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Jax Daily Record Friday, Oct. 16, 202005:20 AM EST

Magnificat coming back to life Downtown under new ownership

Mags Cafe will open Oct. 19 serving many of the same dishes at 231 N. Laura St.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

A brother and sister team are gearing up to open their version of the recently closed Magnificat Cafe Downtown that they’re calling Mags Cafe.

Melina and Bobby Reynolds intend to open the restaurant at 9 a.m. Oct. 19.

Most of the menu and the interior of the restaurant at 231 N. Laura St. will look similar to the Magnificat Cafe, which closed Aug. 27 under Kathy and Benoit Desclefs’ ownership. It had been operating since 2003. 

Several factors caused the Desclefs to close the restaurant, including the pandemic conditions and their health. Kathy, Benoit and their son, Luke, all were diagnosed with cancer in December.

The Desclefs sold the restaurant’s contents and recipes to Bobby and Melina Reynolds so the buyers could reopen the restaurant under a new name in the same location. 

Melina Reynolds declined to state their investment in the restaurant.

Aside from the name change, she said almost everything will stay the same. There will be some new menu items but most dishes from the Magnificat Cafe can be ordered at Mags Cafe.

It still will offer sandwiches, salads, wraps, soups, quiche and vegan options in the same $7-$12 range. 

The new owners of Mags Cafe at 231 N. Laura St. Downtown intend to open at 9 a.m. Oct. 19. Most of the menu and the interior of the restaurant will look similar to the Magnificat Cafe, which closed Aug. 27.

The new restaurant will open earlier than the Magnificat Cafe and serve house-made pastries and small bites along with coffee. 

They will operate 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Mags Cafe will seat 35 inside and 34 outdoors on the patio and sidewalk.

There will be four employees, including the owners. The other two employees are new to the restaurant.

They also plan to exhibit the works of artists in the restaurant.

Melina Reynolds said the Desclefs wanted someone to carry on the legacy of the restaurant. 

The Reynolds were in the market to buy a restaurant and they hope to open more locations.

Melina and Bobby Reynolds had not eaten at Magnificat, but heard good reviews.

“We didn’t want to walk in and say we’re a whole new thing, a whole new establishment. People really miss them,” she said. “We want that already-known factor, so it benefits both of us.”

Eventually, the siblings want to put a speak-easy-style bar upstairs to serve craft cocktails and beer and feature live music.

“We don’t want to be open late,” she said. “It would be something for people to come in and have drinks after work.”

As restaurant industry veterans, Melina and Bobby Reynolds said they’ve dreamed of opening a place of their own. 

Bobby Reynolds has lived in Jacksonville since 1996. Throughout his restaurant career, he has worked as a dishwasher, cook and general manager. He also was a sales representative for Sysco Food Services. 

Melina Reynolds moved from Louisville, Kentucky, to Jacksonville in July to open a restaurant with her brother. She also has worked in restaurants in many roles, including as a staff trainer, operations manager for a catering company and a school kitchen manager. 

The Reynolds originally are from Indiana. 

The brother and sister have not worked together, but so far, they say their professional relationship is strong. 

“We’re both kind of stubborn, but we have a lot of experience combined in different aspects of the restaurant business: sales, catering, running the restaurant, serving, bartending,” Bobby Reynolds said.

“So we’re just putting everything together and making what we want step by step.”

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