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Up In Your Business Home PageAbout Kerry McCoy 

Chef Mark Abernathy

Listen to the 2/23/18 podcast to learn:
  • About Mark's unique background and education not in culinary arts 
  • How he got started in the restaurant business
  • About the early years of Juanita's and his other projects
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Mark Abernathy is an idea man, a founder, an owner and the chef of many restaurants; some you may recognize and some you may not: Abernathy’s, The Bijou, Juanita’s, Blue Mesa Grill, Red Door, Bene Vita and Loca Luna. During his 46 years’ experience in the restaurant industry, he has had the distinction of many ‘firsts.’

Mark introduced the first White Cheese dip in America at his restaurant, Blue Mesa Grill. He served Arkansas’ first fajita dish and had the state’s first Wood Fired Brick Oven pizza.

Abernathy has produced or hosted over 450 televised cooking demonstrations, and been recognized by the New York Times, Bon Appetit, Southern Living, Gourmet Magazine, Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels, the Washington Post, Food Arts and many other notable publications. In 2016, Mark was listed as one of the Most Influential Chefs in the United States. 

He is the founder and director of CARI, Consolidated Arkansas Restaurant Industries and the founder of the Arkansas Chapter of Share Our Strength, a national fund raiser for hunger relief.  In 1987, he chaired the campaign to allow alcohol to be served on Sunday in Little Rock restaurants and hotels.

He was the founder and original Chairman of the Central High School Museum and of the South Main Improvement District. He holds a Bachelor’s degree of Science and Business Administration with an emphasis in Banking and Finance from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and attended University of Mexico for graduate studies in Macro Economics and Spanish.

He is a musician and songwriter, an Eagle Scout and former Boy Scout Executive Director. He is married and has two sons also in the restaurant business.

Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com

Behind The Scenes

 

EPISODE 76

 

[INTRODUCTION]

 

[0:00:07.6] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.

 

Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

[0:00:22.1] KM: Thank you, Tim. Like Tim said, I’m Kerry McCoy and it’s time for me to get up in your business. Before we start, I want to introduce the people at the table. We have who you just heard from, Tim Bowen our technician who’ll be taking your calls and pushing the button. Say hello, Tim.

 

[0:00:37.5] TB: Hello, Tim.

 

[0:00:38.3] KM: Recording our show to make a podcast available next week is our technician Jessie. Thank you, Jessie.

 

[0:00:43.7] J: No problem.

 

[0:00:44.5] KM: If right now you’re sitting at your computer, you might want to watch us live on flagandbanner.com’s Facebook page. It’s fun to see what goes on behind the scenes. I didn’t do anything extremely strange before we went on today. I’m disappointed. It’s still fun to see that we are gender neutral. We are gender-diverse. There’s a lot of us in this room. It’s fun to see it on flagandbanner.com’s Facebook page.

 

This show, Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy began with entrepreneurs in mind, a platform for me, a small business owner and a guest to pay forward our experiential knowledge in a conversational way.

 

As with all new endeavors, it’s had some unexpected outcomes like the show is not just for entrepreneurs and want-to-be entrepreneurs, but for everyone. We are all inspired by every day’s people’s American-made stories of how they worked hard, took risks and found their voice.

 

Another is that business is creative, more so than really I ever thought, you think of restaurants as being creative, but there is creativity in all of business. Last behind each of my successful guest is the heart of a teacher. My guest, entrepreneur and local legend, Chef Mark Abernathy has been teaching Arkansans how to eat exotically for four decades.

 

Today, we are going to hear all the trials and tribulations of opening not just one, but six different successful restaurants in the Greater Little Rock, Arkansas area. I think it’s six. Maybe more.

 

[0:02:11.3] TB: Four. No, five. Five.

 

[0:02:14.1] KM: We’re going to count them here in a minute. We’ll learn how some of the city’s amenities that you may take for granted are because of Mark’s vision and  hard work, like alcohol on Sunday, the centralized school museum and even more.

 

If you’re just tuning in for the first time, you may be asking yourself what’s this lady’s story and why does she have a radio show? Well, Tim is here to tell you.

 

[0:02:42.2] TB: Over 40 years ago, with only $400 Kerry McCoy founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, her business has grown and changed dramatically from door-to-door sales to telemarketing to mail order and catalog sales. Now Flag and Banner relies heavily on the internet, including our newest feature, live chatting.

 

Each decade required a change in sales strategy and procedures. Her business and leadership knowledge grew with time and experience, as well as the confidence to branch out into multimedia marketing that began with our non-profit dreamland ballroom, as well as our in-house publication Brave Magazine, and now this very radio show that you’re listening to now.

 

Each week on this show, you will hear candid conversation between her and our guests about real-world experiences on a variety of businesses and topics we hope you’ll find interesting. Kerry says that many business rules like treat your employees well, know your profit margin, and have a succession plan can be applied across most any industries.

 

What I find encouraging is her example that hard work pays off. Did you know that for nine years while starting Flag and Banner, she supplemented her income with many part-time jobs? That just shows that her persistence, perseverance and patience prevailed.

 

Today, Flag and Banner has 10 departments and I have over 25 co-workers. It reminds us all that small businesses are the fuel of our country’s economic engine and that they empower people’s lives. If you would like to ask Kerry a question or share your experience or story, you can send an e-mail to questions@upyourbusiness.org.

 

[0:04:22.6] KM: Well, thank you Tim.

 

[INTERVIEW]

 

[0:04:24.6] KM: My guest today is the well-known Chef Mark Abernathy. In his 40 plus years as an entrepreneur in the restaurant business, he has opened – all right, we’re counting them; Abernathy’s, The Bijou, Juanita’s, Blue Mesa Grill, Bene Vita, Red Door and Loca Luna. That’s seven.

 

[0:04:41.1] MA: That’s seven. Two of those were in San Antonio.

 

[0:04:44.9] KM: I wondered, like Abernathy’s was?

 

[0:04:47.1] MA: The Bijou. Yeah.

 

[0:04:48.5] KM: As with all entrepreneurs, he is an idea man, which is a double-edged sword. I read a quote where he once said and warned other thinkers to beware of believing your own bullshit.

 

[0:05:03.2] MA: Amen.

 

[0:05:03.6] KM: That’s pretty profound. Some of his ideas that paid off and gave him the distinction of having many first are Mark introduced the first white cheese dip to America. I’m saying America, at his restaurant Blue Mesa Grill. He served Arkansas’s first fajita dish introduced the herbs cilantro to Arkansas, which is where I had it at Juanita’s and had the state’s first wood fire brick oven pizza.

 

Abernathy has produced or hosted over 450 televised cooking demonstration and been recognized by The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Southern Living, Gourmet Magazine, Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels, The Washington Post, Food Arts and many other notable publications. In 2016, Mark was listed as one of the most influential chefs in the United States.

 

In addition, he is a musician and songwriter and Eagle Scout, a former Boys Scout executive director and offers his expertise to numerous charity organizations, which are far too long to list; again, the heart of a teacher.

