is one of the best restaurants in St. Louis. Everyone knows that, and we all assumed it would be around forever, eagerly waiting to impress our out-of-town family and friends with its cutting-edge menu and locally-sourced ingredients.
Times have changed for the Monarch crew, however, and owners Jeff Orbin and Aaron Teitelbaum have found they can no longer keep up the enormous building, and subsequent costs, at 7401 Manchester Road.
Current economic circumstances are keeping St. Louis diners closer to home and lower-priced restaurants, the owners said, and there's not much they can do about it. They will close the restaurant's doors on March 11.
In a recent press release, Orbin and Teitelbaum stated:
"We couldn't be more proud of the Monarch team for countless hours and continued commitment in building such an impressive brand, not to mention the numerous accolades and awards that we have been honored to receive both locally as well as nationally...This has been one of the hardest business decisions for us to make."
To open a restaurant in a 10,000 square foot building might in hind sight seem ambitious, but with Executive Chef Josh Galliano at the kitchen helm for the past three and a half years, staff members were beginning to make good use of the space.
Last year Galliano and his Sous Chef, Ricky Lewis, broke ground on what they hoped would eventually become a community garden for the restaurant and Maplewood residents, and had no plans of stopping before last week.
"I was in the middle of picking out all the seeds for this year's garden," Galliano said, when he heard the news along with everyone else that he would soon be out of a job. "Yesterday I had to spend all day moving out my personal belongings."
Though Galliano said the news wasn't a huge shock, it is surprising that it's happening so soon - especially since the superstar chef was recently nominated and chosen as a for "Top Midwest Chef". Still, Galliano is taking the change in stride.
"There are definitely more plans I would have liked to see come to fruition, but there's no point in dwelling on that," said Galliano, who is thankful for opportunities he had at Monarch, such as coordinating a dinner for Slow Food St. Louis' Feast in the Field and playing host to famed New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton.
"There is no greater honor than having a fellow chef come and enjoy what you create," Galliano said. The chef will still be eligible for the James Beard Award even if he is "homeless" for a few months.
While Orbin and Teitelbaum have been searching for a smaller location to 'potentially move the existing brand' and launch a new concept in the fall of 2012, Galliano too is gearing up to open his own restaurant.
"Nothing is set in stone yet, and I am trying to be judicious and smart about it," said Galliano, who has several business plan and location ideas at the moment. "Wherever it is, and whatever the concept will be, it will have to be what's right for that community, my family and anyone else who might be involved."
Local historian and co-author of the book Doug Houser said Bobby's helped paved the way for Monarch by playing part to a revitalization of downtown Maplewood.
"The owner, Bob Suberi, was a risk-taker before there was anything there," Houser said. "He set up Monarch for some success, but Monarch proved to be risk-takers as well, and good, supportive business partners in the community."
Galliano said he couldn't be more proud to have worked and thrived in Maplewood.
"I previously worked downtown, and there was no sense of community at the time," Galliano said. "There wasn't a supportive network of people and restaurants helping each other. Folks at Schlafly have helped a lot, and community members like Rachelle L'Ecuyer have been there for me from the beginning."
L'Ecuyer, Director of Community Development in Maplewood, feels positive about the location's future, thanks in part to the existence of Monarch. In a recent statement for Patch she said:
Monarch is one of the reasons I came to work in Maplewood. Nine years ago, when they first opened, a friend of mine was dating one of the owners and it became a hangout of sorts for us.
I had already been going to the Schlafly Bottleworks but because of Monarch, I began to look at Maplewood more closely and realized what a gem of a place the downtown area is. When I saw the job listing for Community Development Director I dropped everything and rushed my resume to Maplewood City Hall.
Monarch broke ground for other restaurants coming to Maplewood which was very positive for our downtown development, but Maplewood is truly a community and in a community everybody plays a role. We have an amazing business community in downtown Maplewood and a lot of momentum because of that community.
Who will be next to fill that big building, a prime location and anchor in Maplewood? We will have to wait and see.
"I wouldn't doubt if it would be another restaurant," Houser said. "I hope we can get another one that will be around for a long time to come."