Create Bridges: Small Business - Big Rural Impact

Episode 18: #MeetMeAtMillies

May 20, 2021 Create Bridges AR Season 1 Episode 18
Create Bridges: Small Business - Big Rural Impact
Episode 18: #MeetMeAtMillies
Show Notes Transcript

Recorded in the restaurant dining room just a couple of hours before opening, Hazelle Whited had a chance to sit down and capture a great interview from the co-owners of this cool new restaurant, Millies, located on main street in Cave City just across from City Hall. This hip spot is a gathering for locals but a must stop for tourists and regulars from outside the area. From the formation of owning a restaurant, to the community support leading up to the Grand Opening on Saturday, May 22, Brooke Walling and Sarah Musik share the importance of perseverance, faith, and good support systems through the trials of just getting a restaurant open in a historic building to wondering if COVID-19 will prevent them from ever moving forward on this dream. As the interview comes to a close, Brooke and Sarah share the touching inspiration behind the name and spirit of the restaurant, and why the retail store helps as a fundraiser for Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Welcome to this episode titled #MeetMeAtMillies. 

Millie's
207 South Main Street, Suite A
Cave City, AR 
870-916-2198

https://www.facebook.com/milliesrestaurantfamily/

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Come join us, explore the impact of small business here in rural Arkansas.

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What challenges would you face? Who can help you meet those challenges? How do you get in touch with others like you?

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This is Create Bridges, Arkansas. And we invite you to come cross these bridges with us.

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Thank you for joining us for another episode of Small Business Big rural Impact.

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My name is Hazelle Whited, regional program coordinator for the Ozark foothills,

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which covers Izzard Fulton and Sharpe Counties located in north central Arkansas.

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Recorded in the restaurant dining room just a couple of hours before our opening,

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I get a chance to sit down and capture a great interview from co-owners of this cool new restaurant,

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Milli's, located on Main Street in Cave City, just across from City Hall.

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This hip spot is a gathering for locals, but a must stop for tourists and regulars from outside the area,

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from the formation of owning a restaurant to the community support leading up to the grand opening on Saturday, May 22nd.

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Brook walling and Sarah music share the importance of perseverance,

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faith and good support systems through the trials of just getting a restaurant open in a historic

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building to wondering if covid-19 will prevent them from ever moving forward on this dream.

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As we close the interview, Brooke and Sara share the touching inspiration behind the name and spirit of the restaurant

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and why the retail store helps as a fundraiser for Arkansas Children's Hospital.

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Welcome to this episode titled Hashtag Meet Me at Milli's. Sarah Brooke, thank you for joining me today on this episode.

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Thank you. I know you've both been really busy wrapping up teaching by day,

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being at the school and then getting prepped like today to serve up great food at night and on Saturdays.

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But if you would share with us the inspiration behind starting this endeavor.

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Brooke,

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we were actually sitting at a yard sale one day and started tossing the idea around and talking about how cave that he really needed a restaurant,

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you know, and so we started talking with each other and both of us had come and mentioned the idea of wanting to start a restaurant one day,

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but we just didn't know if that was actually very feasible, you know, with both of us still in education, things like that.

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And so I took a trip and Sarah thought about it.

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And I came back home from my trip and I called Sarah and I said, were you serious about opening a restaurant?

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And she said, Yeah, and that's well I'm game lets start. And so I said, I have just one request if we can.

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I want to open it. And name it Millies, the neat thing about it is my husband and I had actually tossed around the idea as well.

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We had actually drawn up a restaurant menu and everything, just kind of what would we do if we had a restaurant.

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And so when we were talking that day, you know, I was like, you know, Josh,

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which is my husband and her brother, we I said, you know, Josh and I had actually wanted to open a restaurant.

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So we thought was kind of neat that we had both been had talked about it with our spouses and then realized that, you know, we both wanted to do it.

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So and when she said, let's call it Milli's, it was just like, yes, that is what we want to do.

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Thank you, Sarah. Now we're going to get back to the naming of the restaurant in just a little bit.

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But I wanted to talk about the fact that your in-laws, right? Yes. Yes.

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And it was really cool going through the kitchen. The first time we met, you were cracking up, laughing a lot.

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And I heard that from everyone. I've talked to you about you guys.