 

It is a pleasure to welcome to the table my long-time friend, creative entrepreneur and chef extraordinaire, Mark Abernathy.

 

What a visionary. Everybody in the room is going, “You’re the reason we have alcohol on Sunday? Thank you.”

 

[0:06:20.1] MA: Yeah, that was funny. Bill [inaudible 0:06:21.0] cheered that campaign and everybody – I wanted to say we opened that long and everybody told me, “This is suicide. The Baptist won’t ever come in your restaurant again. You’re going to lose.” It was one of the biggest landslide votes ever held in the City of Little Rock. It was 86% voted for it. We were astounded and –

 

[0:06:46.5] KM: Wow. How hard was it to get her on the ballot?

 

[0:06:49.3] MA: It was already on the ballot when they came to Bill and I had to promote it. Bill was really active in growth of downtown and seeing that develop. We did our homework and we found out that actually [inaudible 0:07:05.7] counties had more deaths in all car-related accidents than [inaudible 0:07:11.6].

 

[0:07:12.2] KM: Really? Doing Moonshine, I guess. That is crazy.

 

[0:07:14.5] MA: Well, they had to drive to –

 

[0:07:17.0] KM: They had to drive to get it and then get back on the highways and drive home.

 

[0:07:20.3] MA: Anyway.

 

[0:07:21.1] KM: Interesting story. Mark, you’re a visionary. Besides opening all those successful businesses I mentioned before, you are the idea man and founder behind consolidated Arkansas restaurant industries, where you consolidated all the restaurants. You brought the Arkansas chapter of share our strength, the national fundraiser for hunger relief. I love that one. You are the visionary that started the central high school museum. You promoted and started –

 

[0:07:43.7] MA: That’s what I’m most proud of, I would say.

 

[0:07:45.8] KM: You should be. South main improvement district. You chaired the campaign to have alcohol served on Sunday, we already said that. This is one a lot of people don’t realize and I told my employees today is that you saved my building, The Taborian Hall from the wrecking ball and then I actually bought it from you.

 

[0:08:01.6] MA: That’s right. I want to share that, because first I’m a huge fan of yours, and you know that one. We’ve been friends for so long. I got a call when I was – at the time I was president on the corporate quarter association, which is historic preservation.

 

[0:08:20.0] KM: For Downtown Little Rock.

 

[0:08:21.6] MA: John King, he called me. He said, they’re about to sell the Flag and Banner building or tear it down.

 

[0:08:36.7] KM: It wasn’t the Flag and Banner building yet.

 

[0:08:37.7] MA: No, at the time. It was Taborian Hall. I said, “Well, shoot.” This is the day before the auction. It was an SBA auction. I went in and I couldn’t believe it. Nobody bid on it. It’s one of those be careful what you wish for. You know most of the story, so I bid a ridiculously low amount and I got the building for less than $2,000 or something like that, because nobody else bet on it.

 

I said, “Oh, this is great.” Then reality set in, because with the building and – I had to go before the city and give them all this assurances that I would insure it, that I would put fences around it, that I would protect it. Then also I made them a promise that I would not sell it unless I found a buyer that I felt like was for real and would really take care of it and rehab it. Then you came along and you were the perfect candidate. It worked out great. We were able to save that billing –

 

[0:09:40.7] KM: When I tell people I bought the building for $20,000, because I bought it from you for $20,000. You bought it for $2,000. Then when I say, “Well, he bought it for $2,000.” They’re like, “What?” I said, “You all don’t know how bad it looked.”

 

[0:09:52.0] MA: I still lost money on the deal.

 

[0:09:53.8] KM: I was going to say.

 

[0:09:54.4] MA: The interest alone, I think was like – I mean, the building was begging to hurt somebody. You know the condition of, so the interest can at least – I had to beg them the interest in the first place and I think the interest alone was like $9 or $10,000.

 

[0:10:11.7] KM: How many years did you have it?

 

[0:10:13.6] MA: I had it probably two.

 

[0:10:14.6] KM: Two years. Yeah, you probably did lose money on that deal. Let’s talk about your education. I find it really, really interesting. Bachelors degree of science and business administration with an emphasis in banking and finance from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

 

Here is what I think is interesting, and that you attended the University of Mexico for graduate studies in macro-economics and Spanish.

[0:10:35.2] MA: [Inaudible 0:10:35.1].

 

[0:10:39.3] KM: I have no idea what you said. Was that in Mexico, or in New Mexico?

 

[0:10:43.6] MA: It was in San Antonio. It was University of Mexico and they have a branch in San Antonio. When I went down there I wanted – I had already started some graduate work in economics. I saw I wanted to continue that. Also, what the heck while I’m here, I’ll take some Spanish. That was wonderful leaning how to speak Spanish.

 

[0:11:06.7] KM: Is that how come all of your restaurants, or a lot of your restaurants have this Mexican cuisine?

 

[0:11:12.8] MA: No. Actually, I came back – I was in the restaurant – I started with Friday’s back when they first started, then went to – it was one of the original managers to Jeff Friday, so we went – because the third one in –

 

[0:11:23.3] KM: Mythbusters?

 

[0:11:24.2] MA: No. This was before busters. The third Friday’s in the United States was here in Little Rock down at 3rd and Hickory, where – Cotham’s. They also served the first mixed drinks, by the way.

 

[0:11:37.0] KM: Really?

 

[0:11:37.4] MA: Uh-huh. As a restaurant, where you could actually walk in and buy a mixed drink. Anyway, so –

 

[0:11:42.6] KM: No wonder it was so popular.

 

[0:11:44.2] MA: I started off there and there were only three and they were franchise and this big group came and bought the franchise all right to Friday’s. We went to Dallas and opened the Dallas Friday’s, which became the prototype of all the Friday’s everywhere, with the bar in the middle and all the stuff. It was a monster success. I got hooked. I was in the restaurant business. I was having a ball, making – I was young and making money and having fun and –

 

[0:12:06.4] KM: Drunk girls everywhere.

 

[0:12:07.2] MA: Drunk girls everywhere. That we used to say. There were three flight attendant schools in Dallas at the time; [inaudible 0:12:13.3], Southwest and American. We used to say it was clubbin baby seals night.

 

[0:12:18.5] KM: Oh, my God. That’s just wrong.

 

[0:12:20.9] MA: I know it’s wrong.

 

[0:12:21.0] KM: Clubbing baby seals. That’s wrong.

 

[0:12:23.9] MA: Very, very inappropriate these days.

 

[0:12:25.2] KM: Yes, you are.

 

[0:12:26.1] MA: The bottom line was that – well, they were just as bad as we were, come one. I mean, it was a Friday’s. It was a wide-open free for all, because that was back in the pre-lump days.

 

[0:12:37.4] KM: I was just about to say, people don’t realize that.

 

[0:12:38.3] MA: My wife is cringing right now. Sorry, Leanne.

