Walter Miraglia never thought he’d own a golf course.
Upon graduating from Lake Catholic in 1983, Miraglia served in the Marines for five years, where he learned “a really good corporate structure and discipline. Two skills that are very transferable to the business world.” As his days as a Marine wound down, Miraglia put these skills to use when he purchased Moose O’Malley’s, a bar and grill in Mayfield Heights, in 1987.
Miraglia sold Moose O’Malley’s in 1993, spearheading a successful career of flipping restaurants decades before the profession was popularized by energetic Bar Rescue host Jon Taffer. (For the record, Miraglia insists the job of a “freelance restaurateur” is nothing like what you see on Spike TV.) He’s owned establishments across Ohio, Georgia, and Florida, including the revered Italian eatery Mangia Mangia in Newbury and Bada Bing Pizza parlors in Painesville and Chesterland. Cana Winery, his 20th restaurant, is set to open next spring on Wilson Mills Road in Munson Township.
Nevertheless, Miraglia’s primary focus nowadays is operating Berkshire Hills Country Club, which he bought in 2015. He had begun managing Berkshire Hills’ banquet hall in 2011 and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to run the entire club when it was posted for sale. “I’ve been golfing my whole life, but it took time to learn the nuances of golf course management, especially the maintenance,” Miraglia says. “The course was in bad shape when I bought it, but it’s coming back now quite nicely.”
Perhaps Berkshire Hills’ most distinctive feature is its undulating 1.25-mile driveway. “I always thought it would be cool to do Christmas lights around that driveway,” Miraglia explains. Inspired by the renowned Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay resort in West Virginia, Miraglia set out to create his own drive-through Christmas light park this holiday season, transforming Berkshire Hills into “Bethlehem Hills,” which includes more than two millions lights, 40 individual displays, and a Christmas music radio station for in-car entertainment (99.9 on the FM dial). The price for admission is $25 per vehicle, although customers receive a $5 discount for simply saying “Merry Christmas.”
The project has been a labor of love for Miraglia, who will donate proceeds to three charities: the American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House, and the Valor Retreat at High Rock, which builds log cabins in Hocking Hills for returning veterans to use as vacation spots. “My eventual dream is to set up a charity of my own,” Miraglia says, and he attributes much of this willingness to serve to his experience at Lake Catholic.
“When I look back, it’s clear that Lake Catholic served as the foundation for the rest of my life,” Miraglia says. “High school taught me a lot about friendship, character, values, and faith. I like to think of myself as a strong Catholic man today, and that wouldn’t have happened without Lake.”
When he’s not running the show at Berkshire Hills, Miraglia is an active parishioner at St. Helen in Newbury. He directs the choir at 11:00 mass on Sundays and leads St. Helen’s contemporary Christian band – fitting given his involvement in marching band, stage band, choir, and musicals at Lake Catholic. “Lake Catholic definitely helped me discover my love of music,” he says.After a successful opening weekend with more than 1,000 visitors, Bethlehem Hills will remain open through December 30, save for Christmas Eve and Christmas. The hours are 5:00-10:00 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 5:00-11:00 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and Miraglia hopes the Cougar community comes out in full force. Remember to say “Merry Christmas!”