Magnificat reopens Monday under new ownership as Mags Cafe

Former owners challenged by cancer say closing was best for their family

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Less than a year after News4Jax shared the gut-wrenching story of the owners of the Magnificat Cafe, the restaurant closed in downtown Jacksonville after 17 years.

Three family members were fighting three different kinds of cancer at the same time, and the community rallied around the Desclefs last December. But the owners of the French-American restaurant announced in late August in a Facebook post that they were closing their doors, saying the coronavirus pandemic and their health made it increasingly difficult to continue to operate.

Four days after the café's closing, a new family bought it.

Keeping with the theme of the Magnificat Café, the new name has been shortened to Mags Café. The new owners said there will be familiar items on the menu. They are open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.

“I think they very much missed this place,” said Melina Reynolds, Mags Café co-owner. “I think it’s very relaxed like a second home for them to come to lunch so we want to carry that on.”

Reynolds and her brother, Bobby, originally from Indiana, are keeping their café nearly the same but there will be some additions. Bobby has lived in Northeast Florida for more than 20 years.

Reynolds said they are excited to start a new path in their lives while starting a new adventure.

“We kept the menu very similar to begin with. We wanted to live on with their legacy,” said Reynolds. “We will slowly add in some of our own original items as we move forward.”

They are featuring local art pieces monthly and eventually will add a speakeasy to the second floor.

“They want to still work hand-in-hand with us,” said Reynolds.

News4Jax shared the Desclefs story last December. Benoit, Kathy and their son, Luke, each diagnosed with a different kind of cancer. They had originally planned to close their doors in January until people all over the world, along with local business owners, raised thousands of dollars to help with the mounting medical bills.

We checked in with Kathy on Friday. She told News4Jax they are all doing better since closing now that they have time to rest and can take care of their own health.

Kathy was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma five years ago. She says now she has time to get tests and is working with doctors to find the best course for treatment.

Benoit was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor last year. He has since finished treatment and is doing well.

Their son, Luke, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, two months after his dad’s diagnosis. Kathy says he has a clean bill of health from doctors and has started his first year at FSU. He was awarded grants and scholarships and now lives on campus.

The community is looking forward to the next chapter at Mags Café.

“We followed the travails of the people that owned it before and we’re sad to see that they left because we love them very much, but we’re glad somebody is taking it over and keeping the money the same that’s going to be wonderful,” said Teri Sopp, a customer.

“It gives us a great feeling of pride that we can still establish for that and carry that on for them,” said Reynolds.

The Desclefs posted on their website to say they are working on a cookbook to feature their recipes.

Mags Café is taking COVID-19 precautions and wants to expand throughout Jacksonville in the future.

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