 

[0:12:41.5] KM: I’m not. Because we have come a long way, baby. That was women’s lib, was free love was everywhere, we were having a sexual revolution. It was awesome.

 

[0:12:49.9] MA: I couldn’t be happier to see it happen. Anyway, I got hired by a group to go to San Antonio to a knockoff on Friday’s. I fell in love with the Latin culture. I fell in love with real Mexican food, because back then – I’m not saying that grounding some extra cut Dokito wasn’t good Mexican, but it was what we would call a Sonoran style, a Southern California style of Mexican food, as opposed to Tex-Mex. Man, I had that real Tex-Mex down there and it was like, “Ooh, the heaven’s party.” I said, “This is the good stuff.” Anyway –

[0:13:26.3] KM: Had you already been to college when you –

 

[0:13:28.9] MA: Yeah, yeah.

 

[0:13:29.3] KM: You’d already been to San Antonio.

 

[0:13:30.2] MA: Yeah, I had a degree in banking and finance. When I graduated from [inaudible 0:13:33.8] halfway down my back and it was – I was a full-blown hippie and –

 

[0:13:38.3] KM: You and your rock and roll band, weren’t you?

 

[0:13:39.3] MA: When I was a band and all that stuff. I said, “Man, I’m not this banking in Arkansas in 1972, I would not be hired.”

 

[0:13:47.2] KM: No, you wouldn’t.

 

[0:13:49.0] MA: I just stumbled in the restaurant business. Found that I loved it and stayed with it. Anyway, when it came time after I had had been successful in Texas and San Antonio, my father was sick. I just got married, I wanted to start a family and I said, “It might be a good time to come back to Little Rock.”

 

When I came back, I realized that there was a huge hole in this market for Tex-Mex food. I bought the building down on Main for one it is was. Back then, the Wilbur Miller Expressway stopped down at Martin Luther King is. That’s where the expressway ended. My friends said, “Mark, you’re crazy.” Because I hadn’t put together the Safman improvement district. It was a rough area. There were rhinos, there were prostitutes.

 

The first thing I stepped on when I walked in the building was a slug – I mean, a shell casing and the floor, this was all dirt, no windows and rhinos had a full-blown fire going inside on the ground.

 

[0:14:51.7] KM: You’re like, “I’ll take it.”

 

[0:14:52.9] MA: Yeah.

[0:14:54.6] KM: Sold.

 

[0:14:55.4] MA: Yeah. Good old Madison guaranteed who was playing Lucifer for free back in those days. I went down thinking, “Man, I’ll never get money to buy this building, but it’s a perfect building for a Mexican restaurant.” They gave me the money for the building, by the building to open a restaurant. It was just like, “I couldn’t believe it. Off we went.

 

[0:15:15.0] KM: You had to have some big guts to do that.

 

[0:15:17.8] MA: All my friends David Moses and Wally Allen, all these people who were active in business in Little Rock have said, “Mark, you’re crazy. You’re nuts. That’s a horrible part of town.”

 

[0:15:28.4] KM: Just out of curiosity. You put your life on the line and your finance on the line. How much money did you borrow? Do you remember?

 

[0:15:35.0] MA: Oh, gosh. At the time, it was probably – It doesn’t sound like much now. At the time, I think it’s about $35,400.

 

[0:15:41.7] KM: That sounds like a lot of money for a 28-year-old to borrow.

 

[0:15:45.8] MA: Yeah. It was 34 maybe.

 

[0:15:50.1] KM: That’s a lot of money.

 

[0:15:50.8] MA: Yeah, it was. It was. I swallowed pretty hard on that one.

 

[0:15:55.1] KM: I mean, you took a big risk over a quarter of a million dollars. Took a big risk into an under-developed area on a cuisine that had never been really tested here. That’s why you’re an entrepreneur and a successful one.

 

This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with the super interesting Chef Mark Abernathy, Founder and Idea Man of many, many, many greater Little Rock amenities we all take for granted. His two current restaurants are the Red Door and Loca Luna. At the bottom of the hour, we’ll be taking calls. Listen and get your questions ready.

 

[0:16:27.5] TB: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you missed any part of this show, a podcast will be made available next week at flagandbanner.com’s website. If you would prefer to listen on iTunes, YouTube or SoundCloud, you’ll find those links there as well. Lots of listening options. We’ll be right back.

 

[0:17:15.8] KM: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Mr. Mark Abernathy, current founder and chef of Loca Luna and the Red Door restaurants in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

At the break, we were having a good time. You people on Facebook that I said goodbye to, we were cutting it up, weren’t we? I had the whole room laughing with my vocabulary faux paus, which I didn’t meant to do.

 

[0:17:40.9] TB: I thought you were taking my advice. I told Kerry to be meaner to increase ratings.

 

[0:17:47.9] KM: No, that was being meaner, wasn’t it?

 

[0:17:49.5] MA: It was.

 

[0:17:50.1] KM: It was mean. Yeah, you didn’t think it was mean. You have done so much and I’m not really sure where to begin. At the break, you were talking about how you own this – you had two of those restaurants that we mentioned earlier. I think Abernathy’s and how do you said The Bijou?

 

[0:18:03.1] MA: The Bijou. Yeah.

 

[0:18:04.5] KM: Were in San Antonio. You were a musician. I don’t even know what you play. What do you play?

 

[0:18:08.5] MA: I play guitar and sing. I had bands almost the whole time out here. We had the torpedoes and we won the – when we started the music program at Juanita’s, it was originally just a little shotgun bar and we were the house band. X members of the Greasy Grains and myself and another guy, the guitar player Vinnie Di Paolo from New York. He was a great guitar player and has since moved on to play with a lot of national acts seemingly.

 

We played in this little stage daunting in at the bat at Juanita and we stall people. It was Tuesday and every Tuesdays and Thursdays. There were literally people lined up all along the front and then down the street to get in. I used to tell people, “We had a line up out the door.” They didn’t realize that we only held about 80 people in there. It wasn’t quite like it sounded, but that started the music program at Juanita’s and [inaudible 0:19:04.8] about eight or nine months after we started that.

 

I own the space next door. We had a wood gift shop there for couple gallery and I blued the wall out and took over that and we opened what became the Juanita’s ballroom and music program there.

 

[0:19:24.6] KM: Oh, I get you. I was thinking it was the other way around. You’re right. You opened up at the corner and then you moved down the street with the secondary. Okay, got you. Sorry for the listeners.

 

[0:19:31.8] MA: Yeah, the restaurant was open on the corner and then we’ve had –

 

[0:19:33.9] KM: Then you moved down. You bought the building next door.

 

[0:19:36.2] MA: We expanded in the building next door to create the music – program the music for it.

 

[0:19:40.3] KM: The Bijou, which was in San Antonio, did you use your – that was a music venue bistro.

 

[0:19:45.1] MA: It was a music venue. I had another restaurant going, but my heart was always on playing these – I got played in bands in high school, I played in bands in college and so I’ve always been connected with music. I opened what’s called a listening room in San Antonio, which was a small venue where acts could come in and do more acoustic stuff and things like that.

