Plenty of food, community, and kindness at Lenox
After the bombs exploded across the street from the Lenox Hotel on Boylston Street last week, the evacuated hotel became command central for hungry law enforcement investigators. What started out as lunch for 80 on Tuesday afternoon became dinner for more than 400 on Tuesday night, and grew into about 1,500 meals a day.
But with food deliveries halted, managing director Daniel Donahue sought help from hospitality colleagues. Soon cases of bacon and sausage began arriving from the Fairmont Copley Plaza, vats of potato salad rolled in on a luggage cart from the Colonnade Hotel, and trays of deli meat were sent from the Four Seasons.
“We’re competitors, and they’re giving us food. And not only giving us food, calling up and saying what else do you need?” said Donahue, who has been overseeing operations round the clock since Monday night.
The bombers “could have easily taken something from this city, taken our spirit,” he said — but the city would not let them, “and they couldn’t.”
The show of kindness, generosity, and community at the Lenox over the past week provided a stark contrast to the hate and terror of the Marathon bombings. About 70 Lenox managers and employees have been volunteering their time at the hotel, cleaning rooms and preparing pizza, burgers, steak, and whatever else they had on hand.
At one point, the officers and agents started leaving cash on the tables, telling managers to give the money, amounting to a few thousand dollars, to employees who were temporarily put out of work by the bombing. The workers’ response: Donate it to the One Fund for bombing victims instead.
“As horrific as Monday was,” Donahue said, “and Monday was horrific, there is a resilience in people that wouldn’t allow the hatred that those two wanted to inflict upon us to stick.”
The Lenox, which also housed about 100 law enforcement agents each night, will serve its last meal to the army of investigators Tuesday morning before reopening to guests in the afternoon. The hotel suffered only minor damage from the blasts: a broken window and a malfunctioning revolving door; the mechanism snapped when a flood of people pushed into the hotel after the bombings.
Service started with a 7 a.m. breakfast buffet and ended with middle-of-the-night sandwich platters. The police officers, state troopers, Homeland Security staff, and agents of the FBI, Secret Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives didn’t exactly have dainty appetites. At one breakfast alone, they put away more than 90 dozen eggs and about 1,700 strips of bacon.
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for the Lenox cupboard to start getting bare — less than a day, in fact. By Tuesday night, Donahue was taking up local restaurants on their offers to help. The Four Seasons, Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and Stella sent over sandwiches, salads, trays of cold cuts, and pans of pasta.
Smith & Wollensky brought steak tips, mashed potatoes, and vegetables for 100 on Thursday, and sliced chilled tenderloin and chicken breast, Cobb salad, and Caesar salad on Friday. The executive chef of the Colonnade on Huntington Avenue, finding he couldn’t get through by car, wheeled over pasta and potato salad on a luggage cart.
Towne Stove and Spirits down the street on Boylston was closed, but the sales director drove to Kowloon in Saugus to get a carload of Chinese food for the hotel.
The chairman of the Swiss confectioner Lindt, which has a chocolate shop in the hotel, told the Lenox to raid the store to feed the law enforcement officers, Donahue said: “We’re robbing the store and all the cops are watching us.”
When Paul Tormey, general manager of the Fairmont Copley Plaza, got a text from Donahue early one morning saying the Lenox had run out of food, he hit his hotel’s walk-in refrigerator. Then he and his cook each hoisted two 10-pound boxes of bacon and sausage on their shoulders and walked to Exeter Street, where they were stopped by a SWAT team
“We really can’t let you through,” Tormey recalls one of them saying. “I understand that,” Tormey replied, “but this is breakfast.”
They cleared the way.
The Fairmont also fed agents working the crime scene, as did other hotels in the area, but the Lenox was the main dining hall for those on Boylston Street. One night after the Lenox chef had gone home and the hungry crowds kept coming, the hotel director and a few sales and food and beverage managers whipped up an “all-starch buffet” of pasta, rice, and potatoes.
Even though they weren’t getting paid while the hotel was closed to the public, many employees at the Lenox were quick to volunteer when asked. The hotels plans to compensate all its workers in some way. Mike Carlisle, the food and beverage manager at Solas, City Table, and City Bar at the hotel, was amazed at the response when a restaurant manager texted his staff Wednesday to see if anyone could come in. “Within 10 minutes his phone just blew up,” said Carlisle, who like many employees slept at the hotel for most of last week.
“It kind of helped jump-start the healing process,” he added. “You’re helping in the way you know how.”