Going with the Flow on Orange Avenue
"I’ve made my entire living in the restaurant business one way or the other,” Hennessey says. He was working at La Belle Verriere (a Winter Park restaurant opened by Jeannette Genius McKean to display her Tiffany windows) when the antique bug bit. “Being an antique dealer was enchanting,” he says. In 1991, Hennessey purchased a rambling building and opened the Orange Avenue Antique Mall, leasing space to sellers of knickknacks while offering coffee, candy and ice cream to browsers.In the past 22 years, Michael Hennessey’s business has gone from antique mall to artisanal meals, without planning or intention.
Demand for food brought more tables and a larger menu; the burdensome cash flow of antiques meant that trade was left behind. By late 1992, Hennessey had named the business after his white German shepherd, Casper, and was making soups and chicken salad out of a rented church kitchen.
White Wolf “grew organically,’’ says his wife, Anne Marie, who met Michael 15 years ago as a White Wolf customer. “It wasn’t designed to be a restaurant.’’
These days she takes care of the dollars and cents while he steers the restaurant, which has the feeling of a New Orleans eatery, with live music, a popular bar and stained glass in the windows. A cabinet of dishes, price tags on the chandeliers hanging around the room and tin signs are remnants of its antique shop days.
Chef Jason Schofield creates house-made salami, pickles, sausage and other items for White Wolf and Wolfie’s Pizzamia, which opened a few doors down in February. Free range chicken, wild salmon and all-natural pork highlight the dinner menu, while diners flock to Sunday brunch and daily breakfasts of cinnamon rolls, Benedicts from crabmeat, red beans and rice, and an extravagant lobster and Brie omelet.
Hennessey, 55, greets people at the door and often learns enough about them that he can comment on their upcoming vacation plans by the time they leave. His wife says that’s the secret of White Wolf’s longevity. “Michael,” she says, “always treats everyone who comes in the door as a guest in our house.”