 

We had a rule where you couldn’t talk when the music is playing and we would actually enforce it. It’s a great place to hear music. Imagine being in a small venue where people actually had to be quiet. After the while, the customers would please each other. They’d say – yeah, sometimes start talking to.

 

[0:20:22.9] KM: What happened to that restaurant?

 

[0:20:24.2] MA: It’s crazy. About three years. It was real successful. About three years later, my partner came and said, “I’m sorry, but we lost The Bijou.” I said, “What? We lost the – we lost it in a poker game.”

 

[0:20:37.7] KM: What?

 

[0:20:38.5] MA: I swear. I said, “What? How could you lose my part in a poker game?” He said, “Well, there’s something I didn’t tell.” Anyway, it was one of those things. That’s one of those life lessons you learn about having better contracts.

 

We had great nights there. Willie would come in a lot down there. He reminded me about six years ago, I was reminded of one day Willie was sitting at the bar and there was an act from Olsen called Blind George McLane. Blind George sit at an upright piano, he had a board with a mic under it and he’d stomp on that board, played piano and he didn’t wear sunglasses.

 

He turned around and his eyes were just like wild crazy eyes and he’s spinning around and he’s spit a lot to them. He was something to see, but he was fantastic talent. Willie Bower sitting at the bar and they took a break and he went outside and this guy came running and said, “You’re not going to believe this. You got to come out in the alley.”

 

We went out in the alley and Willie said, “Do you remember? We went out in the alley and there is Blind George in a fight with his blind brother and he said – well, they fought for 30 minutes and never landed a punch.” It was great. There were great stories and a lot I really can’t tell, but –

[0:22:03.5] KM: Those are great ones.

 

[0:22:04.9] MA: Yeah. Big Carol brought in a pan of special brownies one night and we all get nibbling, all those things.

 

[0:22:10.8] KM: Who is that?

 

[0:22:12.0] MA: This was one of our waitresses, who was a X Vegas showgirl. She’s about six-feet tall and had a diamond better than her tooth and head. Quite the showgirl body, but was heart of gold. She brought these special brownies sandwiches, I say we got nibbling now. My decimal brownies. By the time we’re ready open, the entire staff were comatose. We had shut down, give her about her money back, apologized, pay off the band and go home.

 

[0:22:42.5] KM: Because you just couldn’t function.

 

[0:22:44.1] MA: Yeah. I mean, folks would come up at the bar and said, “I need a – just a minute. I need two buds and a bud light.” The bartender would go, “Man. What? Huh?” We knew, it was really –

 

[0:23:05.0] KM: You had to shut it down.

 

[0:23:05.8] MA: Wasn’t going to work.

 

[0:23:06.9] KM: Oh, my gosh. You’ve got such good stories. Those are fun. You just can’t make that stuff up. You should write a book.

 

[0:23:15.5] MA: There is incredible music. Stones came in there and Little Runs came in there and the Led Zeppelin came in there. When they were in town for their show, that’s where a lot of times they’d end up hanging out.

 

[0:23:27.7] KM: Is this still business down there?

 

[0:23:28.5] MA: No. It’s long gone.

 

[0:23:30.4] KM: Long gone. Abernathy’s was that in San Antonio too?

 

[0:23:32.9] MA: It was in San Antonio.

 

[0:23:34.2] KM: What was that? Is that what you had to start after when you lost the other one in the poker game?

 

[0:23:37.9] MA: It was actually a French restaurant, which was fantastic. It was really good. This was back in the 70s, you got to remember. It was really good and I lost my ass on that one. It was a fabulous restaurant in – I’ve always said that I wouldn’t be successful today if it weren’t for my failures. One of my success is that made it all work, because she learned so much more from your failures. Those were the big lessons that really help you move forward and I don’t know hardly any businessman that didn’t stumble somewhere along the way and making it.

 

[0:24:19.8] KM: What if you wanted to start a restaurant today, how did you always start your restaurants? You didn’t have family money.

 

[0:24:25.0] MA: No. Well, the SBA helped back then to get – when I got the loan for Juanita’s, we got SBA guaranteed, which allowed a starting entrepreneur like me to really leverage what –

 

[0:24:40.4] KM: Did Juanita’s come first, or did The Bijou and Abernathy’s come?

 

[0:24:42.7] MA: The Bijou and Abernathy’s were first. That was before. That was when I was in San Antonio. I had closed sales and so our sole donor moved on and so –

 

[0:24:52.5] KM: Were lost in a poker game.

 

[0:24:53.9] MA: Yeah, lost in a poker game. When I came back here, actually I came – moved back to Little Rock as an executive for the Boy Scouts, which is a little different story.

 

[0:25:04.1] TB: Wow.

 

[0:25:04.8] MA: Yeah. I worked for them for a while and absolutely loved it, but I wanted to get back in the restaurant business. While I was working for the scouts here, I put a deal together. That’s what really was my intention, because I saw such a hole in this market for Mexican food and turned out to be right.

 

[0:25:27.6] KM: How did you start your restaurants? You bought down in San Antonio. How did you get the money? Or did you just find – or did you partner with somebody with that money?

 

[0:25:34.7] MA: Yeah, I partnered with –

 

[0:25:36.5] KM: If you want to open up a restaurant, we had the guy from Dugan’s. We had Dugan in here and he said he partnered with a guy who had money. Then ended up – I think he said, he ended up buying his partner out when his partner wanted. What do you think about partnering in the restaurant business, if you reach your contract and the guy didn’t lose it?

 

[0:25:53.0] MA: I guess, other than he decide to marry, I would say the biggest decision that you’re going to make if you’re going to be a businessman is who you’re going to get in bed with there, who’s going to be your partner, because it can work both ways; it can make you miserable, it can make you successful.

 

[0:26:09.0] KM: Did you do 50-50?

 

[0:26:11.2] MA: It depends. All deals are different. I have a partner in Loca Luna and Red Door who’s been my partner since the very beginning. He’s a guy I went to high school with. There’s not a better – I can’t imagine a better partner, because he had the financial – the additional financial strength that I needed and he had the sense to say, “Okay, well this is – I mean, it’s going to sink or swim on your talents. Not mine. I mean, I’m a surgeon.”

 

It’s been that way all along. He was there early every time I needed him. There were probably a number of times I could’ve bought him out, or this or that, but you know. We’re still partners and still best friends.

 

[0:26:56.3] KM: Is there something that makes you know what – how do you know when you got a good partner, or when you don’t?

 

[0:27:03.0] MA: In this case, part of it was luck. I also knew him as a person. I think you want to really think about who – not just do they have the money, or the ability to help you. Who is the person behind that face? Is he a good man? Is he honorable? I have no trouble dealing with a handshake from my standpoint, but it’s a foolish thing to do in this business climate, because circumstances change and people change. I think you can find out and feel like that you’re dealing with somebody who’s honest and honorable.

