“Hearing the name Wahlburgers, I think for Mark and me, was jarring,” Donnie admits to Metro. “He’s an underwear model turned actor. I’m a boy bander turned actor. We worked so hard to build up our credibility throughout our careers, and now we’re going to open up a hamburger place making fun of our last name?"
"I’ve worked so hard since I was a teenager to bring respect to my family’s name," he adds. "Now we’re going throw it out the window, using a name for a restaurant that people used to tease us and call us that as kids.”
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While the idea didn't exactly sit well at first with the New Kids on the Block star and his brother, Donnie and Mark eventually came around for one big reason: Paul. The duo had already helped the chef open the Italian-Mediterranean restaurant Alma Nove in Hingham, and after seeing its success, they were confident that Paul could turn Wahlburgers into something special.
Donnie, Paul and Mark Wahlberg talk bringing Wahlburgers to Dorchester
“Once Mark and I got over the initial concern of the name – that was really the only concern we had – then we had to sort of wake Paul up to the fact that, OK, this name does not equate to a one-off hamburger joint in Hingham," Donnie says. "If Mark and I were going to get behind it financially and emotionally and really get involved in it, then this had the chance to be something bigger than just a one-off hamburger joint."
In the seven years since they started this journey, the confidence in each other has paid off big time for the Wahlbergs. The family has launched 30 Wahlburgers locations across the globe and has scored two Emmy nominations for the hit A&E reality series based on their involvement with the franchise.
The brothers are particularly proud of their newest Wahlburgers location at the South Bay Shopping Center in their home neighborhood of Dorchester, which officially opens to the public on Thursday. Mark, Donnie and Paul were all in town on Monday night to celebrate with fans during a special grand opening party.
Setting up shop in Dorchester means a lot to the Wahlbergs, as they grew up in the area, spending summers eating burgers cooked by their dad at backyard barbecues or grabbing a bite at the now defunct Henry’s Hamburger on Dorchester Avenue. The brothers are honored to give back by putting the spotlight on and bringing jobs to the community that raised them.
“It’s the only community I know. I don’t know what’s going on in Quincy or anywhere else,” jokes Mark. “To be here and to be able to open up a restaurant in our backyard and create jobs and share our family experiences with all of our Bostonian family, it’s amazing.”
“It’s our home,” says Paul. “We’re not only proud to be from Boston, but proud to be from the neighborhoods we’re from.”
“That’s that thing,” he adds. “Each of us has our individual pride being from Boston, but it doesn’t supersede being from Dorchester, or Mattapan, or Roxbury, or South Boston, Roslindale, Hyde Park, East Boston – except for the airport.”
As for what makes Dorchester so special, Mark and Donnie agree that they are particularly proud of the neighborhood’s “melting pot” nature.
“It’s always been a melting pot,” says Mark. “People come from all over the world just looking for an opportunity.”
“As Boston’s evolved over the years, a lot of the other neighborhoods have become much more of melting pots, but Dorchester was always a melting pot,” says Donnie. “I always felt like Dorchester best encapsulated all of Boston, where some parts of Boston were very isolated.”
“Dorchester just had a much more diverse group of people and I always took great pride in that,” he adds. “You never heard Dorchester is only this or Dorchester is only that. Dorchester had everyone. I was really proud of that and still am today.”
Paul admits that "never in a million years" did he think that Wahlburgers would become as big as it has, and he couldn't be more grateful for the opportunities it has given him, his family and his community.
“I always thought of it as, if we did this one place, I’d be thrilled," says Paul. "We’re so fortunate and we’re so blessed.”