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So if you would tell our listeners that may be thinking of opening up a business with their family members,

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your experience of working together as business partners? Well, in my opinion, Brooke and I, we talk about everything.

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You know, we took lots of trips together before we ever started this.

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Not only did we take family trips as a family when we decided to be partners,

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we took trips just her and I no distractions to talk about what we wanted, what we expected of a business.

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And, you know, if she's got an idea and I'm not going with it or vice versa, we just kind of talk it out and work it out.

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Yes, we definitely agreed at the very beginning that we weren't making decisions, just seeing, you know, being just by ourselves.

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We would always talk to each other and decide what would be best for our business.

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But it's interesting. I mean, it's fun we get to see our families coming in.

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You know, it's really nice that, you know, the other day I was saying, your husband's out there.

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And somebody said, well, that's your brother. And I said, yeah, but I'm not blaming him right now because, I mean, it's just fine.

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We just like to have fun, especially back in the kitchen.

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And, you know, we're either sing and dancing and while we're cooking and we're just trying to have a good time while we're doing it.

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Now, I want to talk about this building because I love old buildings and listeners.

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If you haven't seen this building yet, you can't miss it as it's located right on the highway,

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as you're either entering or exiting the southern end of town. It's a rock building with a beautiful makeover.

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And if I remember right, Brooke and Sarah, the building was slated for Milli's before covid started.

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And of course, with all the unknowns with covid, I know the renovation of this building and wondering if you ever get to open came to mind,

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how are you able to stick it through and still move forward on opening this restaurant? we were all in.

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Well, we were very fortunate. We actually are not the owners of the actual building.

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The bank in Cave City owns this. And then we sit through them and they were gods.

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And they're in all this because, you know, it took a lot to restore this old building.

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There was several talks before time about knocking it down. And it's been part of Cave citys history here.

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And, you know, when John Beller brought up the building next door, I don't know if it would be big enough or something.

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All we can. And then we just jumped on it. We fell in love with it the first time that we walked in and we knew is exactly what we were looking for.

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However, covid put some really dampened down depression time, you know, and because we had expected to open at Millie's birthday last year,

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then covid here and we couldn't get our windows in, we couldn't get certain materials in.

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And it was just almost like, should we just throw in the towel?

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But like Sarah said, we were already all in we had already bought, you know, most of our equipment and everything.

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So it was just like now there's a reason that we're not open.

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And right now God's got a reason and you know, he's got to answer.

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So we just kept praying and pushing through it. And luckily, the bank did, too.

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And that was the main thing from the very beginning. We started praying before we.

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Ever started talking to anybody about building or location or anything, you know, that God is number one in our lives.

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He's the leader not only of our families, but of our business. And we just started praying.

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We've prayed through every bit of it. And God has led us through every bit of it.

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And I mean, we were still although things were slowed down, we were still assured that,

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you know, everything's still on go, everything's still moving forward. And so we just kept praying.

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And here we are. because this building is nearly 100 years old.

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Tell me what you know about what went into the renovation of this building. This this building was pretty old.

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I mean, we gutted it. They gutted it. We didn't gut it. They gutted it.

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I mean, there wasn't anything existing that could stay. Everything you see here is new other than the concrete floor.

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And the truesses up there to the trusses did stay, this building evidently has had a fire and everything else.

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And a long, long time ago, it's been a movie theater. It's been a general store.

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It's been a furniture store. There's been I love when people come in because they're telling their stories of what they remember,

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it being when they came here as a kid or as a teenager and things like that.

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We've learned a lot of history, you know, about our own town that we've lived in all of our lives, that we didn't know.

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We didn't even because they're coming in this building and people are just blown away with it and they're so happy they can get tore down.

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And I think the biggest issue was there were some other plans, but this is an old rock structure.

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And so any time there was some talks about like some extra doors or some outages out of this building,

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they couldn't knock into the rock because they were afraid of how the building handled that.

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The, you know, the initial punch.

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So there's a few things like that that we had to kind of revamp in our plans with the bank and the architects to kind of change.

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So did you ever think you would not move in? more than once I think yes.

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I think we both did. I think there was certain times that we we had this we had gathered furniture for the tables

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and the chairs and everything like a year or two prior to when we ever got to move it in.

