Maximillian’s Grill owners selling restaurant to 2 longtime employees

Michael and Gayle Schiffer have decided to retire at the end of the year and sell their Cary restaurant, Maximillian’s Grill, to two longtime employees.

On Thursday, Schiffer said he and his wife are selling the restaurant to Will and Margie Hennessee, who have worked on and off at the restaurant for about 20 years. The last night chef Schiffer will be in the kitchen will be New Year’s Eve.

Schiffer said his elderly parents and his own recent health issues made he and his wife start to think that it was time to retire. He said, “We’ve got a little house at the beach. We’ll go down there and watch the grass grow.”

Schiffer opened the restaurant in 1991 on Buck Jones Road in Cary. It became known for its California-style pizza, pasta dishes and sandwiches. In 1996, Michael Schiffer married Gayle White, whose wine expertise and dessert-making skills have been an integral part of the Maximillian’s experience. The couple moved the restaurant to its current location on Chapel Hill Road in May 2002; the restaurant became known for well-executed spicy, fusion food.

The new owners have no plans for drastic changes other than an interior makeover. They even plan to keep the name.

“It’s a special place. Cary is a special town,” said Margie Hennessee. “It’s an institution that isn’t ready to be put to bed.”

After a difficult couple of years, Hennessee said she and her husband were looking to open their own restaurant. Last year, Hennessee was hit by a car while sitting in a rocking chair outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant. She was in a wheelchair for four months, had to have her pelvis rebuilt and learned to walk again during extensive rehabilitation.

After all of that, Hennessee said she still had a “fire in her belly” about owning a restaurant. When a deal fell through in the mountains, it worked out that the couple could take over Maximillian’s.

Hennessee said they plan to close the restaurant for about a month and give it a makeover inside. They will keep many of the classic menu items but offer lighter, less spicy options. They hope to be open by Feb. 1.

Weigl: 919-829-4848;

Twitter: @andreaweigl

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Maximillian’s Grill, 8314 Chapel Hill Road, Cary, 919-465-2455,