 

[0:27:45.1] KM: Then you just trust.

 

[0:27:45.6] MA: Trustworthy. Yeah.

 

[0:27:46.9] KM: I had someone tell me one time over breakfast, never go into a business unless you own the 51%.

 

[0:27:53.3] MA: I think that’s good advice if you’re going to do all the work. Now, if he’s taking all the risk and you don’t have much at stake, then I don’t think that’s necessary can apply, because shoot. I wouldn’t do that.

 

[0:28:09.2] KM: What about three people? You ever done a three-way?

 

[0:28:12.1] MA: Yeah. When I Bene Vita, the Italian restaurant we had a five-way. They were all friends of mine. They were college friends and people that I knew and the same, same exact thing. I knew them as honorable men and they knew me and respected me as an honorable man.

 

If you start off with that kind of relationship, and I think that’s the same thing in a marriage or anything else; if you start off with the right foundation, you got a better chance. When Bene Vita – it did okay. It never made much money, and so I just went and converted it to Red Door. I said, “You know, what? I think Red Door will make more money.” Bene Vita never lost money, but it wasn’t – I said, “This is a great location. I think we can change the format.” It really worked. It worked great. It’s been much more profitable.

 

[0:29:12.5] TB: What did Bene Vita sale? Was it –

 

[0:29:14.5] MA: Italian.

 

[0:29:15.5] KM: That what the Red Door is?

 

[0:29:16.5] MA: No, no.

 

[0:29:17.2] KM: What do you think the Red Door is? It’s got pasta on the menu.

 

[0:29:19.5] MA: Well, it does. Red Door is like Loca Luna. We call nuval schizophrenic.

 

[0:29:24.9] KM: Joins everything.

 

[0:29:25.7] MA: Yeah, it’s everything and it’s whatever. Well, this sounds good. Let’s put this in the menu. I think people will eat this and that’s quite a gossip on the menu when we do a good job of it, if we decide to put it on there.

 

Of course, Red Door has really developed a fabulous reputation of the best branch in town. I mean, it is a brunch mecca and on Saturday and Sunday especially, you can’t get in the door. I mean, every Saturday and Sunday, it is full.

 

[0:29:52.4] KM: That’s nice.

 

[0:29:53.0] MA: Yeah, it is nice.

 

[0:29:54.9] KM: What do you think makes a good restaurant? What’s the one thing that makes people – do you think you have to have a signature dish? Why did Bene Vita not work and the Red Door did work? What was the difference beside it?

 

[0:30:05.9] MA: Bene Vita didn’t work, because just Little Rock is not a good Italian market. Think about it.

 

[0:30:10.7] KM: Well, Bruno’s does great.

 

[0:30:14.6] MA: Yeah, there are exceptions. We did – I said, Bene Vita did okay too, but it’s not a very good – like you go to St. Louis and there is Italian restaurants everywhere and they all do great. It’s a good market for Italian food. Little Rock has just never been a place where you – when you think, “Oh, why are these –” think of all the great Italian restaurants, you don’t get much further than Bruno’s and –

 

[0:30:39.7] KM: Graffitis.

 

[0:30:40.4] MA: Graffitis. I mean, you can count them on one hand.

 

[0:30:43.9] KM: Yeah. You decided to do this nuval schizophrenic food.

 

[0:30:47.9] MA: Yes. It works great.

 

[0:30:49.4] KM: Okay. I told at the beginning of the thing that you brought cheese dip to America.

 

[0:30:53.2] MA: Yeah.

 

[0:30:53.9] KM: All right. We got to hear the cheese dip to America story.

 

[0:30:56.9] MA: Okay.

 

[0:30:58.4] KM: Why cheese dip?

 

[0:30:59.2] MA: Cheese dip was this Arkansas phenomenon that we all grew up with.

 

[0:31:04.2] KM: I don’t think realizes that.

 

[0:31:05.8] MA: Now when you grew up in Arkansas, especially Little Rock, central Arkansas really, not even Arkansas. If you grew up in Little Rock –

 

[0:31:13.0] KM: North Little Rock.

 

[0:31:13.5] MA: North Little Rock, you went to a Mexican restaurant; brownies, taquitos, whatever, you always got cheese dip. It was a rite of passage. It’s a big part of any Mexican meal. It was automatic. When I left Little Rock, I expected to find it especially in San Antonio. It didn’t exist.

 

[0:31:32.7] KM: Really? Not even going Tex-Mex? Didn’t even go down there?

 

[0:31:34.9] MA: Nope, nope, nope. In fact, the closest thing was a dish they called chili con qeuso. It’s not chili like – I had a guy argue with me, “Chili con queso, what? That’s bread chili with cheese in it.” It’s chili con queso, meant that it was cheese with chilis in it, like jalapeno and grain chilis and that kind of thing.

 

It would be served on usually just poured over tortilla. That was in very, very few restaurants in San Antonio. Outside of that, you never found it Dallas or anywhere else. It just was a Little Rock phenomenon. There was one other exception and that was rotel. That rotel took off in South Texas, and that was put in a rotel in Velveeta. That really took cheese dip out of Little Rock and spread it into some of the Southern Texas in that area.

 

Then it just started growing, started growing. When I came back and opened Juanita’s, one of my partners Frank McGee, who is Scott McGee, local restaurant, his dad – Frank was an internet salesman, very talented with food. Really good with food and was a tremendous help and we worked together in developing the recipes and stuff.

 

We knew that we needed to really – we needed the right – our opinion raised the bar on cheese dip. We created that one, Yda’s yellow cheese dip and everybody went crazy over it and loved it. Then when we decided to open Blue Mesa Grill, about a year or two before we opened it, they came out with a white smooth-melt cheese. There is no such thing as yellow cheese. They had food coloring. All cheese is white. Milk is white. Cows don’t give yellow milk.

 

[0:33:32.9] TB: I don’t think everybody knows that.

 

[0:33:34.2] MA: No. All cheddar everything has coloring that makes it that color.

 

[0:33:39.2] KM: I don’t even know why they do that.

[0:33:40.7] MA: Well, there is white cheddar out there obviously. It just hasn’t been colored. Well, same thing one of the key ingredients of our cheese dip was it was a smooth mouth cheese. Not Velveeta, which is not even real cheese. It’s a vegetable product. We had a real smooth-mouth cheese and they came out white ones. We said, “Okay, now we can make a white cheese dip that really has good ingredients.”

 

We added different ingredients to it, like New Mexican green chilis and some other things. Even a little spinach and a few things that we put in there that made it unique. To our knowledge, it was the first white cheese that created in the United States. Now, it’s all over the southwest and it really spread in over the United States. You could find cheese dip and most of it is white now.

