Rich Braaten is an executive coach and Hell’s Kitchen local, whose journey from Buffalo to the Big Apple encompasses a love for Broadway, his tight-knit neighborhood, his daughters, his husband and shorkie Dior. This is Rich’s West Side Story…
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
My first visit to New York was when I was a lad of five. As a family we drove down from my hometown of Buffalo for a five-day sightseeing adventure. I was overwhelmed by it all. My Dad loved to tell the story of how every night he had to take me out after dark so I could see the Empire State Building in all its illuminated glory. As I grew up, my Mom would tell me all the time that someday I would make New York my home. In 2018, five decades and a whole lot of life later my husband Scott and I moved into Hell’s Kitchen and the rest of my New York story began to unfold.
What was your first job? What do you do now?
My first job was as a paper boy delivering the Buffalo Evening News to 60 customers in my neighborhood. I learned the art of customer service and how happy customers become great tippers! Professionally, I had a corporate career working for both Pfizer and GE, working in sales, marketing and ultimately leadership development. I currently have my own consultancy, where I focus on executive coaching, curriculum design and executive development.
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
There are so many! My husband Scott has made his career working on Broadway, and he began on Phantom. I had the incredible good fortune to attend the final performance with him back in April. To sit in the Majestic Theatre surrounded by all these incredible theatre folks and to be part of that historic night. It was a New York moment I shall never forget!
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
I love the intimate neighborhood feeling of it all. On daily walks with our ‘Shorkie’ Dior, I always run into other dog owners and neighborhood folks I’ve come to know. I work from home, and those morning walks are a great way to start the day and feel connected. The guy in the bodega across from our apartment who is able to read my mind and know exactly what I want, the barber I go to who always insists I bring Dior with me, there’s a familiarity and sense of community everywhere I go, I love that. Friends, great restaurants, the theater, the Hudson, it’s all right there, wrapped up in a diverse and accepting community.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
Hmmm, through the work that I do, I’d say I have a unique ability to influence hearts and minds helping others to be the best they can be. I love hearing other people’s stories and how their life journeys brought them to where they are today.
What else should we know about you?
We’ve got three grown daughters, Jamie, Mollie and Kelsey and they were beyond thrilled that I’ve made NY my home. I’m also incredibly blessed to be married to an awesome, kind and caring guy, or as the girls would attest, the absolute best Stepdad ever. I’ve got a wacky sense of humor, love finding the funny in all things absurd. A bit of a history geek as well, appreciating the beauty of walking around the city — there’s so much to learn everywhere you go.
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Rich’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
Domus — 413 W 44th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
Nicki and Luisa are delightful and they always have such a great and eclectic collection of merchandise and greeting cards, I never walk out empty handed. Another ‘must stop’ spot on walks with Dior, he knows there are treats waiting for him!
MéMé — 607 10th Avenue (corner of W44th St)
Great food, service and atmosphere, their lemon chicken is the best.
Añjeo — 668 10th Avenue (corner of W47th St)
Great energy, love the cheeseburger fundido and the fish tacos. A great spot to meet friends.
Mama Mia — 621 9th Avenue (corner of W44th St)
It’s been around forever, Chicken 44 is my favorite, great service, easy for pre-theatre.
Pier 84 — 555 12th Avenue
The revamped dog park is wonderful, the views of the river, great sunsets and lots of green space. It feels like you’re stepping away from the city, once you safely get across the West Side Highway!
Gotham West Rooftop — 550 W45th Street (bw 10th/11th Ave)
Incredible West Side sunsets. Great memories of family gatherings.
5 Napkin Burger — 630 9th Avenue (corner of W45th St)
It’s our go-to burger place.
Little Pie Company — 424 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
Their individual chicken pot pies are delicious.
Hellcat Annie’s — 637 10th Avenue (bw W45/46th St)
I love the wings — and I am from Buffalo, so I’m fussy about my wings.
Galaxy Diner — 665 9th Avenue (corner of W46th St)
We went there the first day we moved to HK — and it’s been our breakfast spot ever since.
If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself), please fill in this form — w42st.info/WSSnominations. You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.