Mary Grace Dimacali, Chiara, and Marian: A Family Affair

Aside from running a wildly successful family business, the women of Mary Grace have also been each other’s rock throughout the rough times. Here’s how this love translates into the Mary Grace brand Filipinos all over know and love.

This story appeared in the Modern Parenting Mother’s Day and Father’s Day May 2024 issue.

Cafe Mary Grace, no doubt, is one of the nation’s most beloved restaurants. Their hot chocolate is to die for, while their cheese rolls and ensaymada have delighted generations of Filipinos. Head to any Mary Grace branch, and you’re bound to see families seated on the cafe’s quaint, nostalgic upholstery as Mary Grace, in a way, simply feels like home — both in its offerings and atmosphere.

It’s no surprise, then, that Cafe Mary Grace is a family endeavor. And it’s one that Mary Grace Dimacali — namesake and founder of the titular Mary Grace — has created out of a natural inclination toward providing people with delicious food.

Humble beginnings

Mary Grace said this journey began when she was “a very young mom working in a small kitchen” in her home, with her first creations being cupcakes, lemon squares, food for the gods, and brownies. But it was Mary Grace’s fruitcakes that became a hit within their village, even going as far as Davao and the Visayas region. Eventually, she began working on ensaymada, which she began selling in bazaars.

Of course, her family would always have a hand in the business. Mary Grace recalls how her children would help taste test her creations, as well as other family members — which Marian, the youngest, notes included their titos and titas

“Mom would always say if it was not good enough for the family, or if it’s not good enough for my kids, it can’t go beyond the walls of our home,” Chiara, the eldest daughter, says. 

Like mother, like daughters

And this family effort doesn’t end in just the process. Chiara and Marian are also part of Cafe Mary Grace’s operations as Marketing Director and Vice President of Operations, respectively.

Mary Grace Dimacali, Chiara, and Marian
Mary Grace Dimacali (center) with daughters Marian Dimacali Calaquian (left) and Chiara Dimacali-Hugo (right)

This has played a role in their personal lives. Chiara notes that while her path diverged initially from the family business, there have been some similarities between her journey and her mother’s.

After graduating, she worked at Unilever for 10 years before she got married and had kids, which she notes was a whole different experience from working in corporate. “I had to focus on the kids, be hands-on, and be a mother at home because in the West you don’t really have helpers. It’s really all you, and you have to [learn how to] DIY,” Chiara shares.

As a young mother herself when she started her foray into business, Mary Grace’s guidance helped her through that time in her life. “Every time, I’d ask my mom [for help], she’d say ‘God wants you to learn how to be a mother first. That was me also. In the business, I was a mother first.’ And this influenced how [the brand] Mary Grace moved,” Chiara recalls. 

All about faith and family

For both sisters, ultimately, it was Mary Grace’s boundless determination that guided them through these changes — inspiring them to push further.

This atmosphere of learning, of jumping into the unknown, and taking things at one’s own pace is also something that’s cooked into their business. As a family enterprise, there’s less of an urge to hit goals at a breakneck pace because of pressure from a board of directors. Instead, Mary Grace says the business allows them to “choose to grow at their own pace.”

“[This is] especially considering that both my daughters are mothers,” Mary Grace shares. “It’s important to keep that element of family. Otherwise, this business is not ‘faith and family’— and those are the cornerstones of the business.” 

With the passion and obvious love present in the Dimacali family, it’s no wonder that Cafe Mary Grace eventually soared into a generational favorite. Their penchant for stepping into the unknown and helping each other through tough times shows that success is possible as long as there is love in every step. Or, in the case of Mary Grace, in every bite. 

To read the full article, grab a copy of Modern Parenting’s special Holiday 2023 Print Edition—available on Download the e-magazine from Readly or Press Reader for more exclusive features and stories.


Photography KIERAN PUNAY of KLIQ, INC.


Shoot Coordination ANTHONY MENDOZA



More about parents who thrive in the kitchen?

Tricia Locsin-Cheung: Adapting to Changes as a Food Entrepreneur

Elevating a Classic: Nina Daza-Puyat Transforms a Fast Food Staple into a Gourmet Meal

Marvin Agustin Opens Up About Cooking Up a Legacy

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