Steve Mars, manger of J. Milton’s, addressed over 40 employees Tuesday morning to announce the decision to close. The closing will affect a total of 60 employees.
The owners cite the reason for the closing as the poor economy. Management stated that it has been a financial strain to remain in operation for some time but the past 12 months have been devastating.
“With the decline in the coal industry and the dramatic increase in the cost of gasoline coupled with the toughest economic climate witnessed in decades, all of the local businesses have suffered, especially those who depend solely on discretionary dollars,” said Mars. “People simply do not eat out if they can’t afford it and when they do, they only eat where and what they can afford, resulting in the higher priced restaurants suffering the most.”
Mars said that management tried a limited remodel that had no effect.
“They (people) can’t afford to eat, and when they do, they’re going to eat an Arby’s roast beef sandwich for $1.89 rather than a $5 burger at J. Milton’s.”
Mars stated that the bottom line is that the customer base in the Tri-State area has not grown over the years, but the number of eating establishments has significantly increased in the past 10 years.
This results in the customer base being divided into smaller shares amongst the different restaurants, according to Mars. Plus, there will be an addition to the restaurant count around June 2012 when Cracker Barrel is estimated to be completed.
“The customer base is simply not here to support all the establishments adequately and J. Milton’s would be the first to feel the impact of the new establishment (Cracker Barrel); therefore leaving management with only one option, which is to close,” said Mars.
The reason why it was decided to close the restaurant in January was primarily because January and February are typically J. Milton’s worst months for business.
“People have spent all of their money Christmas shopping and they are not traveling,” said Mars about the decision to close in January.
What the future holds for the property is still in question. The owners have had several inquiries but nothing is currently planned.
The restaurant served the community for over 20 years. The store was originally owned by the Ausmus family under the “Prime Sirloin” franchise banner. The name was eventually changed to J. Milton’s, named after Judy Ausmus’ father.
After running into financial trouble, the Ausmus family sold the property the Mars family who ultimately decided to maintain the J. Milton’s name. The Mars family has ran the restaurant for 12 years.
“The management sincerely appreciates the dedication of the employees and the patronage of all the loyal customers who have supported the restaurant in the past,” said Mars.
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. Contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.