter tops are accented by rusted metal bases.  Menu items are posted on a digital screen and also features a daily Chef’s Choice Menu Item.  Chefs will also occasionally do presentational cooking at this location.

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Culinary Showcase:  Nashville Zoo

HCC33The popular zoo offerings of hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken tenders and pizza will still be offered this summer at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere Park, but Chef Dave Miller plans to elevate the menu and showcase locally grown goods.  He wants to share with zoo guests the flavors of the South, such as chicken pot pie dumplings, bread and rice puddings, fried green tomatoes, jalapeno hush puppies, red beans and rice and pulled pork sandwiches.  Chef Dave said he has rewritten the zoo food menu with the items he plans to cook from scratch using regional products.  “We’re promoting the concept that coming to the zoo is more than just seeing the animals,” he added.  As a large percent of the zoo’s guests are tourists, this assertion is a reasonable assumption.

Another benefit of this menu is that it’s “green.”   Many of these new menu selections at the Zoofari Café this season showcase locally grown goods, such as cheese, bacon, pasta, etc.  An icon featuring the outline of the state of Tennessee will added to the menu items to draw customer’s attention to them.

Like other green culinary locations, the SSA Culinary Team also uses utensils made from potatoes, plates made from sugarcane, cups made from corn as well as brown, unbleached napkins.

Also, the enthusiastic Chef Dave will share his expertise during weekly Chef Demonstrations in front of the Café.  SSA’s new partner, the Master Gardeners from the zoo’s Grassmere Historic Farm, will grow vegetables to be featured in these demonstrations.  This is just another green element added by the Nashville Zoo’s Culinary Department.

With Chef David’s expertise, the concept should be a winner.  He was classically trained at The Culinary Institute of America and The International School of Confectionery Sugars, Chef David has participated in and won many national and international culinary events.

Miller started his career as Executive Chef at the Angelus Resort in the West Indies, where he oversaw the Caribbean’s highest rated restaurant, Le Caribe. Continuing the out-of-the-box success in the Caribbean, he moved to work as executive chef for major hospitality companies.  A few years ago, Chef David made the decision to move to the zoo so that he could spend more time with his wife and three young sons.

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History Colorado Center Gift Shop and Utah’s Hogle Zoo Beastro earn “Best of” nods

HCC48The History Colorado Center Gift Shop recently won Denver Westword’s “Best of” award for Best Museum Shop.  The spacious and handsome gift shop is filled with books, handmade jewelry and pottery, T-shirts and more.  This inventory (some of it actually made in Colorado) reflects the cultural, ethnic and racial characteristics of the Centennial State.

In a contest conducted by the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s Hogle Zoo’s Beastro was nominated in the Best Kid Friendly Restaurant category.  The winner will be announced in May.

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Recycling at the Rio Grande Zoo

SSA in Albuquerque has been donating its old umbrella canvas covers to the primate department at the Rio Grande Zoo.  The keepers like the canvas because it doesn’t absorb liquids, dries quickly and washes well.  The primates like them because they are fun to play with and can be used as a cover and bedding.  GM Annie Fedora said this is a great way to repurpose and enhance the daily lives of the zoo’s amazing collection of primates.

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Discovery Gateway and Dallas Zoo celebrate anniversaries

This year, Discovery Gateway: The Children’s Museum of Utah, is celebrating its 35th year of educating and inspiring generation upon generation of Utah’s children to imagine what they can become. Formerly The Children’s Museum of Utah, the organization was founded in 1978 by a group of parents, educators and community leaders who believed that children learn the best through “doing.” In 2006, The Children’s Museum of Utah moved into its 60,000 square-foot, world-class facility and officially became Discovery Gateway children’s museum.

Founded in 1888, the Dallas Zoo is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The zoo is the oldest one in the state of Texas, as well as the largest. Jointly managed by Dallas Zoo Management Inc. and the Dallas Zoological Society, the zoo has been experiencing record-setting attendance numbers over the past few years, due in part to the opening of new exhibits such as Giants of the Savanna.

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Employee Notes

At Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Executive Chef Cory Crozier got married in December.  Also, Natasha Elander was promoted to Assistant Retail Operations Manager.


Christopher Mills, a MOSI Retail Sales Associate, recently earned the Young Scholar of the Year Award from the American Religious Studies Academy. He received his award at a ceremony held in Washington D.C.


