PORTRAITS OF RESILIENCE
Lynn Wagenknecht, Owner of the Odeon
Left without power or phone service, a TriBeCa
institution regains its footing. While its annex across the street
has folded, The
Odeon is thriving. Here's Lynn's story in her own words.
pioneer: Lynn Wagenknecht has owned the Odeon for 21 years.
Wagenknecht was on her way to the restaurant when the World
Trade Center was struck.
Even before the buildings fell, people were running from
the area and coming in with shrapnel in their arms and it was very,
very upsetting for everyone and confusing. Our general manager then
made the decision when I was en route to evacuate
everyone, which was the right thing to do. He basically locked the
doors and that's how we left the Odeon for that day and the following
Wagenknecht and her managers were allowed to return Thursday
to secure Odeon, because a loss of power had wiped out the electric
We were basically walking around checking things
with flashlights. ...Everything refrigerated pretty much had to
be thrown out and cleaned from floor to ceiling. It was disturbing
the air was extremely bad as people know.
We called up the staff and said if anyone wanted
to work, we were going to take a group in and start the process
of throwing things out. We had five or six people taking out hundreds
of bags of food that needed to be refrigerated.
By Monday, they were allowing deliveries if there
were invoices. So we opened with a very reduced menu. We pared down
to our classic items with a few changes like an apple pie. We focused
on the things we thought were not only practical, but that people
tend to think of as food they rely on in everyday eating.
One of our waiters had a baby girl around the time of all of this,
and I promised him we would celebrate her 21st birthday there.
Our primary concern was getting everyone back to
work. Restaurants are a very money-in, money-out type of business.
When you have a setback, even for a few days, that can really affect
the whole capabiltiy of keeping your bills paid and your employees
fixture: Wagenknecht (here with friends) hosted a packed
"Welcome Back to Tribeca Party" with Paper
magazine last week.
The neighborhood was terrific. They were so happy
to see us open, even with that limited menu. People in the building
brought big groups in the first night and made an effort to come
each night we were open, to show their support. You felt you were
sort of doing it for the neighborhood, which was great, and of course
it was a mutually beneficial support system.
The Odeon has sold off its bar annex, cut some staff hours and
still has no phone service, but is otherwise fully operational.
Closing the restaurant was never a consideration for Wagenknecht.
I suppose I just felt, what are the other options?
As has been said by other people, why should we accept someone
else determining what we can and cannot do as a living, as a way
of life? Of course I was aware of that business might be slower,
but so be it. Then you operate at whatever level of business you
can afford to and just go forward. ...One of our waiters had a baby
girl around the time of all of this, and I promised him we would
celebrate her 21st birthday there.
Getting back to work and trying to normalize things
helps, but one thing about being in TriBeCa even though there's
a strong sense of community and all of that is very special, there
also is an added stress of basically facing it every day.
I think more than ever people need a place to relax.
There's no reason for the good times and enjoyable moments in your
day to be any less. ...We're just trying to help people be in a
place where they can forget about their own and the world's
worries for a bit.
REPORTING AND PHOTOS BY CHRISTINA NUNEZ