Seconds, Please! Abrams Brothers Take Magnolia Bakery, Mermaid Inn Uptown

Then, it brought the foot traffic in, created a market that it almost couldn’t afford. But we were able to come to terms with our landlord, at a somewhat mixed rent between what the neighborhood’s getting and what we could afford to pay. This store is three times as big.

What’s the square footage?

Steve: This is 1,725 feet [ground level].

How big is the downtown store?

Steve: Six hundred sixteen feet.

It looks smaller. It feels smaller.

Steve: It feels smaller because you can’t even see part of it. You only see about 350 of it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about the sink situation here. [Last summer, the Health Department shuttered the original Magnolia over the lack of a hand-washing sink in the food-prep area.] Do you have enough sinks in this location?

Steve: I have so many sinks in this location, when I was getting my health inspection, the health inspector turned to me and said, ‘How come you have so many sinks?’ That was like shooting me in the heart. We have three solely dedicated hand-washing sinks for employees, another two bathroom sinks. We’ve got quite a lot of coverage.

Has Magnolia yet transcended its Sex and the City cachet?

Steve: We’re way beyond that. If that was it, we’d be on fumes now. You know, we had the thing on Saturday Night Live, “Lazy Sunday.” It was in the movie Prime, almost as a character. It was mentioned in Devil Wears Prada. It gets mentioned on Dirty Sexy Money.

With opening a second location, how do you remain true to the original?

Steve: This is a giant challenge. Danny and I have had some very, very popular places. Not all of them have had the legs that Magnolia has. Every time you play with an icon, you can be taken to task. But you can’t necessarily duplicate a place that was a hole in the wall before they took it over and now has 500,000 people walk through every year. My mandate has always been not a revolution but an evolution for the concept. I think we’ve achieved it here. We’re using very similar materials, same color palette.

With more space, will you be able to have more product?

Steve: When Magnolia first opened, they actually opened as a quiet corner bakery. They did offer breakfast products, muffins and crullers, things like that. But the cupcakes
took over. The production could only support a certain amount of goods. And they could no longer do breakfast. But we have all the new recipes that [original owner] Allysa Torey developed. We’re going to be using those and opening here for breakfast. We’ll be open at 7 in the morning.

What is the difference in the restaurant crowd up here versus downtown?

Danny: The crowd up here, if they’re unhappy, they’ll tell you. I think that downtown people go to dinner at the Mermaid on their way to somewhere else—Hammerstein Ballroom, the movies. On the Upper West Side, this is the night out.

What about Las Vegas? The food scene there is supposed to be pretty hot. But you’re not talking about opening on the strip. You’re talking about opening in suburban Las Vegas.

Danny: All the people that work at the casinos, run the casinos, own the casinos, don’t want to eat at the casinos. They don’t want to fight the strip traffic. We knew a developer who’s building a 28-acre, mixed-use property called the Village at Queensridge, which is 11 miles off the strip. If I want to be a neighborhood operator, that’s the neighborhood. The strip is glitzy and fun and interesting. It’s not neighborhood at all.

What sort of timeline are you looking at there?

Danny: The development is supposed to open in March 2009. The plan, as it stands, is to do two different units: a 2,500-square-foot Mermaid Inn with 80 feet of outdoor space; the other thing is to do a lounge with live music, not a place you would go to for dinner but you might go after work, get a bite to eat, enjoy some classic cocktails and hear some cool music.

Is this your first venture outside of New York City?

Danny: It will be, yeah.

Steve, do you have plans for suburban Vegas also?

Not right now. My plan is to get this one open. Are there expansion plans on the horizon? I said no when I first bought Magnolia, and here I am. I’ve been taken to task for that. So I’m not going to say there’s nothing on the horizon.

How involved are you now in each other’s projects?

Danny: Steven builds my restaurants and I eat his cupcakes.

Seconds, Please! Abrams Brothers Take Magnolia Bakery, Mermaid Inn Uptown