It took a Lincoln Continental pinning Margie Hennessee against the side of a building to force her to take a day off.
But it also inspired the longtime employee of Maximillian’s Grill to finally own her own business.
And that ended up being the place she and her husband, Will, already call home.
Michael Schiffer opened Maximillian’s in 1991 on Buck Jones Road before relocating it in 2002 to 8314 Chapel Hill Road, where it remains today. It became known for spicy, fusion food made with fresh ingredients.
With new owners, Maximillian’s Grill is getting a a new look. Margie and Will Hennessee, who live in Apex, closed the restaurant after the purchase for the renovations.
Margie Hennesse, 46, an Erie, Penn., native, has worked in restaurants since she was 15 years old. Will Hennessee, 43, grew up in Lumberton and fell in love with the industry when working at the North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh one summer in college.
What began as a short-term or part-time job changed after the restaurant industry took hold of them. Now, 20 years later, they have a restaurant of their own.
While the interior will change, the couple says the spirit and legacy of Maximillian’s will not. They hope to reopen the restaurant in early March.
We sat down with the new owners during renovations. They discussed how Margie’s accident changed the course of their future, and what changes are ahead.
Q: What do you like about working in the restaurant industry?
Margie: I love people. I love food. It’s like being out every night. You get to see everybody. You get to be with everybody. You’re serving everybody. I grew up in a big family – one of those families where you walk in the house (and they say,) “What can I get you to drink?” It’s the social aspect I love, and the food is a great artistic outlet.
Will: Just like she said, it’s about the people. We have a lot of clientele that they come back a lot. We love to see them, and making new friends is great as well.
Q: Tell me about the accident, and how it affected your decision to own a restaurant.
Margie: His mom died in July of 2014. She was buried in Concord, where she’s from. We were (there) eating dinner (at Cracker Barrel), and after dinner we sat on the porch, and a woman accidentally backed her car. Instead of going forward, she went into reverse and put me against the wall. My pelvis was shattered. But I’m rebuilt, so I have this nice plate with 18 pins and three rods and some screws.
It took us out of the restaurant. ... I was in a wheelchair for four months. I had to learn how to walk again and all that. (Deciding to own a business) was from having to take time off. In this business, you work long and hard and a lot. Even when I was in the emergency room at the hospital, I was out of it, but I kept saying, “I just have to be back in Raleigh by 4 p.m. on Friday,” because I had no idea how bad I was.
It took a Lincoln Continental pinning me against the wall to get me to take time off, but in doing so, it was my fight to get better (that helped us decide). Because I am not one to sit in a bed. I am a do-er. That’s really what gave use the drive to kind of getting better and say, “We can do this.”
I am not one to sit in a bed. I am a do-er. That’s really what gave use the drive to kind of getting better and say, “We can do this.
Margie Hennessee, new Maximillian’s Grill co-owner
Q: Are you making any changes to the menu?
Margie: A little more Mediterranean, very global. (Michael) has always been very global. When he started (the restaurant), it was just going to be pizzas and a few pastas. Then his pastas turned into these beautiful layered dishes. Michael always loved spices, but the one thing that was super unique about his food is the way he layered flavors. And to learn under him that way was an amazing thing. To be part of that is amazing, and what we’re trying to do is take it back to that original a little bit. Maximillian’s in the past couple years, everything got spicy.
We’re keeping the Voodoo Tuna as a signature dish. We’re always going to have that. We’re always going to have spicy grouper. We’re always going to have black bean and smoked chipotle running around the menu everywhere. But let’s not forget about the grouper with the white wine, roast garlic, artichoke, feta, Kalamata olives and capers.
We’re trying to make sure we stay as fresh and locally sustainable as we can. We want to keep the beers local. We want to keep a little bit of local wine. The wine list was usually California, Australia heavily influenced. We’re going to bring in a lot more global wines from France, Spain and Italy.
Q: You are changing the decor, too. What are you going for?
Will: We just want to brighten it up a little bit. It was like a dark cherry stain on the walls, and it really just kind of soaked any light that was in the room, so we just want to brighten it up, put our own little touch on it. All the art is going to be different. We just want to make people happy.
Q: How are you feeling about getting ready to reopen the business as your own?
Margie: We’re just so excited. We are so ready to go. We can’t wait to see our friends. Deciding to go ahead and say, “You know what, it’s a good time (to buy)” is because of everything going on in downtown Cary. There’s so much good stuff. We’re excited for (The Cary theater). We’re excited for The Mayton Inn. I mean that’s going to be awesome to have right there, and I’m excited to see the breweries.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon