Listen: Owners of Otto's, Frida Talk Covington, Projects, and Upcoming Award
Paul Weckman and Emily Wolff - owners of popular Mainstrasse Village restaurants Otto's and Frida 602 - will receive the Covington Award from the Friends of Covington this week.
In addition to their busy dining destinations, the couple is also raising their five children in Mainstrasse where the family is heavily involved in improving the quality of life and the restoration of historic properties, including their own residence.
Weckman and Wolff joined RCN's Michael Monks for a chat about Covington, the Village, their lives, and more. Listen:
Profile of Emily Wolff and Paul Weckman by Greg Paeth
It’s not too much of a stretch to conclude that Emily Wolff and husband Paul Weckman are “all in” on Covington.
The owners of two restaurants – Otto’s and Frida 602 in Covington’s MainStrasse neighborhood – as well as Lucky Twins, a residential rehab company, Wolff and Weckman have emerged as community leaders for reasons that extend beyond their business investments.
They live in a beautifully restored home a couple of blocks from their restaurants and their family includes five children who range in age from one-year-old Ari to the 14-year-old twins, Rowan and Adam. Bridging the age gap are five-year-old Archer and Olive, the only girl and the only nine-year-old in the Wolff-Weckman family.
They also led the effort to renovate the Goebel Park playground at Sixth and Philadelphia when they created an organization called Make Goebel Great, which preceded that whole effort to Make America Great Again by at least one year.
They also have used real estate acquisition as a way to combat crime, prostitution and drug abuse at the south end of the MainStrasse retail and entertainment district by acquiring and rehabbing a number of properties along Ninth Street.
“We knew that timing was of the essence,” Wolff said when she and her husband decided that they had to do something to halt the erosion of the quality of life in the neighborhood. “We wound up buying three more properties on Ninth Street because we wanted to make sure that we could stabilize this end of MainStrasse,” she said.
Wolff and Weckman will be recognized by the Friends of Covington on May 18 with the Covington Award, annual recognition of community leaders who have distinguished themselves by making Covington a better place to live and do business.
“When the board considered all of the nominees for the Covington Award this year, Emily and Paul clearly stood out as the two most worthy recipients,” said Ginger Dawson, president of the Friends of Covington.
“They’re young, energetic, smart and committed to making the city a better place to live and work and have fun in,” Dawson said. “It would be great to have a thousand more folks just like them.”
Michael Monks, editor, publisher and founder of The River City News, will serve as master of ceremonies for the annual fundraiser, which will be held this year at The Madison in downtown Covington.
Emily said she met Paul when they were students at the University of Kentucky, where she was studying fine arts and design and he was majoring in business and finance.
She said he had always been interested in food and cooking and that he began to think about opening a restaurant when he spent his senior year of college in the south of France, where he learned first-hand about the importance of a good dinner on the farms and vineyards that he visited.
Emily credits her father, attorney Otto Daniel Wolff, with finding the building at 521 Main Street that became home to Otto’s Restaurant in 2002. “He saw the building and said you should really come look at this because it’s pretty amazing,” she said, recalling preliminary discussions that culminated in the purchase of a building that had been called Doug’s Deli.
“When we bought it, Paul used his finance background and said that if we sell 52 sandwiches a day we should be able to pay the mortgage,” Emily recalls. “We had $600 in our savings account and we picked up chairs at garage sales and started cooking on a four-burner apartment stove.”
As the success of Otto’s grew, Emily said she and Paul wanted to open a second restaurant. They didn’t have to look far for a building.
The building at 602 Main Street, about a quarter of a block from Otto’s, was falling down and the fire department was prepared to order that the building be demolished before Paul and Emily convinced city officials that the building could be saved.
The building became Frida 602, a Mexican restaurant and mezcal and tequila bar that opened in 2015. It’s named for Frida Kahlo, a Mexican artist who is a favorite of Emily’s.
The Covington Award will be presented on May 18 at the annual fundraiser for the Friends of Covington.
For the first time in many years, the event will be held in downtown Covington at The Madison, the special event and reception facility at Seventh and Madison, just across Seventh Street from Hotel Covington.
Tickets are $55 per person and proceeds from the event will go to an organization chosen by Wolff and Weckman and to the Friends of Covington, which has been devoted to making Covington a better place to live, work, and play for 40 years.
Tickets may be purchased through the mail by sending a check to Friends of Covington Treasurer Sue Corken at 632 Point Benton, Covington, 41014, or by calling her at 859-261-1762.