Margaret Mary Gillespie, daughter of the late Gordie Gillespie, said she is opening the restaurant at 753 Ruby St., in the space of the former Thayer Bros. Deli and Grille. She named it Magpie’s Joy of Eating, and she hopes to open the eatery this month, she said.
Gordie Gillespie was the head coach at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Lewis University in Romeoville and Ripon College in Wisconsin. He also served as a coach at the former Joliet Catholic High School, now Joliet Catholic Academy.
Gillespie said her father nicknamed her “Magpie” when she was a child.
“He said I came out talking and I’ve never stopped talking,” Gillespie said with a laugh.
Rick Thayer of Joliet, the former owner of Thayer Bros., confirmed that Gillespie is buying the assets of the family business and will open Magpie’s Joy of Eating in that space.
“I am excited to see what she’s going to do,” Thayer said. “I know it’s going to be a lot different from what we were. But I’m excited. I think she’ll do well.”
Remnants of Thayer Bros. will remain
Still, Thayer said he feels customers will notice the spirit of Thayer Bros. in Magpie’s. For instance, he can envision Gillespie talking to the customers, “just like we always did.”
“She going to be serving my mom’s soups,” Thayer said. “She retained my entire back of the house staff – the kitchen staff – and they’re well-versed in that.
Thayer’s mother, Anna Mae “Ann” Thayer of Joliet, died in 2019.
Gillespie also hopes Thayer’s angelic sense of hospitality is felt at Magpie’s Joy of Eating.
“She taught me what it was all about,” Gillespie said. “It’s about community, and it’s about God and being faithful and true to your neighbor, the person standing next to you.”
Gillespie likens Magpie’s Joy of Eating to a “farm-to-table” experience because of its hyperlocal focus. The menu will be seasonal, and she will buy all ingredients – including herbs – locally, she said. Breads will be freshly baked, and soups will be homemade.
“I have some of Anna Mae’s soups that I’ve tweaked on my own,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie said she used to work for Ann Thayer when Thayer had a restaurant on Midland Avenue and Jefferson Street. Thayer was more than her employer; she was her mentor, Gillespie said.
“It was during a period of time in my life when I wasn’t the best version of myself,” Gillespie said. “She saw who I was and put me underneath her angel wing. That’s the best way I could say it. She made sure I was at work every day and I was the best person I could be.”
A focus on hyperlocal
Magpie’s Joy of Eating will include a Sunday brunch, a pub menu featuring a bison burger, a soup club and fresh herbs on the tables, Gillespie said.
I am excited to see what she’s going to do. I know it’s going to be a lot different from what we were. But I’m excited. I think she’ll do well.”— Rick Thayer, former owner of Thayer Bro. Deli and Grille in Joliet
Local artists will display and sell their work at the restaurant on a rotational basis, with 100% of the profits going to the artist, Gillespie said. Local musicians will provide live entertainment, she said.
Mary Lynn Maloney of Joliet is the first artist.
“She has beautiful pieces,” Gillespie said. “The collages and 3D effects are just amazing. She has one called ‘Dames Night Out’ that just blows my mind. It’s on her Facebook page, and it’s one of my favorites.”
Maloney said she saw Gillespie’s call for local artists on social media and sent her a message, directing Gillespie where to find images of her work.
“I haven’t shown my work in a big group like this in a while,” Maloney said. “So I’m very excited about it.”
Maloney said she was impressed with Gillespie’s commitment to art and other local businesses, since Maloney also supports local businesses and other local artists, especially those in the Joliet area.
“There’s a lot of good stuff going on here,” Maloney said.
Gillespie said she also worked at the former Stefanich’s Restaurant, known for chicken and frog legs, as well as for Earl D’Amico, who owned restaurants in Joliet.
She moved to Florida in 2009 and began “Chef on the Bay” in 2010 with the tagline of “creating memories one dish at a time.”
Now at age 62, Gillespie said she wanted to return to the Joliet area.
“I’ve got family, tons of great nieces and nephews that live in the area,” Gillespie said. “And that means a ton to me.”