From a snack shack to compliment the installation’s swimming complex, to a full-size concession kitchen serving lunch Monday through Thursday, Pine Bluff Arsenal’s Cool Breezes has come a long way from its humble beginnings.
“Cool Breezes opened in 2010. This was when they expanded the pool area. The menu was simple and the building was much smaller,” said Billy Ray Ashcraft, Recreation Services chief with the Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
Cool Breezes, when it opened, had one ledge in a space the size of a little trailer, said Stephen Kelly, a recreation aid with MWR. “We had two little mini fryers and one area with a little heat lamp, and a heavy duty microwave to cook hamburgers in,” he said. “The main focus then was selling to the kids and others who came to the pool during the summers.”
When the splash pad was built around 2011, the Cool Breezes building was renovated and expanded. The menu has evolved over the years. At one point, a summer/winter menu was in place with soups and ice cream. Breakfast was even served at one point. Two staples that have always been on the menu are burgers and salads.
In 2020, like most MWR programs on PBA, COVID shut everything down. When MWR was able to reopen Cool Breezes, Kelley became the cook. “It was the process of elimination,” he said, laughing. “I drew the shortest straw.”
Cassie Scholes moved from PBA’s Child and Youth Services over to Recreation Services in April 2021, and began working the ordering window for Cool Breezes. “People will ask who is cooking on a daily basis,” she said. “When Stephen started cooking, people really started ordering all the time, and really liked the food. He has thrived in the position and is doing amazing.”
Now with the addition of Brent Webber, an operations clerk with Recreation Services, the customer service and menu at Cool Breezes has changed even further—and has brought a lot of success to the lunch spot. Webber joined the team in January.
Every morning Webber sends out a post-wide email with the special for the day. These have been everything from a plate lunch to a sandwich or special burger with choice of fries and drink for a price comparable to food offered outside the gate.
“Brent brings a wealth of cooking experience. Having him and Stephen both in there has been great. Stephen is thriving and Brent just adds onto that,” said Ashcraft.
On the day of the interview with the Cool Breezes team, Ashcraft said they had approximately 60 customers in an hour and a half span. “No one really had to wait because they got it going on,” he said. “Most call in their orders but we still get a lot of window orders. The daily specials have been a big hit.”
Ashcraft said the method of payment with a new credit card machine has also made a big difference. “It is faster than our old one. This had been a problem in the past,” he said.
The addition of new ingredients has been a game changer for the lunch spot. “We brought in real bacon for bacon cheeseburgers. We took a leap of faith and it has paid off,” said Webber. “Any leftovers we have get chopped up and added to the salads.”
Other items that have been a hit are the hot ham and cheese sandwiches, Philly cheese steak sandwiches, burgers, wraps and grilled cheese. “Real butter is the key to the grilled cheese,” said Kelley.
Having someone to take the time and research the product has made all the difference, said Ashcraft. “Brent has taken on this task and he is great! He finds the best product at the best price and this has made a huge difference,” he said. “The team also has fun while there are working and it shows.”
Another member of the team is “the salad maker” Branson Lockhart. “Scholes said he tries to make them the prettiest salads anyone has ever seen. “He about had a heart attacks one time when I bumped one and knocked some of the items loose,” she said laughing. “We all support each other and the business is showing this. The willingness everyone has to take suggestions and run with them is just awesome.”
“Branson takes his time and does it right,” said Ashcraft. “The entire team is dedicated to doing their best – giving the best customer service – and it definitely shows in the final product as well as the support from the Workforce.”
MWR Director Missy Brodnax said she is very proud of the Cool Breezes team.
“It started as a small concession area and just expanded. During the winter months we normally see lower usage, however, the consistency, quality product and excellent customer service has seen sales double this season,” she said. “We have also added weather curtains to protect our customers from cold, wind and rain. Future projects include an upgrade of the HVAC system as preparation for another Cool Breezes expansion. We thank everyone for their support!”
|PINE BLUFF, AR, US |
This work, Arsenal’s Cool Breezes continues to grow, expand menu, by Rachel Selby, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.
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