New Castle News

Columns

August 23, 2012

Lawrence Corvi: Clark family showing way forward in downtown New Castle

NEW CASTLE — As New Castle works to revitalize its downtown business district, the Carl Clark Family is showing the way forward.

Carl Clark, in his mid-60’s, leads the family enterprises. The Clarks own three businesses, “just off” downtown New Castle on East Washington Street; just to the east of the Washington Street bridge over the Neshannock Creek.

The Clarks own Clark Photography, Clark Furniture and Four Brothers Urban Bistro restaurant. Carl Clark, opened the photography business in 1977. Clark Photography produces yearbooks for schools as well as handling wedding photography, graduation and just about any other type photography work.

Clark Furniture opened later and is overseen by Carl’s wife, Bev.

But in my opinion the “crown jewel” of the three businesses is Four Brothers Urban Bistro, a restaurant that opened in January 2010. Here’s why I believe Four Brothers is so special:

First, the restaurant business is one of the toughest. Profit margins can be thin. So, to keep profits healthy, the Clarks share in running the restaurant.  Besides Carl, his four sons, Bryan, Mike, Kevin and Sean, are involved, not needing to pay outside management. Also, restaurants excel where owners show up and know what’s going on.

Second, everyone thinks because they can cook well, they can open a good restaurant and just serve food they know how to prepare.  Well, the Clarks, led by Carl, say they are not about cooking, but about eating. The Clarks like to experience unique and different menu options by visiting various restaurants in different cities.

Carl says while away on a recent business trip in Indianapolis he photographed entrees he liked at restaurants there with his cell phone to show his chefs.  

And speaking of chefs, the Clarks employ four chefs with culinary art skills needed to remain distinct in today’s restaurant business. The chefs are creative and each brings their own unique flair to create delicious entrees of various ethnic backgrounds.

Third, the Clarks opened their restaurant in downtown New Castle, as many businesses continued to leave and move north to Wilmington Road. How is Four Brothers surviving in downtown? In addition to keeping a close tab on expenses and hiring good chefs to prepare food, the Clarks stay customer focused.  

The Clarks constantly seek input from their customers about quality of food and service. They take that information and make changes in food quality or service if needed.  

The wait staff is expected to know the food and beverage menu before starting work or else they are sent home.  Not a very large business, the Clarks hold monthly meetings of the Four Brothers staff, seeking input and looking for ways to improve.  

The Clarks eat at Four Brothers and critique the food and service. The Clarks empower their staff to make things right for the customer should service go awry.  

And they pay attention to detail, details, details, the small things that make a big difference. Carl asked me if I noticed the shine in Four Brothers glasses. I took a second to look and commented, yes, they always look so shiny I just took it for granted. Carl said the rule is “if it touches the mouth it goes through the dishwasher twice, automatically, no hesitations.” Wow!

These are great ways to succeed in business in downtown New Castle or just about anywhere else.

(Lawrence Corvi is publish of the New Castle News.)

 

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