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And I mean, we had every storage building in Cave City, our homes,

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our families full of the furniture and our I think our husbands had finally given up hope that we were never going to get it.

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And we actually had my husband and I had moved in to a house that we remodeled where he had his own shop.

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But he just recently has been able to start getting into his own shop because it was full of all of our stuff,

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all of our furniture for the restaurant. So he's excited now to start doing stuff in his new shop.

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Now, the soft opening happened in February, and you said with limited hours since you both have full time jobs at the school,

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but coming this summer, you're transitioning and this will become your new full time jobs.

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Absolutely. My twenty second is when we'll have our grand opening and we plan to open full time after that.

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So, yes, we'll still be closed on Sundays because that's our day of church and family.

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And then Monday we're actually going to take that day off from now on because we have inventory and

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then to get ready for the week and just to let our servers and people have some downtime still,

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too. But we will be open after may twenty second Tuesday through Thursday from six a.m. in the morning until eight thirty at night.

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And then on Friday and Saturdays we will open from 6:00 am until 9:00 at night and we won't be closing like we have been there in the Saturday shift.

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We're just going to stay open all day long.

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And earlier we were talking about regular customers and they're not just cave city local residents, but from neighboring towns as well.

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What do you think contributed to the reach you are already having into the surrounding areas?

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Facebook. Word of mouth. We done a lot before we ever opened.

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We've done a lot of Facebook posting. We don't give away monthly giveaways just to keep people interested in us.

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But, you know, we have so much of a want to give back to the community anyways.

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And so we done different like i said  different giveaways to get people interested in what was come in and build up their excitement, too.

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And I love the unique things you do,

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like the butcher paper roll that you used to advertise your specials that was actually made by the Cavde city school Agri Department.

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We had them. We're trying to use as many locals as we can and talk to local businesses.

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But when this we mentioned to the school, because they've been doing some projects like that for other people and we said,

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you know, this is kind of what we're looking for. Can you make this an idea?

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That is what I really enjoyed talking about, that everyone gets involved and that even as outsiders,

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we feel like we are part of this area and community as well. Well, that's what's happened here lately.

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It seems we have lots of traffic from Batesville. And at first we didn't know these customers, you know, that were coming in,

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but they had become regulars and they travel here at least once or twice a week to eat with us.

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And, you know, and this one boy comes in every time and he's got his Milli's hat on and he's so happy.

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And, you know, I just recommend it to friends and we're getting more and more traffic.

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Yeah, and it's such an incredible story,

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I'm looking at the front of the store and it reminds me that the retail store is used as a fundraiser for Arkansas Children's Hospital.

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So it is look to the grand opening this Saturday.

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We'd like to know more about how the restaurant got its name and the wonderful girl that it's named after her mama.

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All right. Well, my daughter Millie, this is Brooke.

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She would turn seven May 22nd. And the reason we named this place Milli's is my we lost our daughter when she was almost three.

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She was just two. And I think like 11 months.

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But anyway, it's just short of her third birthday.

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And it was all of a sudden it really caused a lot of pain and problems with our family, you know, just to have to go through that mourning period.

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And we always wanted to do something, you know, to bring her memory alive because I didn't want her to pass away.

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And then her memory passed away with her. I wanted that to stay, you know, something that people always remembered, Millie.

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And so and the past, I've always tried to do some kind of fund raisers for either children's or something that we could give back,

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as you know, with her memory.

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But then we decided that it would be perfect to name the restaurant after her and be more of like a give back help people in need.

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Maybe people would go into the hospital, might be people having to deal with what we did delt with, heaven forbid.

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But we just really want to make it special.

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And I hoped that her memory and her spirit, because she was so fun loving and just happy and, you know, she loved just being being around people.

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And I just was hoping that that would wrap into the restaurant.

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And again, that's the intent of the front retail space, that the sales are used to fundraise for Arkansas Children's Hospital.

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And that absolutely honors her name. Now, if I remember right, one of my least favorite dishes gets served here is shrimp, really love shrimp.

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And I think that was to a reason kind of behind this when the restaurant got brought back up again to is when Millie passed away.

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Of course, you know, for that first year, I didn't feel like doing anything. I mean, I just kind of wanted to stay away from everything.

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But I thank God, helped me vent and handle things through cooking and cooking became my love and my get out depression mode.

