Jimmy Max 280 Watchogue Rd. Staten Island, NY - 718-983-6715 - Open until 11pm

Notes from James McBratney

The Story of the Jimmy Max Octopus Logo

Jimmy Max Octopus Logo

The Story of the Jimmy Max Octopus Logo

Shortly after the opening of Jimmy Max in February of 1989, I was discussing the successes and shortfalls of the first few months with a couple of friends. The conversation turned to advertising and I proclaimed that I wouldn’t be needing any advertising, my product would speak for itself, I was 27 years old and a bit naïve.  Another friend mentioned that I would at least need a logo, even if there was no money in the budget for ads. I never once considered it and thought that good pizza and great service were all I needed to succeed.  The idea was shelved for a while and I didn’t think about it again until one night a good friend of mine and member of the Jimmy Max softball team, Guy Olivieri came in with a business warming present for me.  It was a beautiful cartoon of Pebbles Flintstone and Bam Bam Rubble building a block tower.  I thanked him and told him how unnecessary and expensive it must have been, he asked me to take a closer look at the painting. Upon further inspection, I noticed that the block tower spelled out a vertical “Jimmy Max.”  It really was something and it became the centerpiece of my dining room.  He also informed me that the picture was only part one of the gift, he also intended to do my logo, for free!  “Jim, tell me about the restaurant, besides pizza, what do you think some of your specialties will be going forward?” he asked.  When I told him that my calamari was going to be the best on the island, and that I planned on serving Italian seafood along with pizza, he seemed to leave the bar that night with an idea of what he was going to draw.  Fast forward about three months and in walks Guy with the Jimmy Max Octopus (Max) along with some shrimp, flounder, and clams on the ocean floor.  He apologized for the octopus and explained that he had discarded countless attempts because he just couldn’t draw a cute looking squid!  He did like the idea of the octopus because it allowed us to put up to eight items in his arms depending on our promotion.  For example, during football season he might have a beer in one arm, a slice of pizza in another and a football in a third. 

Guy and I haven’t seen each other in a while, he just finished a 25 year career with the Woodbridge police department as a crime scene detective, which included sketching possible perps.  He was recently signed by the Liza Royce Literary Agency and is working on his first pictorial  novel entitled “Forensic Frankie,” aimed at middle schoolers. He has a website where you can view some of his work, PrivateerArt.com .  

During a recent visit, I was able to spend some time with Guy and his family.  One of his guests asked for some uneaten pizza to be wrapped.  The server came back with a small pizza box and there was “Max” the octopus in all his 1989 glory.  Guy looked nostalgically at the drawing and proclaimed, we have to get that guy an update and welcome that logo into the new millenium.  As long as it includes the octopus, I said, that guy has become part of my identity!  

A sign of things to come

John Denino James McBratney's Grandfather
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!

Birth of Jimmy Max

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.