Erinn Fleming was never much of a runner. But just days after the bombings at the Boston Marathon ravaged Forum, the restaurant where she works as director of Marketing and Events, Erinn was determined to participate in the 2014 marathon.
“I just said, ‘I’m running that marathon next year,” Erinn explains. “And for me, it was set in stone.”
For Erinn and the rest of the Forum staff, rebuilding the restaurant after the attacks was a lengthy process that required both emotional and physical recovery.
Minutes after the bombs went off, Forum’s staff leaped into assisting the first responders in any way they could. After all the guests in the dining rooms were ushered out into the back alley, employees raced to the patio area, where several board members of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation were sitting with their families cheering on the charity’s runners. Three doormen working for the restaurant sustained hearing damage. One was blasted with shrapnel in his leg.
“Holding a hand, getting someone a glass of water, as much linens and towels and ice, just listening to the first responders,” Fleming recalls. “I think everyone just did whatever they could do.”
Within a week, the restaurant was boarded up with black plywood, and Forum was officially a crime scene. The restaurant’s façade was physically devastated, and a significant amount of the interior, including every inch of the custom carpeting on the second floor, had to be ripped out for professional analysis.
For a fully-staffed restaurant that was booked to the brim with events, the recovery period after the bombing could have been a strategic nightmare. But area businesses were eager to lend a hand by booking events and offering shifts to Forum staff. Several employees who would have been left unemployed for months were able to work at The Tap, one of Forum’s sister businesses.
In addition to the custom carpeting that had to be entirely remade, the bar was moved forward, and additional seating was installed. Warmer textiles and different materials were added to convey a feeling of comfort for guests. And for a while after re-opening on August 15th, business was better than ever.
“For a couple months after we reopened … we were certainly busier than we had been,” says General Manager Chris Loper, who pointed out that January and February have been slower, as they are for most restaurants.
But come April 21, Forum will celebrate as they intended to last year: With a party for the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. But this time, Erinn Fleming won’t be working the event; she’ll be running by with the other 46 members of the Foundation’s Marathon team- double the number of runners as last year.
“We’re all going to finish what we started last year,” says Erinn. “And we’re going finish strong.”