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Fanwood's Mara's Cafe Celebrates Grand Opening

Located across the street from the Fanwood train station, Mara's offers family friendly, casual dining open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Mayor Colleen Mahr cuts the ribbon at Mara's grand opening on June 22.
Mayor Colleen Mahr cuts the ribbon at Mara's grand opening on June 22.
"Surreal" is the word Mara's Cafe co-owner Marci Semel uses to describe what it's been like to open her own business.

Semel and her husband Mark just celebrated the official grand opening of their Fanwood Crossing cafe and bakery, though they've been in operation since April. Located across the street from the Fanwood train station at 250 South Avenue, Mara's offers family friendly, casual dining open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

"Sometimes I catch myself and think, 'God, I’m really doing this,'" says Marci Semel, who used to work in as a meeting planner. "It's something I've wanted to do since high school. It’s been a long time dream, but it still definitely takes a lot of guts – I didn’t realize at the time how much it would take. I'm in my mid-40s and reinventing my life."

The Semels' location is the first Mara's franchise in the state. The brand Mara’s was established in 1984 when Mara and Glenn Magley created a line of desserts and coffee products. In 2004, Mara’s Café & Bakery in Denville was opened and the product lines expanded to include soups, sandwiches, salads, quiches and handcrafted gelato.

The menu has grown to include seasonal specials and freshly roasted coffee beans. All meals are made fresh to order for dine-in, pick-up and catering. The business has won numerous awards for its cheesecake, gelato, cupcakes, cannoli, sandwiches and more. Another Mara's franchise will be opening in Brooklyn.

“I am thrilled to become a part of the Mara’s family,” says Semel.  “To me, the Mara’s brand represents award-winning products to serve in my hometown to bring everyone together in a comfortable environment.  I enjoy being a customer of Mara’s Café & Bakery, and am excited to bring Mara’s to my home community.”

The Semels had discovered Mara's through a franchise broker, but at first didn't think they wanted to franchise a start-up. Then, at a Passover dinner, a delicious brownie changed everything. 

When Marci asked her relative where the brownies were from, the answer was Mara's. That's when the couple decided to give Mara's a closer look and eventually chose to open their franchise.

Menu favorites at the Fanwood location include the gelato, fresh roasted coffee and cheesecakes. 

Semel says the response from customers has been overwhelming.

"They just all thank me for opening a place like this," she says. "They all say good luck and really want to see it succeed."

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