Herrin’s dynamic duo, David and Carla Pagano Hays, have been named 2013 HerrinFesta Italiana Grand Parade Marshals. They will lead the Grand Parade at 11 a.m. through downtown Herrin Saturday, May 25 and be present at Festa activities May 20-27.
The Hays are owners of Mary’s Restaurant and Mary’s Bed and Breakfast in Herrin. He is President of Green Grass Group, Inc, that operates Kokopelli Golf Club and Restaurant along with a new residential complex adjacent to the clubhouse in Marion.
David is a Marion native, the son of J. O. Hays and Darlene King. Carla Pagano Hays is a Herrin native, the daughter of June Pagano and the late Romo Pagano. He is a Marion High School graduate. She graduated from Herrin High School. Both are graduates of Southern Illinois University – he holds a degree in marketing, her degree is in English. Carla is proud of her Italian heritage. Her grandfather, Giuseppe Pagano came to America from Italy and settled in Herrin in the 1920’s. She comes from a family of cooks who enjoyed, and, still do, preparing fine meals in their kitchens.
David always wanted to own his own business and he wanted to stay in Southern Illinois. After working in sales and marketing and serving as a waiter at Mary’s for Mary Licos who opened Mary’s in 1980 in Herrin in the historic pink Victorian house where it is still located on South Park Avenue, he purchased the business in 1992.
He credits his family for their continued support and help in his business. His grandfather, Arlie King, was the afternoon employee until illness forced him to quit. Carla’s father, Romo, often joined Arlie and the two men talked and sometimes caught a few winks at the main table overlooking the atrium. Arlie answered phones, gave business advice and “minded the store” in quiet hours between lunch and dinner.
David’s grandmother, Gerry Hays, was his first hostess. His mother, Darlene was hostess at both locations in Herrin and Marion and now serves as day manager at Kokopelli restaurant. His father, J. O., was a bartender at Mary’s until illness kept him at home.
Mary’s, which has never had any signage out front, sits in a well kept green block of three historic buildings. Several original staff members are still employed at Mary’s and while many things have remained the same there have been some additions. A few new menu items are chosen after tastings and careful consideration. Mary’s famous crab cakes were added when David purchased the business. The staff of 12 includes a pastry chef. Mary’s invites guest to the Atrium that David added in 1993 and seats 70, the Library, the Main Room, the Owner’s Table (upstairs) and The Tree Room. Mary’s can seat 125 utilizing all of the rooms.
The couple enjoy eating at new restaurants and their mantra is “We don’t eat at franchises when we travel out of town. We search for the unusual and independent restaurants.” They remain on the cutting edge of food service to provide the ultimate dining experience in “the big pink house’ as many diners call it.
They have had their fair share of famous guests, including the late Academy Award winning composer Marvin Hamlisch who was their first guest at Mary’s Bed and Breakfast when it opened in 2007 and he appeared at The Herrin Civic Center. Numerous Illinois governors, congressmen and local politicians and athletes have dined at Mary’s.
The couple were married in 1994 in the Atrium at Mary’s. They have one son Nick. Carla has a son from a previous marriage, Jacob Horn.
David says of his wife, “I was really impressed when I first met her.” She shares the compliment and says, “He was smart and just great to work with and for. He made the day fun.”
Their work ethic is legend. They are committed to their business, their customers and the community they serve. They work long hours. They make people feel at home and they are two of the busiest restaurateurs in the region.
They rarely take a vacation and took their first trip in 5 years during Spring Break in March to the Gulf Coast with their son Nick.
David has a half brother, Scott ‘Thompson of Marion. Carla has three siblings, Mark Pagano (a Festa Lifetime Achievement winner in 2004) and his fiancee, Kelly Kloesel, Billings, Montana, Carol and Steve Vaughn of Herrin, Scott and Rhonda Pagano, West Palm Beach, Fl..
They are members of The Herrin and Marion Chambers of Commerce. David serves on the annual Herrin Chamber Awards committee. Carla is a past member of the Herrin Women’s Club, does a myriad of activities at both Mary’s and Kokopelli, takes care of the couple’s family life and enjoys writing in her spare time.
The Hays will be honored at the Festa Honoree Banquet May 21 at 6 p.m. at the Herrin Elks Club and will lead Grand Festa Parade May 25 in Herrin.