AMHERST — Local businessman Ed Mullinax sits in a booth at the Dragon Ranch, cigar in hand, admiring the fruits of his labor — a restaurant lined with trophies and photographs with the car dealer and notable sports figures.
With a new menu and staff, this time the restaurant should be successful, he said. Mullinax, who built Ed Mullinax Ford from the ground up, won’t accept failure.
“I wasn’t going to open until I was satisfied,” he said.
In 2011, the restaurant and bar at the Dragon Ranch Golf Course, 9488 state Route 58, Amherst Township, closed its doors abruptly, letting go of 15 employees who worked there. Mullinax said the move was a business decision. The restaurant opened in 2007.
“I wasn’t happy with the food,” he said. “It’s just like a football team. You have to take time and rebuild.”
During the rebuilding process, the golf course remained open. More recently, the Dragon Ranch Restaurant has been serving breakfast and lunch.
On Friday, the crew will introduce its new dinner menu with a grand re-opening.
The menu features some of Mullinax’s favorite foods — pan-fried fish and catfish. The prices are affordable, he said, reading over the menu.
Featured on the menu are “His and Hers” surf and turf for $24, spaghetti carbonara for $11 and scallops at $13.
Restaurant manager Brandon Valley said the idea was to keep the menu basic.
“We’re doing more of what people around the area would like,” he said.
Mullinax hasn’t known Valley, who moved to the area from Independence, long, but he said he had a strong resume, experience in the Armed Forces and in the restaurant business, and most importantly, a strong business sense.
Mullinax has modeled his life off of his business — a business he successfully expanded from its humble beginnings as a small dealership in Amherst. In the end, the restaurant business isn’t that different from selling cars, he said.
Mullinax read an excerpt from a book his son made for him about his life. Ironically, Mullinax’s philosophy combined the two.
“I feel that running a car dealership is like running a great restaurant,” he read. “Our customers grade us the same way. If we accomplish these goals, they will come back.”
He said it is important for any restaurant — or car business — to have a good inside and outside atmosphere, hostess and service. Advertising is also key.
“If you have something good, you got to tell somebody,” he said. “Who probably does the best job is Cracker Barrel, because you can see those big signs halfway up the highway.”
Mullinax said another philosophy of his is to “work hard, play hard.” He’s tried to surround himself with fun people, and that, he said, is what makes a workplace enjoyable.
“This is a hard business, and I’ve lost money every year I’ve been here,” he said. “But we’ve cut it down to the happy people … I need to make this fun.”
The Dragon Ranch restaurant will begin serving dinner at 4 p.m. Friday. Mullinax said the restaurant will remain open as long as it does well.
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