Jim Breuer has been in the restaurant business most of his life. He has cooked, cleaned and managed a staff. When he bought a pub in Westminster, it was to be closer to home, and the atmosphere of the restaurant felt like home to a lot of customers.
Breuer is selling Maggie’s restaurant to a new owner after 30 years. Although some minor changes will be made, the homey feel is expected to stay the same.
“The sale was bittersweet, but it’s time,” Breuer, who officially handed over the keys on Monday, said. “I had a lot of good memories.”
Breuer entered the restaurant business 47 years ago at the age of 17 and since then has held every position a restaurant offers. He spent time as an area manager which caused him to be on the road 23 days a month visiting a different restaurant every day and making sure staff are meeting company standards.
It took him away from his family and he wanted to start working closer to home, which was Hanover, Pennsylvania. He became the new owner of the Westminster establishment on July 6, 1990. But more than three decades later, Breuer said “it’s been enough” and he can no longer put in the energy it requires.
Breuer said the restaurant business is “sort of an extension of the entertainment business” and a people business. He would often sit and talk with customers who frequented the pub so often he witnessed their kids grow up. Some of the kids he employed would later go on to become accountants, lawyers and a NASA scientist.
“I feel like a grandfather to a thousand kids because I’m proud of their success,” he said.
Although owning a restaurant came with positives, it also has its challenges. Most recently, the coronavirus pandemic. It caused many restaurants to close their doors for weeks and adjust operations to accommodate for social distancing. But Maggie’s pulled through thanks to community support. Breuer said customers keep coming back because “it feels like home.” It’s the place often picked for McDaniel College reunions, wedding parties and funeral functions. It reminds people of a good time, he said.
Breuer said he isn’t “an ancient person” but he “can’t provide the fire the place needs.” He called it a young person business and he needs someone else to light the fire.
Thomas Zippelli, the new owner, is 31, but he isn’t new to the restaurant business.
Zippelli owns the Turn House, a restaurant in Columbia, which he said did well during the pandemic. And Salt and Vine, formerly known as Ricciutis, that’s under construction in Olney. Zippelli studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University and worked at restaurants in New York City, Napa Valley and Seattle.
He said he wants to “maintain the feel and vibe” of Maggie’s and keep the “old Irish bar” atmosphere. What he does want to change is the patio area. His idea is to get rid of the deck and make that area a dining room. He added that the entrance area will be moved, walls will be painted and carpet could be added.
Zippelli said he met the entire staff last week and he’s “excited to say, I don’t want to have anyone be out of work.” He brought on a few people like Will Wilt to be the executive chef and Trevor Higgins to be the general manager.
Wilt, a Carroll County native and 30-year executive chef, said he’s excited to bring “some farm to table cooking” and smoked meats to Maggie’s. He’s already been told by several people in the area he should keep the shrimp curry on the menu, and he is not opposed. While researching the restaurant, he tasted it, as well as a few other items, and was happy the food was fresh. The bison burger was his favorite “and the crab cake is fantastic.”
“We’re here to make some improvements and not change what works,” Higgins said. He worked with Zippelli at the Turn House and Salt and Vine.
He noted some changes to be made in the dining room and they are looking to add delivery service, like DoorDash and/or Uber Eats. Higgins said he heard Maggie’s Melt is a staple item and also heard good things about the crab cake.
“A lot of places claim to be Maryland style but we actually make ours with as minimal filling as possible,” Higgins said he was told.
Staffing is minimal at the moment due to the pandemic, but Higgins said as restrictions start to ease, they hope to bring back more people.
One of the staff members there Monday was Michael Serio, Breuer’s father-in-law. He joined after his wife died and his daughter urged him to get out of the house. Now he loves it.
“Everybody’s so comfortable when they come here it reminds me of the TV show ‘Cheers’,” he said.
He said he hopes the customers will continuing to come and noted how Carroll County people are set in their ways and like when things stay the same.
Breuer said the new owner has a passion, knows what he’s doing and is “going to maintain the legacy that was built before me.” When Breuer was about to buy the place, he thought about giving it a different name, but after the purchase he decided “Maggie’s” needed to stay.
“I feel Maggie’s is in good hands,” he said. “The fact is, the place still feels like home and they get it.”
Breuer said he will stick around during the transition but not on a day-by-day basis. He’s staying in the area and is planning to take 30 days to unwind.