My name is Stephanie Caltagerone and this is the story of Magpie.
To say that cooking is my passion would be an understatement. It is my first, final, and all encompassing love. So, as you can imagine, when I finally opened my very own restaurant in December 2015 I was ecstatic. Not only did I have my very own commercial kitchen to play in but it all came together in ways I couldn't have dreamed or expected. Sure, it took a lot of work. With my son at my side we spent months restoring a neglected old building until it all came together – the perfect spot, an old building with character, a wonderful staff, and of course my amazing patrons. And it all was happening in my most favorite area of town – downtown, my other "passion". As a former elected official, co-chair of Greenwich Village Art Fair and former board member of the River District Association downtown was my ideal spot. Our response was greater than I had ever hoped for. The labor of love was growing and we were gaining momentum, literally one day away from obtaining our liquor license. But it was not meant to be... at least in 2017. One day before this next stage of Magpie was to begin tragedy struck...again...and again...and again.
At 12:46 p.m. on July 25, the sirens began. With a dining room filled with happy patrons enjoying a lovely Sunday brunch, I am happy to report zero injuries as customers and staff were evacuated in the two minutes the fire department gave us. It was stunning to see what none of us could have imagined, the building next door engulfed in flames. Just the building next door – unfortunate but not the end of business as usual, right? Wrong. We spent the next 3 months wondering if we would be able to get back in our building, which had sustained structural damage in the days after the fire. We were then told that our landlord would not comply with our lease or the right of first refusal contained in it. Obviously we had to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit. Our landlord then took the insurance money and ran, giving the building to the owners of the Hanley building. A few months later we were told we could finally remove our property from the building, but not all of it. Our choices? To let them take over $30,000 in equipment and "add it to the lawsuit" which they had become a party to, or take none of OUR property. Water damage, roof damage, 2 building owners, 7 business owners, multiple insurance agencies and attorneys. It was more complicated than I had ever witnessed in my 20 years as an accountant/consultant to over 30 restaurants.
But it's all going to be okay (that has been my mantra for 15 months and counting). We have found an even better location. It is located at 126 North Madison Street, just two doors north of the new Indoor City Market with full exposure in the rear overlooking City Market Pavillion and in an area that will see huge growth in the next 6 months. It was built in the 1890's as a blacksmith shop and the moment we walked through the door we all fell in love. The renovation will be a huge undertaking but will be worth it in the end.
At the same time we are finally entering the trial phase of our lawsuits and will be happy to have that process over and see justice served to those who took away our business, property and livelihood. We would like to extend our love and thanks to every person and business who has helped, called, donated and prayed for us and for our beloved Magpie.
Guess what a group of magpies is called? A mischief! How appropriate is that?! We have decided to hold an annual private party for all of you awesome people who have helped us build and re-build Magpie. It's going to be great fun, as mischief usually is. Won't you join the mischief today?
- Annie Picken
- Dina Sipiora
- Susan Hammond
- Karen Hill
Organizer and beneficiary
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