“You see that kitchen? That’s where I used to experiment,” gestures Mary Grace Dimacali, owner of the Mary Grace Cafe, to a kitchen that exudes a professional but motherly vibe. From a humble baked goods business out of her home, Dimacali has managed to grow her business to 34 cafes (and counting!) in a span of 13 years.
Neither an HRM graduate nor a professional chef, Dimacali shares that all the systems at Mary Grace café are the result of a lot of sweat and tears, grown from grit, entrepreneurial instincts, and a homemaker’s common sense. (Read: Get to know this local café that has indigenous farmers as its business partners)
Learning Is an Active Process
Dimacali’s original signature item was fruitcake (still on her menu to this day), eventually selling up to 15,000 orders straight out of her house alone. “But I knew fruitcake wasn’t something people would really line up for, so my husband said, ‘Why not come up with something close to Filipinos’ hearts?’ And I thought of ensaymada.” (Read: Make Bibingka Muffins, Puto Bumbong Balls, atbp.— Holiday Classics with a Twist!)
After months of tweaking to achieve the perfect softness, Dimacali launched her specialty ensaymada at bazaars, and eventually kiosks around the metro, until her son Gabby convinced her to open her first branch of Mary Grace café in Serendra, BGC in 2006.
Alongside Dimacali’s ensaymada and tsokolate, Mary Grace café offers customers a taste of homegrown recipes enjoyed by her own family. With the help of Gabby’s artistic touch and green thumb, the atmospheric café channeled a cozy home adorned with charming chandeliers, inspirational quotes, and fan letters customers slipped under glass tabletops (a distinctive Mary Grace café design element).
“From that 49-sqm little place, with tables that crept more and more outside, other mall operators also started to give us opportunities. And that’s how it all began—from a little kitchen.” (Watch: A Café with a Cause)
Everything Has Its Own Time
Looking out at the lush and romantic garden which takes a place of pride at the heart of the family’s well-loved property, Dimacali contemplates, “This used to be empty, and bare, and stark. These trees, this garden, grew with my children. As with everything—family, relationships, business—it takes time. If you count the time I was baking at home in the 1980s and going door-to-door in the village, it took a lot of time,” shares Dimacali about the humble beginnings of Mary Grace café. (Read: Chef Boy Logro’s 4 Secrets to Career Success)
And it was only after raising her kids that she considered pursuing a course in entrepreneurship. “I’m fortunate that my husband’s work [he’s now retired] allowed me to stay at home and take care of the family. If we’re given the wonderful opportunity to become mothers, to become the teachers of our children, that’s grace.”
Always Trust in God’s Plans
In this age of instant gratification, Dimacali always encourages others to “trust God to the unfolding of our lives.” Save for her eldest daughter Ciara, who lives in London with her expat husband, all her children have left their career paths and channeled their individual talents into the business, like chips falling into place.
“They were not forced, ha?” Dimacali laughs. “Gabby is our business development officer, he speaks with leasing, together with my other son Adrian, who handles legal. Raffy does the finance, and my daughter Mian is in charge of the commissary. And there’s my husband Hector, the chairman, who is the voice in my head!” (Read: Rizal Baker Rises From Hardships, Now Gives Back To Frontliners)
Even the name “Mary Grace café” was providential. “Mary” is a tribute to the Blessed Mother (in fact, she is the lady in the logo), and “Grace” reflects Dimacali’s personal mission of a family reflecting good values in business.
“As I was trying to think of a name for the business, I realized: G is Gabriel, R is Rafael, a is Adrian, C is Ciara, and E is for Mian (Marian Ernestine). After a few days of analysis paralysis, it was right in front of me!”