BATH — The reopening Monday of the Southgate Family Restaurant was more than just a literal rising from the ashes for a beloved local business.
It was also a boost for another local family still recovering from their own tragedy.
Fire badly damaged the original 510 Washington St. restaurant last September. The cause of the blaze, which may have started in the kitchen, was not determined but did not appear to be suspicious.
Business owners Karl and Mirinda Schaumburg received a flood of community support, in the form of events that included a pig roast and auction fundraiser. Money raised went toward helping out both the Schaumburgs and their employees.
Meanwhile, greater Bath residents rallied for another person in need. “Band Together for Madeline,” a benefit concert for 4-year-old Madeline Marzen, was held at the Chocolate Church Arts Center last October to help cover her family’s medical expenses.
It was “an amazing show of support,” Amie Marzen, Madeline’s mother, said last week.
Her daughter was diagnosed two months earlier with an inoperable and aggressive malignant brain tumor. Although the tumor was inoperable, Madeline was treated with chemotherapy and radiation.
She died unexpectedly, just four days after the concert.
On Monday, the Schaumburgs donated the proceeds from their reopening day in memory of Madeline and to help ensure that her story lives on.
Marzen, moved by that generosity, said she will pay it forward, to someone else who needs it.
After Monday’ breakfast rush had ebbed, Karl Schaumburg said “It was wonderful; it was great to be back, most definitely, good feelings. No complaints; everybody loved it.”
Joan Kaler of Wiscasset, Mirinda Schaumburg’s mother, was dining there that morning with friend Stuart Wright, and Kaler’s son and daughter-in-law, Don and Gigi Hutchins of Whitefield.
“It was “awesome, awesome” to see the business back up and running, Gigi Hutchins said. “We’re so happy for them; so excited for them.”
“It’s been a long road; we’re happy,” her husband agreed.
The reopening followed nearly three months of renovations in what used to be a hair salon, he said. The restaurant is open every day but Wednesday, 6 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
While the community support for Southgate was visible last fall, “in smaller captions was Madeline’s story,” Schaumburg said. “And it got me and my wife thinking, that our restaurant of course is our dream, but it’s a thing that can be replaced. And little sweet Madelines can’t be replaced, and it broke our hearts.
“We wanted to pay it forward any way we can, and we thought that was a good way to do it.”
He praised Marzen for keeping the momentum going with blood drives and other events in her daughter’s name.
Marzen said she was happily surprised when she learned last October, before the benefit concert for her daughter, that the Schaumburgs planned to donate their first-day proceeds – a gesture she on Monday called “really incredible.”
Marzen, her husband Andy and 20-month-old son, Benjamin, still hadn’t met the Schaumburgs while they sat in the sun outside the new Southgate Monday morning, waiting for a table to clear for them inside.
Marzen said Madeline loved to dance before the tumor robbed her of the abilities to walk, sit on her own, and speak easily.
Madeline remained resilient despite it all, she said, and was an inspiration.
“She woke up one morning and said, ‘don’t worry, mom, we’re going to show them all we’re champions,'” Marzen recalled. “And I was like, ‘OK, yeah we are; let’s do it.'”
That spirit was reflected on Marzen’s red “Miracles for Madeline” T-shirt: the silhouetted image of a little girl holding a balloon as a cape inscribed with the initials “MM” flaps behind her. Friends had the shirts made to help with the family’s medical costs and inspire Madeline to keep fighting.
“Sometimes, real superheroes live in the hearts of small children fighting big battles,” the shirts read.
Marzen also passed out cards that asked people to perform acts of kindness in Madeline’s honor, and share their photos with the hashtag #miraclesformadeline.
“I usually bawl every time I hand out one of those cards,” Marzen said. “But it also helps a little bit, too, to know that somebody else heard her name.”
Now she’s trying to figure out to whom or what she should pass along the Schaumburgs’ generosity.
“The problem is, I have too many thoughts,” she said with a chuckle. “… This all started with everyone supporting Southgate, and then they’re supporting us, so I want to figure out another way to pay it forward to the city that’s been incredibly kind to us.
“Really, anything that the downtown needs, I’m open to hearing about it and making sure we can continue her legacy in some way,” the 11-year resident of Bath added.
The support has humbled her, Marzen said, and helped the healing process.
“We try to spread the joy that (Madeline) would have been spreading here,” she said. “So I’m excited to see what we can do with it.”
Schaumburg later reported Southgate’s reopening raised $1,300.
“It could be a dollar and I’d be thrilled,” Marzen said. “It’s more the gesture that means the world to me. The best gift ever for a grieving mom, to keep (Madeline’s) story alive.”
Amie Marzen holds her son Benjamin on Monday, May 7, outside the Southgate Family Restaurant in Bath. Business owners Karl and Mirinda Schaumburg donated proceeds from their opening day in memory of Marzen’s daughter Madeline, who died last October from a brain tumor at the age of 4. Marzen plans to pay the money forward.
Diners packed the Southgate Family Restaurant Monday, May 7, when it opened for the first time on Centre Street in Bath. Among the hungry crew were family members of co-owner Mirinda Schaumburg: Gigi and Don Hutchins of Whitefield, at left, and Joan Kaler of Wiscasset.