West Side Stories,  Food & Drink

Jeremy Wladis – President of The Restaurant Group

Exploring the Upper West Side spoke recently with the longtime Westsider who partnered with Michael and Victoria Imperioli to open up Scarlet Lounge. To hear him tell it, Scarlet was both a uniquely creative collaboration with the Imperioli’s and a natural evolution for restaurateur Jeremy Wladis. With a long history of opening and reimagining UWS food and beverage spots, Jeremy looked around and thought that the neighborhood needed something new. When the spot where Scarlet now stands – some might remember it as a check-cashing place- became available, it seemed like the neighborhood could use “a cool lounge, a place that features adults”. His friends, the Imperioli’s got on board, and Victoria, with her artistic background, “designed, built, decorated and named the lounge. I trusted her” he said. “Here are the keys, drive away”. And she did. Four months in, with a full house on any given night, it seems that the creative partnership and neighborhood agree. Scarlet is striking a chord.   

from left: Kenna Wladis, Michael Imperioli, Jeremey Wladis, Victoria Imperioli

The story of how one individual has a significant imprint on a neighborhood culinary scene is always worth telling. Jeremy is currently President of The Restaurant Group, a collection of eclectic and longstanding restaurants. Reading between the lines, you see vision, good old-fashioned neighborliness, and a pretty gutsy approach. It’s not everyone who can say they’ve created successful establishments that have been feeding locals and tourists for more than three decades. 

And in that same story, you hear love for the Upper West Side.

Born and raised in the college town of Syracuse, NY, Jeremy felt the lure of New York City from a young age. After college, an early career in restaurant management included stints at Tavern on the Green and The Plaza Hotel. Living in various city neighborhoods throughout those years informed his sense of where he wanted to be. In one of those ‘you know it when you see it’ moments, he felt at home on the Upper West Side. There, he detected a big city feel with a Syracuse vibe, the best of both worlds: “It was still a neighborhood…..I fell in love with it”. And so began a life, both personal and professional, on the Upper West Side. Thirty-five years in, Jeremy and his wife have raised, participated in, and educated two daughters in the very same neighborhood. All the while growing a group of very local restaurants committed to quality, fresh, and flavorful dishes. Jeremy’s first venture was “The Firehouse” on Columbus and 84th Street. A good old-fashioned beer, wings, and hamburger joint, it was a success. Exploring the Upper West Side is old enough to remember the days when a group of NYC city employees, dubbed “The FireFighters” met there on a Friday night after a long, hard week. The beer was always cold, the wings hot, and the vibes welcoming. Jeremy’s investors got their money back, and then some, during a thirty-year run.  

From there, he moved on to buy other Upper West Side spots, some successful, others that had fallen on hard times. He developed a growing commitment to investment in “neighborhood restaurants for real people”. To be sure, there were challenges along the way- keeping the doors of several eating establishments open during a once-in-a-century pandemic was a big one. There were unexpected and collaborative ventures with industry acquaintances who found themselves in tight spots. Local restaurateurs are people after all, subject to the adversities human beings inevitably face: financial hurdles, family disagreements, health challenges. He didn’t mind lending a helping hand or looking for the potential in things, engineering for example a spot that is one restaurant by day, another entirely by night. 

Michael Imperioli

All the while figuring out some unique ways to help people and the industry. With Scarlet, the newest undertaking in a long line of food and beverage establishments, the through line of creativity and resilience continues. Perhaps constantly taking on new ventures, without a guarantee of success after all, is not the easiest thing in the world? Not how he sees it. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world’ he says, reflecting on his work, his community, and the neighborhood.

Today, Jeremy’s portfolio of restaurants on the Upper West Side includes “Good Enough To Eat”, (the neighborhood’s IT brunch place in the 80’s), Harvest Kitchen (formerly City Grill and before that, Ruppert’s), Nina’s Great Burrito Bar (formerly The Firehouse), Fred’s, and Telio’s, as well as Big Gay Ice Cream.

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