For sisters Bridget and Quinn Byrne, four and two and a half years old, respectively, life is, as Larry David might say, “pretty, pretty, pretty good.” At their age it likely has nothing to do with their hard-working mother, Maire (pronounced Maura), owning two thriving restaurants locally. And it’s highly doubtful they understand they come from a remarkable Santa Monica family. You see their great-great grandfather, Herman Michel, emigrated here in the 1880’s from Switzerland and founded Edgemar Farms. In fact, Herman was our first mayor and Edgemar delivered milk and dairy products to Santa Monica, Venice and Marina Del Rey for over a century.
Dozens of Herman’s proud descendants still live in the area. Thus Bridget and Quinn have lots of cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents to play with or be loved by. How wonderful is that?
But, of late, what Bridget and Quinn are clearly most excited by is that their mom just opened, on Ocean Park Boulevard in Sunset Park … a toy store! The grand opening is tomorrow and the store is named Quinnie & B, A Tiny Toy Shoppe, after her two girls.
Your mom owns a toy store? What could be better? That your dad, Tim, is Santa Claus? Of course Maire had to explain to the girls that the store wasn’t their personal toy closet but rather is a business. The sister’s looked at each other in puzzlement until Bridget asked, “What’s a business?”
Much as her daughters will likely be influenced by Maire, so was she influenced by her mother, Mimi O’Keefe. Maire was born in Los Angeles into a family of five brothers and sisters, where great food and family gatherings were dynamic and frequent. But it was cooking alongside her mother where Maire understood and appreciated home-cooked food that inspires delicious memories. (A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Maire worked at acclaimed restaurants Chez Panisse in Berkeley, the Ajax Tavern in Aspen and Aqua in San Francisco.)
In 2004 Maire bravely launched Thyme Catering and found success in creating New American food to enhance unforgettable moments. In 2009, the popularity of Thyme Catering led her to launch Thyme Café & Market, which offers fresh gourmet foods, delicious bake goods and fine food-to-go in a warm, charming and communal environment.
Then last October, and only a block from Thyme, Maire opened Local Kitchen & Wine Bar, offering casual dining that pairs small plates (including wood-fire pizzas!) with a full bar, including exceptional wines and beverages. It’s also only a block from her sister, Megen O’Keefe, a teacher who also helps Maire “a ton.” The name Local is fitting because, given Maire’s family legacy, nobody’s more “local” than she is. And now there’s Quinnie and B. (Maire opens a new business in less time than it takes me to put away my laundry.)
If great-grandfather Herman’s success came through hard work then the DNA must have passed to Maire, a wife and mother who runs two wonderful restaurants and now a charming toy shop. She admits it can be a tad hectic. A tad? I called her once while she was in the car with the girls doing errands. In the background I heard Quinn and Bridget, playing, laughing and singing before a mini-dispute arose. I suggested to Maire that perhaps I should call back at a better time. With a resigned sigh she replied candidly, “There may not be a better time.”
Frankly I don’t know where Maire finds the energy. As someone who gets practically nothing done (other than these columns) I joked, “If you only weren’t so lazy.” I gather husband Tim got a kick out of that one.
As for Sunset Park, it still has that wonderful old Santa Monica feel. The storefronts on Ocean Park Boulevard reflect family ownership, not corporate. In recent years the street has been energized and revitalized with Maire setting the pace.
Quinnie & B is right next to Thyme. With mouth-watering pastries in one store, and toys galore next door, what more could neighborhood kids ever wish for? I have a feeling that Quinn and Bridget, if they aren’t already, are going to be very popular with their friends. Yes, for Bridget and Quinn life is pretty, pretty, pretty good. If fact you could call it grand. Just like the opening of their mother’s new toy store.
Local Kitchen & Wine Bar (310) 396-9007 is at 1736 Ocean Park Blvd; Thyme Café & Market (310) 399-8800 is at 1630 Ocean Park Blvd; while Quinnie & B Tiny Toy Shoppe (310) 399-8814 is at 1632 Ocean Park Blvd. Jack is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy Marisa James/Love Light Images