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Kathryn Spira

Memories of Mary and Formerly Joe's

I'm dedicating this column to my old friend Mary whose birthday was the 15th (the day I happen to be writing this column).

Mary and I worked in a restaurant in the West Village of New York called “Formerly Joe's.” She was hostess there and I was a waitress.

This was also where we worked with Michael Chiklis, Anthony Bourdain and Edie Falco. They have all gone on to be quite successful, while Mary and I have gone other routes.

Mary is a southern gal and loves the country. She raises bees out Montauk Point, Long Island these days, although the last we visited her, she had an apartment in the Upper East Side near the East River.

She also visited us up here in the Adirondacks one year and we had a great time cross country skiing at Lapland Lake.

At the time I met Mary, I had only lived in cities, but we hit it off right away.

I remember hiding from the owner, Andy Menschell at “Formerly Joe's” in the kitchen along with Mary, Anthony, Edie and Michael as we scarfed down the chef's chocolate mousse cake when we were supposed to be working at our wait stations. Ah, memories!

According to a New York Times article, Joe’s closed in 1992 due to a lease dispute between Andy and the building’s owner, Joe’s widow.

Mary and I are both now in our 50s and lead very different lives from our days in the Big Apple.

As a side note, I saw Edie Falco on a talk show the other night as her "Nurse Jackie" series was about to start it's sixth season (worth watching, by the way). Anyway, when asked by, (I think it was Seth Myers) about acting stories, she said she had many more waitressing stories as she'd "worked in every restaurant in New York City, most of which are no longer in business."

I know that's true of Formerly Joe's as well as many other places I worked at in the city.

Edie mentioned she would have nightmares about forgetting something at a table or drink orders, and I have to say I've had those moments too.

Mary had a natural bent towards hospitality and would make people very comfortable and in a good mood to order the specials as well as drinks--very important in the restaurant business.

She always tried to give me a full station of tables and made my work there very pleasant.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to Mary and great memories to all of the old crew at “Formerly Joe's.”


About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site