The Life of Operating a Bar & Restaurant: A Story Told by Wogies Bar of New York City
Every business has a unique story to tell, and none quite like in the bar and restaurant industry in one of the country’s premiere destinations – New York City. We asked owners Aaron Hoffman and Erin Tedesco of Wogies to reflect on their past and share their adventures of owning and operating their own business, an adventure that has just begun…
Tell us a little about Wogies, how did you come up with the name?
Wogies (pronounced whoa-geez) was named after my father, it was his nickname in high school and into college. I grew up on a dairy farm in rural Philadelphia, which has been in my family since the 1760’s. Although my father was a dairy farmer the early years of his life, later after going to college he got involved in the restaurant business. He loved that interaction with people. After my dad’s passing I knew that the best way to honor him would be naming Wogies in his memory. Wogies has become something I am so proud of and know that my dad would be too.
And so, how did Wogies come to be? What inspired you to open your own business?
Owning my own bar had always been a dream of mine. It started when I was 14 yrs old as an eager bus boy and server, and then eventually became a bartender. After college I moved to New York and began bartending for fun till I joined the “real world.” Never met the “real world,” I began working at The W Hotels where I grew to a bar manager and proceeded to help open a few more locations in the city.
During this time I had a vision of the bar that I would someday open. Working for a wide range of different bars, I knew the most important things to me were 1.) great service 2.) great food 3.) comfortable/relaxed atmosphere. I began writing my business plan and in 2004 my dream came to fruition.
And what was the concept you decided on?
There is no fancy concept to Wogies, it’s simple: great food and drinks + great people = great bar. In the beginning people thought I was crazy for wanting to open a Philly bar in New York. But it works. The most amazing thing about New York is that it is made up of people from all over. In our current location, 39 Greenwich Avenue, we do get a lot of Philly fans but we also get a lot of people who love our cheesesteaks, wings and our friendly staff. We have been so fortunate over the past 9 years to have such a tremendous amount of returning customers, and that to me speaks volumes.
What’s it like to own and maintain a bar in New York City?
To own and maintain a bar in New York is no small fete. It’s challenging and extremely unpredictable. But it’s also rewarding. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. It’s an amazing feeling when complete strangers walk in and say they made a special trip to come and have a cheesesteak. It’s a 24 hour 365 day job, but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
What goals have you accomplished, if any, in operating Wogies?
One of my biggest goals was met last April when we opened our bakery. Anyone who knows about a Philly cheesesteak knows that it is all about the bread. I am so proud that we make our own rolls in house every day. We have been able to expand our menu to making Philly style soft pretzels and we now have dessert…we make an amazing cinnamon roll.
And do you have any future goals?
My main goal in opening Wogies has always been to give customers what they want and to produce something that I am proud of. I would like to think that is what I do every day. Nothing is perfect and it can always be better. I strive to make some improvement at Wogies every day. The ultimate goal is and always has been to grow and become a household name. I would like to think I am on that path with the opening of the second Wogies.
For prospective bar and restaurant owners, what would you say to them?
If I had to give any advice to prospective bar and restaurant owners it would be to have patience. Things take time and it is worth the wait. You must stay true to yourself and believe in your vision. Over the past 9 years I know the one thing that has really helped is the amazing support I have gotten from my friends and family. You are going to have really great days in this business, but you are also going to have extremely crazy hectic days where anything and everything could go wrong. And it’s these days that you must really take a step back and know you are not alone, it’s the nature of the business.
Final Thoughts from barHappy
Hard work pays off when you set goals for yourself and for others in their memory. Some are meant to come to a close, but it is the never-ending goals that make businesses striving for success a reality. For owners Aaron Hoffman and Erin Tedesco the goals of opening and operating a business has been accomplished, but the every day effort in maintaining one is something that they will continue to push for.
Staying true to the concept, Wogies is proud to continue their pursuit of successfully operating a business of their own and will be opening a second location in the Financial District in the beginning of the 2013 summer. For updates regarding their continued adventure, be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.