 

[0:34:28.9] KM: You could find cheese dip everywhere now. One time when I was in New York City, when they repaired the Statue of Liberty, what was that? 1980 something, when I was up there for the unveiling of the new refurbished Statue of Liberty. I wanted to go and eat with a friend of mine who lived up there and she was – I thought we were going to get this great pizza, or this great Italian food or some cuisine from New York City up there and she said, “Oh, there’s a new restaurant in town. I’ve got to take you to it.” I was like, “Okay.”

 

She wouldn’t tell me what it was and she wouldn’t tell – we walked blocks and blocks and blocks and blocks. When finally got there, it was a Mexican restaurant that had just opened in New York City.

 

[0:35:04.3] MA: They had cheese there.

 

[0:35:06.0] KM: They kept saying, “What’s this chili con quese?” I had to pronounce everything. I was so mad the whole time. I was like, “Chili con queso.”

 

[0:35:14.9] MA: There you go.

 

[0:35:17.0] KM: Yeah, you’re right. It’s everywhere now. They had cheese dip in New York and she thought it was the coolest thing that had ever happened.

 

[0:35:22.0] MA: It is a cool and the right claim to fame for Little Rock to be the cheese dip capital of the world.

[0:35:27.7] KM: The white cheese dip is nothing, but uncolored cheddar cheese.

 

[0:35:31.2] MA: Yes, basically.

 

[0:35:33.0] KM: I had no idea. They even got chili dip contest. Are you part of that? Little Rock chili dip contest. Not chili. Cheese dip contest.

 

[0:35:42.4] MA: Cheese dip. We have never participated in that, because maybe we should, but we just never figured we had anything to improve.

 

[0:35:47.7] KM: That’s how much everybody loves cheese dip though. That’s how much everybody loves cheese dip. There is a cheese dip contest.

 

[0:35:54.8] MA: The world championship cheese dip contest is here.

 

[0:35:58.3] KM: Yeah. All right, this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with the super interesting Chef Mark Abernathy, whose current restaurants are Loca Luna and the Red Door in Little Rock, Arkansas. With most entrepreneurs, he has had his share of ups and downs. Let’s listen as he shares what he has learned when we come back.

 

[0:36:18.2] TB: You’re listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you missed any part of this show, a podcast will be made available next week at flagandbanner.com’s website. If you would prefer to listen to iTunes, YouTube or SoundCloud, you’ll find those links there as well. Lots of listening opportunities. We’ll be right back with a phone number for calling in.

 

[0:36:38.0] AM: Arkansas Flag and Banner is proud to underwrite Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. McCoy began this broadcast a year and a half ago with the intention of offering a mentoring platform for those with an entrepreneurial spirit. Their candid conversation and interesting interviews with business and community-minded Arkansans, listeners gained insight into starting and running a business, the ups and downs of risk-taking and the commonalities of successful people.

 

Kerry McCoy, Founder and President of Arkansas Flag and Banner believes in paying knowledge and experience forward and developed this radio show as a means of doing so. The biographies, life experiences and wisdom of her guests would likely go unheard if not for this venue.

 

Rarely do people open up for an hour to an audience about their life, mistakes, triumphs and pitfalls. This unique radio show allows the listener intimate access into the stories of prominent leaders in our state.

 

I am Adrienne McNally, Manager of the Arkansas Flag and Banner Showroom and Gift Shop located on the first floor of the historic Taborian Hall on the corner of 9th and State Streets in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

In business for 43 years, we offer an old school shopping experience with front door parking, clerks to help you and department store variety open to the public Monday through Friday, 8 to 5:30 and Saturday 10 to 4.

 

 [0:38:04.6] KM: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Mr. Mark Abernathy, current founder and chef of Loca Luna and the Red Door restaurants in Little Rock, Arkansas. Not everything that – yeah, we were telling some great stories at the break. You should put all of that on Facebook, so everybody can watch, but we don’t. Not everything you have done Mark has been successful.

 

[0:38:27.3] MA: That’s true. Yeah.

 

[0:38:28.4] KM: You were talking about that earlier that you’ve learned almost more from your failures than you have from your successes. That’s not just true in business like that. I think that’s true in everything in life. It’s like, sometimes it’s the bottom. It’s where you bottom out, where you learn the most and then you get to go back up to the top with the knowledge that you learned from being on the bottom. Let’s talk what?

 

[0:38:48.9] MA: Yeah, I tell people my restaurant all the time – my employees, I would say, “You know.” When I come in and I’m always looking for things that we’re doing wrong and that I’ll usually tell them, “It’s not that I’m not giving you credit for the things you do right, because you do so many things right. It’s not the things you do right that get you. You got to focus on the things that you’ve done wrong, that you’re doing wrong, because that’s what you got to fix. If everything’s successful and running good, then that’s not going to teach you much. When you screw up and you trip up and you said, ‘Wow, I don’t think I’ll do that again.’ Or why did that happen? It lays a groundwork for you to do a better job next time if you pay attention.”

 

[0:39:34.7] KM: Yeah. If you’re doing everything right, you’re not going to learn much.

 

[0:39:39.8] MA: When I learned to – first time I went to learn to ski and I was pretty athletic and I thought, “Gee, this is a piece of cake.” I said, “No big problem.” I got on those skis and I’ve fallen all over the place and I was really frustrated. I went back to my ski instructor and said, “What’s the deal man? I’m falling all over the place.” He said, “You need to understand it. If you’re not falling, you’re not learning.”

 

[0:39:59.1] KM: If you’re not falling, you’re not learning. That’s a tweetable one right now.

 

[0:40:04.9] MA: Fair enough. Well, okay. I felt better. I kept falling until I learned. Got pretty good after that.

 

[0:40:10.9] KM: If you’re not falling, you’re not learning. I love that. Let’s talk about August in Arkansas. A lot of people don’t remember what that was, but you try to put on a festival in August in Arkansas and I thought that was the craziest thing because it was such a hot – but you picked that weekend to do, which is the first weekend in August, because you said in past history, I remember this, you’re telling me this. I saw you in the grocery store. I said, “Why would you pick that day?” You said, “Because historically speaking, we have had a cool snap every first week of every August.”

 

[0:40:44.1] MA: It’s crazy. We got out at the Almanac and we went back – way back, year after year after year and we found that there was this weird version that took place around the first part of August. You think, well August is miserable. It’s horrible. I mean, if you pull it up, look it’s weird.

 

We picked that weekend in August, because historically it was one of the cooler weekends of the summer. There wasn’t anything going on. We felt like the Arkansas needed a vessel, like Memphis in May that was truly grand. We put this thing together and that’s where my quote, it’s a dangerous thing when you believe your own BS.

 

I guess, the short story of that is we thought we did everything right and we really did so many things right. This is a huge vessel. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars that it was the number music festival in the United States behind Jazz fest that year. Right about poll star as far as the quality of the acts.

 

I mean, so our meal was sprinkle star and they all start a band. It was all these huge acts they were on tour that summer. What we didn’t figure was the worst-case scenario. That was the biggest lesson I learned was always figure out what’s the worst that can happen and can you handle that? Because dang dip, it might not happen.

