Small Business Survivors: Keeping a Brooklyn landmark alive with Carlos Perez San Martin

The exterior of Weylin at the former Williamsburg Savings Bank building in Brooklyn. (Photo via Brownstoner)

The glow of the iconic, landmark Williamsburg Savings Bank dome shines a beautiful hue each evening along the Brooklyn skyline and can’t be missed by anyone crossing the nearby Williamsburg Bridge. But the colossal former bank was transformed nearly a decade ago into Weylin, one of the borough’s most breathtaking venues.

The COVID-19 pandemic has practically brought the catering and events industry to a halt since March. Carlos Perez San Martin, one of the driving forces behind Weylin’s creation, said he has not been able to operate the business at all during this time, yet has stayed committed to retaining his staff although he did need to enact salary cuts and make other difficult decisions.  

“I take great pride in my team, this property and hosting events that put a smile on people’s faces,” said Perez San Martin.

Weylin has been working very closely with clients, especially brides, to reschedule events into 2021 and beyond.

“We have made a large investment over the past 10 years and have employed thousands of people between construction, development and now catering,” he said.

The Williamsburg Savings Bank building was originally built in 1875 and deemed “One of the most monumental spaces surviving in New York from the post-Civil War era” by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Beaux Arts Classical building’s original team included preeminent New York architect George B. Post and designer Peter B. Wight.

The building was not only significant to Brooklyn, but instrumental in shaping the trends of architectural design throughout the nation.

In 2010, Perez San Martin, an adaptive reuse specialist, came to the United States from Argentina to help acquire the Williamsburg Savings Bank building. He led a team on what would be a three-year, $27 million award-winning restoration of the property. Every detail, from the doorknobs to the frescoed dome ceiling, were restored to their original glory.

Carlos Perez San Martin outside of Weylin, the catering hall created within the former Williamsburg Savings Bank building in Brooklyn. (Photo courtesy of Weylin)

Perez San Martin’s focus and expertise was on transforming a derelict building into a multifunctional, cultural and community hub. The project encompassed both restoration and investment in bringing the technology to the level of attracting the most sought-after events in New York City.

Upon completion of the work, in 2014, Perez San Martin spearheaded the events management of the venue. Weylin was able to overcome stereotypes and attract world-class events to Brooklyn including those hosted by companies such as Google, Tedx, VogueRag & Bone, Gucci, Brooklyn Brewery and Uber.

Weylin naturally became a premiere wedding venue as well celebrated by Harper’s Bazaar, which listed Weylin at number three of the select group of New York City’s best wedding venues.

Perez San Martin also courted the film, television and photography industry to utilize the space, with top productions including “The Irishman,” “The Blacklist,” “Billions,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Billboard” and many others keen on capturing the historic nature of the property.

To do so, he invested over the last few years an additional $1 million in state-of-the-art technology to improve the lighting, audio, staging, production and rigging for all productions and events on site. Weylin has theatrical capabilities.

Despite the troubles related to the pandemic, Perez San Martin remains hopeful that the good times at Weylin will return once the crisis ends.

“I am optimistic that once the pandemic is over people will want to get back to celebrating and congregating once again,” said Perez San Martin.

Until then, the lights still shine over the Williamsburg skyline.

This story is part of amNewYork Metro’s “Small Business Survivors” series, an ongoing look at how New York City small businesses are working to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re a small business owner surviving the pandemic, send us your story by emailing [email protected]