From James J. McBratney - A sign of things to come. Pop ( aka John Denino) on the steps of the Dongan Diner. He was hired as a short order cook after serving in the United States Army. 45 years after this picture was taken he and Gram ( aka Mary Denino nee Gengo) helped me open Jimmy Max with not only family recipes and labor, but with a $50,000 home equity loan. In 1989 that was probably more than one third of the value of their home, 103 Hooker Place. Imagine the faith that they placed in their then 27 year old Grandson! God Bless you both in heaven and thank you from the bottom of my heart!
The Birth of Jimmy Max On Friday, February 2, 1989, Jimmy Max opened for business. I was 27 years old and just about every person working that night was related to me. My grandfather and grandmother, John and Mary Denino, were there. After all, Pop and Gram’s recipes were what made up most of the menu. My mom and step-dad, Joan and Michael Gregorio, were there. My mom was my assistant for the next 20 years. My brother and sister, Joe McBratney and Darlene Grimes, were servers that night. My cousins, Debbie, Ronnie, Mark and Scott McBratney were all working, Debbie on the floor, all of her brothers in the kitchen. My 15 month old son James was the only one of my 5 children who was born at the opening, and although he didn’t do much that night, he would later become a bartender who worked for a time after becoming a CPA. So 4 generations were under the roof of 280 Watchogue Road that night and everything I owned was on the line. I didn’t have the money to pay my home mortgage that month. My lifetime savings, along with with my grandparents’ house, were the seed money for the startup. Yes, they had enough faith in me that they put the family homestead up for a second mortgage, the one his Sicilian father, Jake Denino, first bought on Hooker Place in Port Richmond when he came to America, the gamble of a lifetime. Before my grandparents signed the note that day in Northfield Bank, I made sure they understood the risk, 3 of every 10 restaurants go out of business in the first year, and 9 of 10 are gone in 5 years. Still they didn’t hesitate and took out a $50,000 home equity loan on a house that was worth about $150,000 at the time.