 

Well, guess what happens? Okay, we have this festival and most festivals especially in the summer, you make your money off of softdrink, beer sales and t-shirts. That’s where your money is.

 

[0:42:28.3] KM: Really?

 

[0:42:28.9] MA: Yeah. I mean, think about it. That’s where you have to make your money, because you don’t think that sales might barely cover the cost of your acts, but it didn’t cover all the hundreds of thousands dollars of staging and the security and the ticket printing and all of that stuff.

 

Now winter cool, it was the coldest weekend in the history of the State of Arkansas for August. People were freezing. They had to come down in sweatshirt. They were seeking out coffee. We couldn’t sell beer, we couldn’t sell t-shirt. It was a financial disaster. I lost my ass on that deal. I will say this. My biggest regret was not doing the festival, but not figuring out the day outside and –

 

[0:43:24.2] KM: What would you have done different?

 

[0:43:25.7] MA: I think I would’ve scaled it back. I would’ve put it – It was 2 grand. It was on both sides of the river. It’s like six stages. Don’t get me wrong, we had over a 100,000 people came. Still, it lost a lot of money.

 

[0:43:40.2] KM: How many did you need? Well, initially to sell beer and tickets. You needed to sell beer.

 

[0:43:44.7] MA: I would’ve just scaled it back so that we could’ve handled the downside with our sponsorships, because we had lots of corporate sponsors. It just could’ve been done differently. They put it on the next year and they lost money then too, so they decided not to do it. The only regret I have – I had some friends that got involved with it and they lost some personal money alone. I mean, not a fraction of what I lost, but some folks that invested because of May and my accountant said, “Marky, you got to take bankruptcy. You got to take bankruptcy, because there is a—” Another good story goes along with it real quick. Since it’s business, you’re going to love this one.

 

Anyway, I didn’t take bankruptcy. It took me years and years to pay off the people that I gave a personal guarantee too, but I paid out every one of them. As I said, that’s part of that lesson that you learn. You have to own it. When you screw up, you need to own it, because if you don’t, then you’re kidding yourself. That’s the last part you won’t get.

 

Anyway, it was at the same time that I had my face on the cover of Arkansas Business for just losing my ass on this event. I hadn’t been in my office for about two or three weeks. I walk in and I have this huge stack and I see this envelope from the resolution trust, which was the federal agency that had seized Madison guarantee. They had all my loans.

 

The letter said, “Your loans are called.” It would be like if you got a letter in the mail today and it said, “You got to pay off your house right now. You got to refinance it or pay off your house.” Well, if it been two weeks or three weeks prior to the festival, I could’ve walked in any bank in the City of Little Rock and they would’ve thrown the money at me.

 

They would’ve loved to have that loan, because our payment history was absolutely flawless. We have never missed a payment. Not one thing. But because my face was associated with the loss and potential losses down the line, or whoever knew or what, I couldn’t find a bank that would help me, so –

 

[0:45:55.6] KM: What happened?

 

[0:45:57.3] MA: Well, I ended up making some deals and some more of my business to my partners and didn’t –

 

[0:46:01.6] KM: Which business were you in?

 

[0:46:03.2] MA: This is loan that used it. I loaned all that real estate counter too. Not just Juanita’s with the lots all around it and the restaurants. Some of them owned a 100%, some – I ended up selling off some of that. I got this –

 

[0:46:16.5] KM: He’s laughing.

 

[0:46:17.8] MA: Well, it brings back some funny stuff. I get this phone call. May Horn, who had Horn’s Man store. She was a interesting walking and she talked like this. A little woman and she talked like this.

 

[0:46:29.7] KM: She dressed all the best, best man.

 

[0:46:32.0] MA: All of the best dress man.

 

[0:46:33.9] KM: That was her slogan for everybody that didn’t grow up here.

 

[0:46:36.1] MA: Gave me a phone call and May Horn said, “Mark, I’ve got a guy on here. He’s buying a bunch of suits with your credit card.” This gentleman was in there and apparently I’ve gotten hold of the credit card receipt out of the trash or something where I’d paid off somebody at the festival.

 

Right after I hung up with her, [inaudible 0:47:00.0] from Excelsior Hotel said, “Mark, do you know there’s a guy up in the presidential suite? He’s rent up this huge bill. He claims he’s one of your reggae X.” I said, “No. We don’t have a reggae X stay in the Excelsior.” All this was happening in the same afternoon.

 

[0:47:21.6] KM: You’re like, “What’s wrong with my karma?”

 

[0:47:23.2] MA: I just sat back and I just started laughing. I said, “Okay, they can’t eat you. They can’t kill you to just –” If you can ride through that, you can ride through anything.

 

[0:47:41.5] KM: Oh, my gosh. Okay, so the bank called your note, the guy’s in the Excelsior with the credit card that he’s charging up the presidential suite and another guy is at May Horn’s buying suits and you’re selling off your real estate to pay your debt, and you’re on the cover of Arkansas Business for loser of the week.

 

[0:48:00.3] MA: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.

 

[0:48:03.4] KM: Wow. You’re laughing. Look at him you all. He’s laughing. Wow.

 

[0:48:07.6] MA: Well, you know, I think the point is you come out the other side of those things.

 

[0:48:11.4] KM: You got to tell us how you came out the other side.

 

[0:48:14.0] MA: Well, I think you just realize the other thing that was super important that you realize after that what’s really important and one, you realize that you can get back up, get back on the horse and just stick with the basis in you in being successful again. The same formula that you used for success before will work again. As I said, just don’t start believing in your BS. Just do your little – your homework a little bit better and cover the downside. I was able to –

 

[0:48:48.6] KM: Do you sell Juanita’s?

 

[0:48:49.8] MA: I did. Not right then. I sold it. We had also had Blue Mesa Grill going, which was –

 

[0:48:54.8] KM: You already had Blue Mesa going?

 

[0:48:55.7] MA: Blue Mesa was going. It was successful in doing well.

 

[0:48:58.6] KM: Did you sell everything to pay off your debt?

 

[0:49:01.2] MA: That was part of the deal. I didn’t really have to do – All that took earlier on.

 

[0:49:09.4] KM: What do you mean? You sold it all earlier?

 

[0:49:12.5] MA: No, no. I decided to sell it. Part of it was to – mainly, it was to move on. I wanted to – I wasn’t really happy with my current state of affairs in terms of my partners and how the business was going. It felt like it was time to go do my own thing. I moved on and that’s when I went and open Loca Luna.

 

[0:49:35.7] KM: Juanita’s moved down to the river market.

 

[0:49:39.4] MA: That was much later. It’s watching your kid that you felt so good about and not end up not doing so good. After I left, I owned Juanita’s for the first 10 years and through all the hay day of the music time and all of that. I hated to see it eventually bite the dust and I thought, there were a lot of bad decisions made along the way. You got to cut the cord, move on and –

 

[0:50:12.2] KM: Well, you got a great business going now.

 

[0:50:13.9] MA: I do. I do.

