A woman graceful and kind – the riddle of ‘who is Maggies’?

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By Kurt Campbell

Kurt@newsroom.gy

Margaret Maloney ‘Maggies’ during a recent interview with the News Room

“People call me Ms. Mags; some people call me Maggies.

“I think I heard the newest one of the bunch was that I am the Iron Lady,” Margaret Maloney said from a corner chair in her living room where she bares parts of her life she has long kept private in a ‘tell-it-all interview’ with the News Room.

Born as Margaret Gittens, a name she kept until her marriage, Ms. Mags is the vanguard behind Maggies – a snackette and catering service which she started in the 90s and has now become a trusted partner in nourishment for thousands of Guyanese.

“I wouldn’t say I got lucky; for 32 years, God has blessed me beyond measure,” Ms. Mags related as she reflected on the inception of the business and its growth throughout the years.

But while the business is now a household name, mystery still surrounds the people behind it all.

“When I started Maggies, my whole thought about it, I said to myself, that my children must never want the way I wanted.”

“It’s a job, it’s hard. It is not easy work. Anybody who truly loves it would know that you have to give of yourself,” Ms. Mags said.

The Maggies snackette still operates from its birthplace almost 30 years later

Now at age 70 and as she reflects, Ms. Mags rests it all on the inheritance from her family of culinary minds but growing up with her paternal grandmother would be the blessing that would take her through the rest of her life.

During that period, Ms. Mags developed a love for the oven, giving much attention to baking. By 13-years-old and being the eldest of 12 children, she found herself distracted from school having been forced into helping her mother support the family when her father left.

“Being the eldest of 12, I had to jump in the kitchen very early.”

Later as a young adult and married to Alan, Margaret got a job at the front desk of the Tower Hotel but before that, she worked at a watch repair store on Robb Street in Georgetown.

These employment routes took Ms. Mags back to what she now refers to as her “calling”.

Ms Mags engages employees during a recent visit/walk through on the premises

She believes Maggies started when she was asked to take black pudding to her daughter, Cindy’s school – the lone daughter who would become her pillar of support in the family-run business.

“From that, people now start asking me to do things… And this was just for the love of it. Then one day there was a lady that I helped by giving her stuff and I found out that she used to go and sell it and somebody come back to me and tell me, ‘why are you doing this?’ ‘You could do it for yourself, you are home now, why don’t you do it for yourself and I would bring you customers.”

“And that was it because it took off.”

Margaret was preparing these delicacies for sale from the kitchen of her Fifth Street Alberttown, Georgetown apartment where she simultaneously made her family meals before rushing off to her front desk job.

And she had big clients too, but the time came for this woman – growing in talent, prominence, and notability – to move beyond the boundaries of her kitchen.

“It just kept growing and growing and eventually, we needed a shop and we got that shop in 1996.

“When we were thinking of a name for the business, I said I don’t know what we will call it and then my husband said to me, it was Jerries and that has a ring; why don’t you use Maggies? … and Maggies was born.”

This collage shows the Maggies Snackette at the New Market Street location in its inception years.

Quality and standard always meant something to Ms. Mags who also has a love for travelling. It is that consistency that has propelled the business more than 30 years after it started.

The business grew and Ms. Mags was now surrounded by not just workers but an army of students.

“Love is not love until you give it away and I felt knowledge is power and nobody could suck your good from you and everybody that I had in my orbit as I employ them, I start teaching.

“I am glad to see although I stepped back, that my daughter and her husband, that they maintain that same quality because that is the thing that brought people to us and if it brought people to us, we want to keep them and if we want to keep them, we have to maintain our standards.”

Ms Mags ‘the mentor’ shares a moment with her Daughter Cindy and Son-in-Law Pearson who she has now entrusted with the operations of Maggies

The business continued to grow and Ms. Mags became loved among many, so much so, that she still has employees she started the business with. According to her, she found gold.

“You treated them not as if they were staff, I treated them like my own children.

“There is one guy, he is with me now for about 23 years and coming from weeding my yard and today, he does all my salads, all my juices. It is not only a business, but it also is like a training school and so we take our people and we see what they can give us and we groom them.”

Ms. Mags admits too, she was no slacker

“If we find somebody lapsing, you talk to them once, you talk to them twice and then if I have to send you home for a couple of days to realise that this is important, we have to do it.

“Well, my daughter says I am a hard taskmaster so when I drive in the yard, the word gets in that kitchen that Ms. Maggies is on the premises so by the time I pass through, if you know you are doing stupidness, you pull yourself together and bad luck for some of them. When I pass through, I only got to put my eyes on something and I know this is not right.”

Ms. Mags stumbled on hopelessness at times in her journey, sometimes wanting to give up. First losing her husband Alan to illness and then her son Christopher in 2008 to violence when he tried to save her from robbers. She credits the support of her family for keeping her steady.

(from L-R) Ms Mags, her daughter Cindy, husband Alan and son Christopher

Now, still operating from the New Market Street, Georgetown location with the kitchen in First Street Alberttown, Ms. Mags no longer faces the oven but never shirks her responsibility as a mentor.

Ms. Mags shares a light moment with her grandchildren

“After I start working at 17, I have already given 53 years of my life. I think it is time I hang up my cap and move on.”

“As long as we work it, and keep it going the same way and we have…that little common touch, where we treat our staff and everything, the way we want to be treated, it will live, it will survive.”

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