Two sisters, through a twist of serendipitous fate, now run Two Sisters Coffee Shop, located in the heart of Gloucester.
The intimate eatery has a history of its own; at least two prior sets of sisters ran the early morning coffee shop.
Home-made corned beef hash, variations of eggs Benedict, and fish cakes, made from a 100-year-old recipe, are among the popular menu items.
The eatery is located at 27 Washington St., adjacent to the Joan of Arc statue, and open 6:30 a.m. to noon weekdays, an hour later on the weekend.
Maura McCarthy, who has worked in restaurant and food establishments on Cape Ann for nearly 20 years, always wanted a place of her own. She worked at The Greenery and The Blue Lobster Grille in Rockport, and Chili Choice on Maplewood Avenue in Gloucester.
Her sister, Chris McCarthy, along with her husband, a retired Navy pilot and current airline pilot, returned to New England to settle, and thus began the spark that led to their purchasing of the restaurant last fall.
Last August, a colleague of her husband knew of a place for sale and these two sisters knew they hit the dining jackpot.
Just as it has for decades, the restaurant continues the tradition of daily specials and fresh bread, baked daily on site, and omelets of all kinds. Specialty egg dishes range from crab cake Benedict to surf-and-turf Benedict.
Chris McCarthy recalled how they were going through recipes two weeks before opening when they came across the fish cake recipe from an old family friend, Mrs. Laura Limone, who will turn 100 this year.
"I found this fish cake recipe written by her great-granddaughter, and we added a few modern touches to this century-old fish cake recipe," she said.
The new proprietors have caught the attention of locals too.
Andree Robert, an accomplished restaurateur, dropped in to see what was happening and applauded the sisters for what they had done to the place.
"I went there 20 years ago when we first moved here and we returned to find this new iteration," Robert said. "I like the idea of the two sisters carrying on the tradition. They worked really hard to fix the place up, and the food is good and healthy and fresh. I like that it's small and cozy, and it feels very homey."
The McCarthys come from a large family of six sisters and a brother.
"Maura has always been in the restaurant business and always wanted a place of her own so it is a dream come true for her," said Chris, a nurse practitioner. "But for me, it's been a learning curve. We are so appreciative of the regulars who continue to come and make it the special place it is. Everyone has been friendly and accepting and it really just shows the uniqueness of Gloucester. And it's fun to see the people we met last September who are starting to return for the summer season. We are grateful to everyone who keeps on coming back."
Maura said she is thankful for the new friends she has met.
"Now I am able to put names and faces together," she said. "As for the customer preferences, it's amazing how much hot sauce we go through. It's a spicy bunch in Gloucester for sure."
In one more surprise, Chris recounted how her husband, Marc Manzelli, made a Facetime call to her from Cafe Du Monde in the heart of New Orleans. There he met the manager who spent a generous amount of time with him so he could learn about how to make their famous beignets — deep-fried choux pastry.
"He also got the special beignet mix so when he's in town, we will serve up New Orleans-style beignets," said Chris.
Cheering them on was previous owner Patty Philbrick, who bought the place 18 years ago. Philbrick had worked there for ten years prior to that. She and her sister Jackie Phinney ran the place until she sold it. In fact, Philbrick worked there for eight months after she sold it to lend a helping hand.
"I spent 28 years of my life there and I like that it is still run by two sisters," Philbrick said. "I'm just happy for Chris and Maura who worked long years at local restaurants and it's nice she can have a part of something that is hers. I wish them all the best."
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.