The owners of Fedora restaurant at One Arts Plaza (OAP) had their day in court last week to save the upscale Dallas Arts District Italian eatery from being shuttered by its owners. Just two days before Christmas, Fedora restaurant operator Xandreya Zigel stood before a judge in Dallas to save the fledgling restaurant that has experienced nearly 18 months of financial highs and lows. To support her in court, Zigel was joined by the restaurant’s line cooks, servers, restaurant chef Jordan Rogers, managers and a handful of friends and family.
Stories concerning Fedora’s financial well-being and success (or lack thereof) have been muddled in the Dallas social scene, between the pages of gossip columns/online blogs and behind the makeup counter at Neiman Marcus. And the truth, says Zigel, is wedged somewhere in between.
Who is Zigel? She was one of the original investors in Fedora restaurant, a concept born on a plane ride to Las Vegas in 2006 between two young, excited entrepreneurs Brittney O’Daniel and Gina Campisi. Zigel, also the mother of O’Daniel , is a licensed child psychotherapist in private practice and did not become actively involved in the daily operations of Fedora until after the untimely death of Campisi last February. This is her story:
Once upon a time, the dream of Fedora was made reality. O’Daniel with partner Campisi developed an ambiance and menu that couldn’t be beat. However, the two young ladies, 25 and 26 respectively, soon found it overwhelming to pay rent, taxes and employees. The creative ideas of the girls led to hosting late-night parties to make ends meet – parties that often spiraled out of control (think unruly patrons and debauchery in the plaza). Concerned for the reputation of OAP, its residents and businesses, landlord Lucy Billingsley soon realized this wasn’t what she envisioned as her dream for OAP, and filed a motion for Fedora to cease hosting such functions – something Zigel does not blame her for doing.
Unable to compensate for the financial loss, the girls became desperate for a solution to keep Fedora alive. Despite attempts to convince investors to help keep the restaurant afloat, O’Daniel and Campisi were overwhelmed by financial strain as each investor pulled out one-by-one. And who could blame them? The restaurant had been riddled with financial problems from the beginning, which included one lock-out by Billingsly during the summer of 2009.
In March 2010, Zigel, who had already invested hundreds of thousands of her life savings in Fedora decided to make the restaurant her own. O’Daniel left for Colorado to make a new start and focus on her sports bar the Sports Exchange. “The girls were so young,” says Zigel, “and the people who worked for Fedora were a family. I knew it would be difficult, but my goal was to save the restaurant and make it the classy and beautiful place we all originally intended.”
Zigel soon found that learning a new career at 59 years old had its challenges, especially with her severe dyslexia and her only restaurant experience being a waitress several decades prior.
In the months following Zigel’s takeover, much sacrifice – both financial and personal – went into keeping Fedora's doors open. In July, Zigel filed for bankruptcy but realizes now that doing so was a mistake. "I'm learning day-by-day," she says, "and want to do right by all involved." Zigel also took out a second mortgage on her home and drained her bank accounts. But more notably was the sacrifice from those who believed in its potential from the beginning – Fedora’s staff. Truly the life-breath of the business, Fedora’s entire employee base, including its star chef, have gone without pay on more than one occasion; pooling tips at the end of each shift. “That’s why all of them showed up in court to support Fedora,” Zigel says. “We have been through tough times together. Our executive chef is the best I’ve been in contact with and could work anywhere in town, but he stayed with us; we all stayed. We have people who believe.”
Since then, Zigel, with the support of her Manager Leeanne Marchand have worked to breathe life back into Fedora. And with the help of a generous loan received in September from fellow OAP business Resource One Credit Union, the restaurant seems to be making some financial headway. In the past six months, Fedora’s monthly revenue has increased by more than 300 percent. “There are people who believe in this restaurant as much as I do,” Zigel says. “With the help of Resource One, we were able to save the jobs of 35 people, and that is a true miracle.”
Where Fedora has been and where it is now are two completely different places. Zigel says that where she sees it tomorrow is, she hopes, more along the lines of what Billingsly has in mind. “Lucy is business savvy, and I know I could learn from her,” she says. “My goal is to work with, not against her. I don’t blame her for doing what she deems necessary to preserve her vision. My goal is to keep my dream a part of Lucy’s.”
“I like Fedora… Particularly for pre-theater meals. “
“I’m a Chicago-based Yelper who travels quite a bit. THIS PLACE IS JUST TOO GOOD to not select as a great dining experience for an upscale evening of dinner and wine out on a weekend. The food was incredible. “
“The atmosphere provided a cozy table space with low lighting for a relaxed feel.”
“I am a fan. The food exceeded expectations.”
“My mouth still waters for the pici pasta with Bolognese sauce. I cannot wait to procure more Opera or Symphony tickets so I have an excuse to go back.”