During a break for an interview in his otherwise-packed schedule, Jimmy Molina ’14, ’16 MBA ’19 MSL plugged The Local Room, a gastropub that opened this past October in Locust, N.C.
As one of the establishment’s three owners, he spoke with enthusiasm about its cuisine. Offering Stanly County diners a changing, eclectic array of high-end dishes, The Local Room’s menu has recently included such mouth-watering items as pancetta chicken, fire-roasted salmon and bacon-and-barbeque scallops. Also on offer has been “Chef’s Grilled Cheese Panini.”
“Before The Local Room came along, people here were saying, ‘If we want to eat something really special at a restaurant, we can just go to Charlotte,’” said Molina, who began attending Pfeiffer University in 2011.
“They don’t have to do that anymore. We’re trailblazers.”
Molina the restaurateur is very hands-on, even as he keeps up with his day job as a VP Commercial Lending Officer at Community First Bank - SC. He helped oversee the construction of the restaurant from the ground up. He has had a hand in everything from hiring staff to erecting heaters that enable outdoor dining in an enclosed patio year-round. He feels confident that he can make it during the pandemic, having enabled social distancing among diners by restricting patronage to 140 people, as opposed to a full capacity of 284.
At this point, it’s safe to say that Molina has gotten ahead for two reasons. First, he works very hard – he calls four or five hours of sleep “a solid night” of rest. Second, and more importantly, he works smart, having often drawn on the comprehensive education he received at Pfeiffer.
After attending the university as an undergraduate on a tennis scholarship, he graduated magna cum laude from the 3-2 program, earning a Bachelor of Science in business administration and an MBA in 2016. He later earned a Master of Science in Leadership from Pfeiffer, in 2019.
Molina gravitated to banking first. During Pfeiffer’s recent School of Business Spring Symposium 5.0, in February, Molina mentioned actions he took along the way to establish himself professionally. The first was networking: “Open up. Have good conversations with people. That’s how you learn.”
He also figured out how to always continue adding value, beginning as a part-time teller during graduate school and eventually transitioning into a management training program. His guiding mantra became: “I’m here to learn from you and guide you. Teamwork makes the dream work.”
He helped out, even if what he did wasn’t in his job description. That helped show him the parts of banking he liked best and where he could add the most value.
When Molina talks about what he can do to ensure the long-term success of The Local Room, it’s clear that his strategy reflects his recent MBA and MSL training. Two of his most important priorities are controlling costs and retaining a good team of employees. Both are crucial, as in the restaurant industry, profit margins are thin, and turnover is rampant.
To understand how Molina is controlling food costs, consider the fate of the sweet potatoes he recently purchased. “We use the sweet potato for our sweet potato cheesecake and for our sweet potato French fries,” he said. “So, instead of buying a bunch of inventory, we’re able to cross-utilize a lot of things. That helps tremendously to keep up with food costs.”
In addition, “we’re not married to any type of cuisine,” he said. “If something’s too expensive, we don’t have to use it.”
Retaining a good team of employees “comes down to the owners showing your team that you care about them,” Molina said. “It means being a servant leader, showing these guys that you don’t have any problem helping out by cleaning a table or squeezing lemons.”
The bottom line: “We’re going to be spending a lot of time together. We better have fun with it.”
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.