BY LOLA OGUNNAIKE | March 1, 2010 | Food & Drink
Michael Hirtenstein, Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum
Every morning, nightlife impresarios Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum face a to-do list that would leave most quivering in their boots. “Yeah, it’s pretty intense,” says Remm, staring at the dozens of tasks that await him. “There was a time when we had only one club and I could remember everything in my head, but now there’s just too much going on.” Too much indeed. Since 2006, when they started the EMM Group, a lifestyle and hospitality company, Remm, Birnbaum and veteran businessman Michael Hirtenstein have amassed a stable that includes the club Michael Hirtenstein, Eugene Remm and Mark Birnbaum Night Moves Tenjune, the W Hoboken’s lounge, Chandelier Room, and The Estate, a mansion in the Hamptons that doubles as a clubhouse for the jet set during the summer season.
In the heart of the Meatpacking District is where you’ll fi nd the group’s latest ventures, the restaurant Abe & Arthur’s and the downstairs 2,200-square-foot club, SL. In less than a year, the venues have quickly become two of the city’s most popular hot spots. Sean Penn, Rihanna, Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher and Jay-Z are just a few of the A-listers who have sampled Abe’s classic contemporary American fare.
The partners were in the middle of building Abe and Arthur’s when the global fi nancial market collapsed. “We had already broken ground and all around us people were losing jobs, banks were being bailed out, people were expecting the Great Depression,” says Birnbaum. “And it’s not like we were selling something secure like gold. We’re lucky that we have good customers that stood by us.” But the trio has never shied away from risk. Birnbaum, once a financial planner, quit his profession after the events of 9/11 forced him to reevaluate his future. “I lived right across from Ground Zero, and that same month I lost a friend to cancer,” he says. “I figured life was too short. I needed to do something I loved.” Remm, meanwhile, worked his way up from the mailroom at the PR firm Harrison & Shriftman to become director of promotions at the B.R. Guest Restaurant Group. His success with the restaurant Vento Trattoria and its subterranean lounge, Level V, put him on the nightlife map.
At 46, Hirtenstein is the oldest and most accomplished of the trio, having made his millions in the communication industry. He decided to take a chance on the young upstarts and invested both time and money in Remm and Birnbaum’s fledgling company. “When I made my investment approximately 18 months ago, the company had a little more than $10 million in sales in [Tenjune],” says Hirtenstein. “Within three years of my investment, I wouldn’t be surprised if the venues we either own or have management deals for may hit the $100 million mark, and [that figure is still] growing.”
The partners say they are now focused on developing a boutique hotel. “We want to take care of your lifestyle needs from beginning to end,” says Remm. “We want to be your one-stop shop.” Visit emmgroupinc.com.
PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID NEEDLEMAN