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And when I started doing that type of stuff, you know, I just I felt that's what, you know, what I was supposed to be doing.

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So and yeah. And lots of people I have had little Facebook comments or text messages at the end of the night saying that we came to Melyssa,

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not we could just feel her presence. The spirit in this place is amazing.

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Well, you know, we've always said Millie ah, I'm sorry, Brooke has two biological children.

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And the first one was her first since she tried really hard for and she was a mama's girl.

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And so she was really clingy, state to mama and everything.

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And with Millie, she just wasn't she just like Brooke said, she was so fun loving.

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And I never really felt that with my own niece for my sister, because they lived so far away.

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And so, you know, my husband, she oh, she loved her Uncle Josh.

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And, you know, I did some of this. Yeah.

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You're going to have no, you're fine. You're fine. But it does. It does.

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That's translates in this business, which you guys have translated.

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But I wanted to say, going back to the shrimp, we went out to eat as a family, one not and the whole family peeling shrimp for that baby.

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No longer fun. Nobody can pull it fast enough.

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Not at all. We put shrimp on the menu and we had these expectations of what would be our biggest seller.

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Shrimp never really came up as the biggest seller. We just knew we wanted to sell it because that was millies favorite.

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And our first two nights, I think our biggest seller was the best thing to do, you know.

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So is that a regular on the menu?

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Is that a special note that regular and it's the only one on our nine hour menu that has a name by and it says Millie's favorite on there.

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So and she would eat it, grilled, fried, boiled, whatever you wanted to do, she would eat it.

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She would make herself second shrimp. So. Well, her spirit is definitely through here from the people I've talked to,

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comments on Facebook, your love and passion of Millie translate into your food.

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The customers and business owners can also feel.

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So I wanted to ask you if you were asked to talk to people thinking about starting their business, Sara, what would you tell them?

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Oh, perseverance and patience. That was a lot.

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We that was something that even if you feel like you have it, there's a lot that goes into it.

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And there's times that we are tired and there's times that we're both in the kitchen together.

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And it's so funny that it comes at different times, like my downtime is her encouraging time and vice versa.

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You know, her downtime. I'm like, OK, Brooke, we can do this, we can do this, let's make it through.

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And because, you know, right now, of course, with working two different jobs, we're tired when we get here.

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But we both love people and love serving people.

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You know, Brooke has Brooke loves to serve people and entertain for people.

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And I just I think that that is something that keeps pushing us through.

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So remember why you done it, why you started it.

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Because, see, when you walk out the kitchen, you know, if you think everything's crazy in the kitchen,

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you walk out the kitchen and you see how happy people are. It just makes it worth it Brooke.

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Oh, me, I guess.

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Lots of prayer. I would say pray, pray and pray some more.

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But I think that you I would say remember to try to find the joy even in the bad, because,

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you know, that's what I've told our waitresses and waiters and things like that.

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But, you know, not every day is glorious. Not every day is easy.

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There's lots of days, you know, that still yet that I don't want to pull myself out of bed.

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But, you know, I make myself and I heard something one time that said, you know, happiness is just temporary, but joy is forever.

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And so if you could just find the joy and try to, you know, just keep on pushing through.

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And like I said, lots of prayer. I think the other key is to have good partners,

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a good support system and really lean into your community because they are going to be here when no one else is.

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And lots of people don't see that behind, you know,

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people at behind the scenes and even our families that come in and, you know, save us in those crunch time.

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So, yes, that support system is definitely needed. Wonderful.

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Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, both of you, for taking the time out of prep as you get ready for tonight's service.

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I'm really excited and not at all surprised to the community behind you and for our listeners,

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the official grand opening is this Saturday, May 22nd, on Mille's birthday.

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Come by then or when you're passing through the southern edge of Cave City and the beautiful rock building, called you over for a bite to eat.

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And as always, we will see you in two weeks for another episode of Small Business Big Rural Impact Brooke.

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Sarah, thank you again so much.

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For more information about this or any Create Bridges podcast or more about Create bridges in Arkansas, visit Uaex.uada.edu

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\createbridges, the create bridges.

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Small Business Big Rural Impact podcast is made possible by Wal-Mart Grant to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture,

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Cooperative Extension, Community Professional and Economic Development Unit and White River Now Productions.