A recent press release announcing that “Minute Man Restaurant of El Dorado, Arkansas has initial plans that call for opening three locations in the Little Rock and Conway areas” roused the hopes of fans of the much-missed burger chain, who expressed their delight on Twitter and Facebook.
However, entrepreneur Perry J. Smith, who put the announcement together, admitted that even in a most-perfect world — with investors already lined up — it would take 12-18 months to open even one of those three Minute Man restaurants that he has in mind for central Arkansas. And he also admitted those investors aren’t yet standing in line.
In fact, he said Thursday, “the press release really was meant to just announce the partnership” between Smith and Minute Man Restaurant of El Dorado, Ark., owned and operated by Linda McGoogan, to revive the “legendary brand,” founded in Little Rock in 1948 by Wes T. Hall.
Minute Man, at the height of its operations, had 57 company-owned and franchised locations, about 20 of them in Arkansas, the rest in Tennessee and Louisiana. The El Dorado restaurant, where McGoogan has been owner-operator since 1984 and which she runs with help from her husband Paul and son Brent McGoogan, is the “last Minute Man standing.” Little Rock’s last surviving franchise, at West Fourth Street and Broadway, closed in 2002.
Smith said he formed incorporation papers for Minute Man AR Mgmt LLC Sept. 6 with the Arkansas Secretary of State's office. He said he has crunched the financial numbers and has preliminary designs for "what a new Minute Man might look like" but declines to give specifics. And, he says, ”We have been talking to various people who are interested in investing. Our numbers are locked in.” He founded Matchbox Food Group, which he described as an "upscale-casual" restaurant chain, in 2001 and sold his shares a few years ago to open The Avalon Institute, a business-development firm in Bethesda, Md.
While the press release specifically mentions Little Rock and Conway as sites for the "two or three” Minute Man outlets, other cities with the right locations would be considered, he said.
Smith said he has talked with McGoogan "off and on" since 2012 or 2013 about keeping the franchise alive but upped his interest after reading a May 2018 story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about the El Dorado restaurant and the 70th anniversary of the chain's founding. "I told her, you can't go out of business, we don't want Minute Man to die,” he says.
Smith, 53, is an Arkansas native; he said he would have been a Little Rock Hall graduate, had he and his family not moved off to the Washington, D.C., beltway in 1973 when his father, Don S. Smith, was appointed by President Richard Nixon to the Federal Power Commission. Don Smith had a similar position in the Carter administration. He died in 1993.
CORRECTION: Matchbox Food Group isn’t involved in plans to revive the Minute Man restaurant chain, as was reported in an earlier version of this story. Perry J. Smith founded Matchbox but sold his shares several years ago.