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OPINION | EDITORIAL: Monk family adds more to Pine Bluff

by The Pine Bluff Commercial | September 25, 2022 at 4:32 a.m.

The Monk family's push into the restaurant world is a feel-good story. It's a brother and sister working together to create something they think they can do, something they think might be successful and something they think might be good for Pine Bluff.

Already, they've been a hit on Cherry Street with their Underwater Seafood establishment. Even if you've never stopped to order food, it's hard not to notice how neat and tidy and inviting the place is. But the food offerings have been a success, and now Brandon and younger sister Morgan, with the help and support of their parents, are moving their operation to Main Street.

If they were only dipping their toes in the scary waters of opening a private business, they are now swimming in those same scary waters. How frightening? According to the National Restaurant Association, 60% of restaurants fail in the first year, and 80% fail within five years. That means that out of 10 restaurants that open, only two will make it on average.

Some of the hard part, however, has already been done. The restaurant on Cherry Street has been open for a year and a half, and during that time, the two worked through the bumps and bruises that doing anything for the first time will provide. As Brandon said, they had considerable trouble figuring the right food vendors to work with, for example. Now, months later, they can put a check mark in the "solved" box.

So if they were making the cash register ring over on Cherry Street, why move to Main Street? Well, as the two describe it, they outgrew the location. They were getting so much business that they needed a place for people to come in to sit down and eat.

Eating in a car has a certain appeal, as does taking food back to the house. Goodness, we're all pretty good at both of those after restaurants only had the take-out option for selling meals during covid. But eating seafood and all the sides, which include ears of corn and potatoes and sausage and eggs, well, it's hard to manage that while sitting behind the wheel of a pickup.

So they bought the old Long John Silver's restaurant. That building, closed for umpteen years, had become quite the eyesore. But look at it now! New wood siding – at a time when anything made of wood is expensive – and fresh paint and pretty much everything inside and outside replaced except a few windows and floors.

The brother and sister have gone deep on this project, leveraging the success of their restaurant and their hope and prayer that what they are doing will continue to be successful.

And there is something intriguing about the location on Main Street. There has been much effort expended on upgrading the look and feel of Main Street, mostly the other end of the street. Now, though, this restaurant could be a spark that spreads that look and feel all the way to the courthouse. To that end, the city has helped the Monks with some of the repairs, because officials know that the old buildings downtown need work and if those buildings are ever going to be brought back to life, help is needed.

Speaking of help, it would be nice if Go Forward Pine Bluff would show some love to the two men trying to get a movie theater going in the city. Jaws drop when people learn that a city our size doesn't have a movie house. There was the guy from out West who said he was interested in putting a theater in the old Walmart building that's connected to the old mall, but he seems to have fizzled.

Through it all, Steven Mays Jr. and Okorie Ezieme have been trying to resurrect the old Mall theater. Go Forward is taking the lead on a go-kart track for someone to come run. That will be nice, we suppose, but we never thought that a town would only be considered whole and complete if it had go-karts. But a movie theater, well, that's a different story. We're guessing Mays and Ezieme are eager to get one going -- somewhere in town. If that's true, why not bend over backward to help two of our own? These guys, the Monks, we're seeing a pattern. Let's keep it rolling.

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