We climbed over large piles of dirt to try to get a look inside. The distinctive old building was captivating to say the least, it seemed almost too good to hope it could be ours. Like many locals, we had long admired the historic Flatiron building, and now there was work being done to alleviate the potential for basement flooding that had discouraged other tenants from taking a lease.
After doing a little research on this 1912 Georgian Revival beauty, we discovered there had never been a restaurant in the eastern main floor of the building, that mobsters including Al Capone took cover at the hotel in the 1930's, and that if we were lucky and worked fast, we could rent a place that restaurant dreams were made of. It was May 1995, our youngest of three children, Joe, was three months old.
And then, as my dear mother Gretchen said, the stars began to line up for us. The odds of experienced landlords and wary bankers taking us on was a long shot. We were poor, had no local name recognition in the restaurant scene, and independent restaurants have a notoriously high mortality rate. But my sister and her husband, and my husband's recently departed Grandma Vic, stepped up with just enough financial support to help us get in the door at the bank.
We told the folks that stood between us and our coveted space about how we fell in love with each other and the restaurant life while working at the French Cafe in the heady days of the late 1970's, about where our separate paths had taken us, Steve to Austin, TX and around the world, myself to Chicago and then Tampa, FL., and what we had learned about food and hospitality along the way. We told them how a chance meeting at V Mertz in 1988 brought us back together. We asked them to take a chance on us. So after a few months of wrangling toddlers during numerous meetings and endless negotiations, a lease was signed and loans secured. Our dream cafe was really going to become a reality.
So many memories of this place now, so many fabulous times with our past and present staff, past and present diners. To all who have been a part of this story, it has been a good life and a wild ride, thank you so much for everything.
Oh, and son Joe is now 24 years old, and running the cafe!