At The Living Desert, Brian Jackson was promoted to Food and Beverage Manager, he has worked for SSA since October 2008. Also, Michelle Myers was promoted to Food and Beverage Operations Manager; she has worked for SSA since March 2012At The Living Desert, Brian Jackson was promoted to Food and Beverage Manager, he has worked for SSA since October 2008. Also, Michelle Myers was promoted to Food and Beverage Operations Manager; she has worked for SSA since March 2012.


Tom Garton, Executive Chef, is leaving The Living Desert and transferring to the Albuquerque BioPark.



At the Cincinnati Zoo, Steve Schurr has been named Assistant GM.  He has 15 years of experience in the Food and Beverage Industry.  His experience ranges from restaurants to hotels to professional sporting venues and amphitheaters.  He received his undergraduate degree in Hospitality Management and Business from Ohio State University and is finishing his MBA from the University of Cincinnati; he plans to graduate in August.

The new Retail Inventory Manager at the Cincinnati Zoo is Amy Sullender.  She has over 10 years of management experience from The Gap.

Also, Taylor Schulte, Project Manager, has earned the title of Valuable Employee at the Cincinnati Zoo.  He is starting his ninth season at the zoo.


At the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, several SSA employees are returning: Retail Supervisors Alyssa Augustyniak (fifth season), Karen Cashman (third season), Kay Martinez (fourth season) and Culinary Supervisors Matt Foss (second season), Chris Coffee (second season), and Kalyssa Krocker (second season).  Michelle Stout is returning as Cash Room Manager (second season).  Gloria Welch was hired as a part-time cash room assistant.

Two retail associates at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo will graduate from college this spring: Jackie Dueter, bachelor’s degree in English from Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne and Elise Reminsong, bachelor’s degree in Russian and Japanese from Indiana University.


Kalyssa Krocker, a Culinary Supervisor at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, Carter Allen, on March 20.


Chef David, Chef Brian and Chef Corky making a difference . . .

David Miller, Executive Chef at Nashville Zoo, recently participated in the 100 Chefs, 100 Schools program.  The chefs met with small groups of elementary school students to speak with them about healthier diets and share their own personal stories of cooking and eating.  Each chef also demonstrated fruit nacho and carrot cake recipes. He was a huge hit with the young culinary students once they learned he worked at the zoo.

“The program doesn’t focus on just eating healthy food. It is also about making good choices,” Miller said. “It is a great outreach program to encourage healthy eating habits.”


News from the field

CINCINNATI ZOO CHEFSSA at the Cincinnati Zoo kicked off its 2013 Toast To The Wild Series on April 3 with Zootini in the new Peacock Pavilion.  Executive Chef Brian McCorkell won the crowd over with his harissa-marinated chicken with cumin polenta and grilled courgette topped with fresh mint and toasted pistachios.


HOGLE ZOO LEGISLATIVE LUNCHThe word “WOW” describes the reaction from the spouses of Utah State Legislature when they arrived at Utah’s Hogle Zoo’s Rocky Shores to have lunch.  The menu for the spouses featured a wedge salad with strawberry balsamic gastrique,  The buffet offered guests grilled asparagus, multi-colored fingerling potatoes, seared pork tenderloin topped with a tart cherry demi-glace and for dessert, an apple and black raspberry cobbler.

A BIG THANKS goes out to Chef Cory Crozier and his team for producing outstanding food as well as SSA Area GM Dave Sarao for his skill and expertise in set-up.


Record attendance for Riverbanks Zoo, Zoo Miami and Utah’s Hogle Zoo

The Riverbanks Zoo recently set their all-time single day attendance record. On April 6, 12,979 people came through the turnstiles. Overall, 55,175 people visited the zoo the first week of April. During peak season, the zoo usually averages 9,800 people a day.

Over 29,000 people attended the annual Easter Egg Safari at Zoo Miami.  This record-breaking weekend featured egg hunts, Easter Bunny visits, face painting, bounce houses as well as it was the first weekend that the new Ice Cream Kiosk was open

During Spring Break, Utah’s Hogle Zoo had over 12,000 in attendance on a Wednesday and over 14,000 on Thursday.


Culinary additions at the Detroit Zoo and Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

The Detroit Zoo’s “pop” culture now includes Detroit Popcorn. The new culinary kiosk offers an assortment of gourmet popcorn, including the company’s signature caramel corn, a recipe that has been used since its founding in 1923. Additional menu items include cotton candy, fried fruit pies, funnel-cake bites, beverages and other treats.