 

[0:50:14.9] KM: I was with you on when was it? Like maybe midday and you were cooking and I was talking about the flag business and you cooking for your restaurant. You were leaving that day to go and cook for the Kentucky derby.

 

[0:50:30.1] MA: Yes, yes.

 

[0:50:31.7] KM: I don’t think I’ve seen you since then.

 

[0:50:33.9] MA: Wow. Yeah, that was a couple of years ago.

 

[0:50:35.1] KM: I really don’t think I’ve seen –

 

[0:50:36.2] MA: I’ve had so many wonderful experiences outside of Arkansas that people here don’t even know about, that my cooking and restaurant career has let me do. I’ve cooked for presidents and I’ve cooked in Kentucky derby, I’ve cooked in real high-profile food events.

 

[0:50:54.4] KM: I think you were doing a barbecue for the Kentucky derby. What did you do for the Kentucky derby?

 

[0:50:58.0] MA: I’ve done it several times and it’s an event called Taste the Derby, where they pick a chef from each of the – from the state, or a city that host one of the key racing. I represented Oaklawn. The Oaklawn Park is a major player in feeding the horses that qualify for the Kentucky derby. That was my connection. I was to represent Oaklawn –

 

[0:51:29.8] KM: In Hot Springs, Arkansas.

 

[0:51:30.9] MA: In Hot Springs. Oaklawn is Arkansas. We claim it. It’s not just Hot Springs. That’s our baby. That’s Arkansas race track. They had some high-profile chefs from other tracks around the country. We’ve had 3,000, 4,000 –

 

[0:51:53.0] KM: What did you feed them?

 

[0:51:55.0] MA: Different things. The one you’re talking about, I had a pork belly that I served over some –

 

[0:52:04.2] KM: Grit.

 

[0:52:05.0] MA: [Inaudible 0:52:05.3] stone-ground cheese grits with a musket on – spicy musket on glaze. It’s fantastic. It’s a big hit too.

 

[0:52:14.5] KM: Wow. That sounds great. What’s next Mark?

 

[0:52:19.3] MA: I’ve been involved – I’m on the founder’s council. I was one of the original founder’s council group for the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. I’ve been doing that, now we’re going to our 7th year.

 

[0:52:30.9] KM: Atlanta, Georgia?

 

[0:52:32.0] MA: Atlanta, Georgia.

 

[0:52:32.4] KM: What is it again? Say it again.

 

[0:52:33.4] MA: It’s the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. It’s turned into the largest southern themed food and wine festival in the country. It’s huge now. Last year, I took some chefs from Little Rock. I took Craig Ryanson and Matt Bell and then Rob Nelson from Fayetteville and working as the group to go to Atlanta and represent Arkansas in a couple of VIP events. We had all the food press from all over the country was there. We really kicked their butt. I have to tell you, I was so proud of those guys. We did great. We really did good. Right now, I’m not working this hard, but I still love what I’m doing.

 

[0:53:18.7] KM: Not retiring.

 

[0:53:19.7] MA: Now, I love Willie Nelson and I interviewed him about a year or so ago. I saw him on Sunday morning that part and I said, “Will, when are you going to retire?” He said, “Well, I play golf and little music. Why do you want me to stop?”

 

I’m coming and say about I go in, I eat free, I drink free, get to hang out with my friends and I get a check. I still work, but not as hard, because I want to still love it and I want to still – I worked hard to get where I am. I want to enjoy it.

 

[0:53:51.0] KM: Where did the name Loca Luna come from? Is that like a crazy moon? What does Loca Luna mean?

 

[0:53:57.4] MA: It means a crazy moon. Actually, if it was correct, Spanish would be Luna Loca. It means crazy moon, it’s just the literation’s in the work better Loca Luna, then Luna Loca. I don’t know where it came from. It just popped up. I said, “That sounds like a fun name.” I like Red Door.

 

[0:54:17.2] KM: Where did that – Well, that’s biblical isn’t it?

 

[0:54:19.7] MA: Well, no. I mean, I don’t know. I just said, “Well, let’s just call it Red –” part of that had to do is I had this really incredible red door that hangs over the bar now. It was hanging over our mantle in our home over our fireplace and it’s so cool-looking. I think one day I was looking at this, “I’ll just call it restaurant Red Door.” My wife looked at me and I looked over her, she said, “Uh-uh. No way. No way, no way.” I said, “No, we could take that door and we could hang it over the bar.” She said, “Not on your life. It will never happen.” Of course, it’s hanging over the bar. She’s still not too happy about it.

 

[0:54:56.8] KM: Give us one word to sum you up and then we got to go.

 

[0:54:59.7] MA: God. Passionate, I guess.

 

[0:55:01.5] KM: That is absolutely true about you. Yup, look Tim is nodding. I’d say fun-loving.

 

[0:55:07.5] MA: Yeah. Hell, yeah.

 

[0:55:08.9] KM: You laugh.

 

[0:55:09.2] TB: That door has nothing to do if you paint it black?

 

[0:55:12.3] MA: No, not a thing.

 

[0:55:13.5] TB: I see a red door and I wonder, “No, that’s what I thought it was this whole time.”

 

[0:55:15.7] MA: I had never thought about that before. I can’t believe you said that.

 

[0:55:18.3] TB: Start telling people that’s what it is.

 

[0:55:20.2] MA: That’s where it came from.

[0:55:22.2] KM: Thank you, Mark. Look what you’re getting; a desk set with a US and a Arkansas from the flag lady. I bet you don’t have one of those.

 

[0:55:29.9] MA: I don’t. I’m so proud of you, Kerry.

 

[0:55:32.1] KM: You’re so nice.

 

[0:55:32.9] MA: You are a treasure for this city.

 

[0:55:34.8] KM: Well, that is nice. Thank you. Likewise. Very likewise. Yes, and we got you a book too, The Temple of Dreams. It’s all about the building you sold me. We did the history on the building and now you’re going to learn all about it.

 

[0:55:46.2] MA: You were going to tear that building down, my gosh.

 

[0:55:49.0] KM: You’ve done so much for the city.

 

[0:55:50.5] MA: Now we didn’t let them.

 

[0:55:51.6] KM: We did not. It will be – we’re going to put it on our tombstone. It’s our claim to fame. We saved the Taborian Hall.

 

All right, if you’ve got a great entrepreneurial story you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. Send a brief bio and your contact info to –

 

[0:56:05.1] TB: Questions@upyourbusiness.org.

 

[0:56:07.9] KM: Finally, to our listeners thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program has been about you, you’re right. It’s also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you’ve heard or learned something that’s been inspiring or enlightening that it, whatever it is will help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up In Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.

 

[END OF INTERVIEW]

 

[0:56:41.6] TB: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. If you’d like to hear this program again, next week go to flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labeled “Radio Show”, and there you’ll find a podcast with links to resources you heard discussed on today’s show. Kerry’s goal: to help you live the American Dream.

 

[END]

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