Story by: Diana Schwaeble
Photos by: Wil Hinds
Hoboken has plenty of well-known locals, but none perhaps as widely recognized as Eugene Flinn. He is easy to spot, wearing his signature look, a shirt and bow tie, hurrying to one of his restaurants on Washington Street. He is the face of Café Elysian, Amanda’s and the recently renovated Schnackenberg’s. While some restaurateurs make a point to remember a customer’s favorite dish, Eugene goes a step beyond and remembers a customer’s family story. Recently, he took some time out of his schedule to dish about Hoboken, history, and his busy schedule.
DS: How did you get involved in Schnackenberg’s?
EF: For years, I would come here and talk to Mark and his mom. As a restaurateur, I always saw vitality in having a place like this in existence. And I said, what can I do to help you? Mark said, ‘Why don’t you take over the business and I’ll stay and do the chocolates?’ So he does the chocolates for us and we do everything else.
DS: How long have you had this place?
EF: We opened in December 2013, but we actually took it over in September 2012. We were ready to start work in October, but then we had the superstorm Sandy. It took us until April to find a contractor.
DS: When did you become interested in history?
EF: I was a history major in college. My grandmother used to cane chairs and she was a lover of antiques. I guess I got that preservation gene from her. But Hoboken lends itself to that. You walk down Main Street and if you didn’t see the traffic lights it could be the 1930s. There is something so unique about Hoboken. You had this incredible industrial city with a huge waterfront and they built all these homes. They were smart enough to say, if you want to build you have to build with masonry that keeps with the character of the town.
DS: What would you like to see more of in Hoboken?
EF: People eating grilled cheese sandwiches at 7! An appreciation of things past so we can carry that on to the next generation. I think we have an incredible community. When we had the superstorm, we had people helping people for weeks. It makes you proud to be a part of that community. We have three restaurants in this town. It’s very important to me to have the community feel like they are weaved into the fabric of the town.
DS: Is there a vibe that you strive for with all your places?
EF: It’s probably the hardest thing to do – to anticipate people’s needs. That is what we strive for in all our businesses.
DS: What is it like running three businesses?
EF: It’s hard. It’s a little like ping pong. I love it though. I’m living my wildest dream. It’s not easy all the time, but if it was easy everyone would do it. ••