“The Detroit Zoo and Detroit Popcorn are the perfect combination, two Detroit traditions that have been popular with the community for decades,” said SSA General Manager Stacie Linn. “We are happy to partner with this superb local business.”

The partnership is the Redford, Mich.-based Detroit Popcorn Company’s first free-standing location.

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo added a Dippin Dot’s cart to its Australia area.  The “beaded” ice cream product is now available in three locations, and two of these locations also will serve sundaes.  Also, the In Dough Pizza location is expanding its menu to include breadsticks, a carved sandwich and a made-to-order Caesar salad.  New signage enhances the location and acknowledges the Culinary Eco-Mission.


MOSI SID THE SCIENCE KIDMOSI and Buffalo Museum of Science host fun-filled special events

MOSI recently premiered the new PBS film, Sid the Science Kid: The Movie!  Sid has a half-hour PBS Kids series show.  Guests walked the red carpet, made cool activities and took their photo with Sid.

For Spring Break, the Buffalo Museum of Science hosted Nano Days.  The week-long program demonstrated the special and unexpected properties found at the nanoscale  – or one billionth of a meter! Free guided activities highlighted unique properties of materials at the nanoscale that cannot be seen in the “macro” world.

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News from our partners

The El Paso Zoo is now home to six mission golden-eyed tree frog. This species of frog lives almost exclusively in the trees, and so are typically hard to see in the Amazon rain forests. They make up for not being seen by having characteristically loud vocalizations.


A gerenuk has been born at the Denver Zoo for the first time. A gerenuk is a small antelope from semiarid areas of eastern Africa.


The renovated Robert J. LaFortune WildLIFE Trek at the Tulsa Zoo is now open.  The four-building complex features dozens of new animals including Siberian cranes, naked mole rats, northern seahorses and many more.   The star of the complex is the grizzly exhibit with an interactive keeper chat area and training wall as well as a naturalistic habitat featuring a two-story waterfall and wading pond for the bears.


The Minnesota Zoo announced the hatching of its first endangered African penguin chick – a significant achievement for the zoo as it opened the 3M Penguins of the African Coast exhibit in 2011.


At Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Abuto became the fifth member of zoo’s lion pride. The young male lion traveled from Reid Park Zoo with the intention of breeding with two of the zoo’s five-year-old female lions, Lomela and Zwena. His move is part of the cooperative breeding program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The pride will be housed in an exhibit in the soon-to-open Encounter Africa complex.


Three clouded leopards – the rarest breed of leopards in the world – were born March 26 at Nashville Zoo.  It was the second birth for four-year-old Baylie and her mate Chet.


Meet Kekoa, Alohi and Iolana.  The Honolulu Zoo recently held a naming contest for its three cubs that were born December 15.  About 600 children from various schools throughout the state, ages 8-13, submitted their original haiku, which were judged by staff from the Honolulu Zoo, Honolulu Zoological Society and Service Systems Associates.  At the zoo, the winners read their haiku, and then the cubs were released into the exhibit marking their official public debut.  The contest was sponsored by the Honolulu Zoological Society.


CINCY ZOO REPTILE HOUSE RENOVATIONAfter a two-month interior renovation, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden reopened its historic Reptile House.  The work done on the interior of the building returned the building to its original 1875 design as well as modifications made to meet the zoo’s green initiatives. Built in 1875, the Reptile House is the oldest zoo building in the country and one of three buildings at the Cincinnati Zoo listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 2011, the zoo was one of the recipients of the “Save America’s Treasure Grant” from the National Park Service. The zoo was the only grant recipient in Ohio and one of only 61 recipients in the country from a total of 338 applications that the National Park Service received.  The zoo’s Reptile house received $408,886 to use in renovating and updating the house. Renovation began in the fall of 2011 and finished with the recent interior renovation.


TIMES SQUARE BILLBOARD HISTORY COLORADOA Times Square digital billboard recently announced History Colorado’s Jefferson Bible exhibit. This spring the History Colorado Center hosts Jefferson’s Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth – a rare showing from the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  This Bible has never before been displayed in the West.

In 1820, Thomas Jefferson assembled this document from four Bibles and took out anything he considered supernatural.   The historic volume offers an exclusive insight into the beliefs of the nation’s third president and the author of the Declaration of Independence.



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