Posted on Mar 18, 2019
Our thanks to Robert St. John for providing our program last week.
Robert is pictured here with Past President, Paula Brahan.
Click the "Read More" button to view your minutes from last week's meeting.
President-Elect Mark Killingsworth presided over the meeting. Mark gave today’s invocation. Mallory Donald led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Thanks to Mark Killingsworth and Cole Gressett who served as our greeters today.
Brandon Hodges thanked those who helped with today’s meeting. There were no guests today, but we did have two visiting Rotarians. Keith and Carolyn Horne from the Ellisville club visited today.
Paula Brahan noted that the club had to cancel last year’s planned potluck dinner and that she would like to try to hold the event again soon. She asked that Rotarians begin looking at their calendars now that spring is not too far away, so we can pick a date.
Paula then introduced today’s guest speaker, Robert St. John. St. John has been in the Hattiesburg restaurant business for almost four decades. He currently owns and operates the Purple Parrot, Crescent City Grill, Mahogany Bar, the Branch, Tabella’s, Ed’s Burger Joint, the Midtowner and the Midtown Donut.
Robert began his presentation by saying that he wanted to either focus more on his failures than his successes stating that all failures, in some form or fashion, turn out to be a blessing or teach us a lesson.
St. John attended Mississippi State University and majored in Communications. After two years he noted that MSU decided they did not need his “services” any longer. He returned to Hattiesburg humiliated. Having to do something to generate income he took a job at a newly opened delicatessen in Hattiesburg. In 1981 he was hired as the delicatessen’s manager. During his first shift he realized that food service was his passion. A failure, which turned into a blessing.
He visited with then USM President Dr. Aubrey Lucas and asked to enroll at Southern Miss. Dr. Lucas told him that he could not attend USM with the grades he had earned, or failed to earn, at MSU. He encouraged him to attend Jones Junior College and, if he succeeded there, he would admit him to USM. He was successful at Jones, enrolled at USM and graduated with a 4.0. A failure that turned into a blessing.
On May 25, 1983, St. John was charged with DUI. Because of that, he stopped drinking—a failure that taught him a lesson.
On December 27, 1987, he and his business partner opened their first restaurant, the Purple Parrot. They had planned on a soft opening but because restaurant choices were so limited in the Hattiesburg area at the time, they opened with a packed house. Unfortunately, the Florida chef they had hired was drunk. St. John fired the chef, and never having cooked before in his life he was forced to make the Purple Parrott kitchen work. There he discovered his love of cooking. A failure that turned into both a blessing and a lesson.
To be successful in any business, St. John says you must have passion. Don’t worry about the money but follow your passion. He says success always follows passion. In the twenty-nine years he has been in the restaurant business, he says he has never gotten up in the morning and thought that he did not want to go to work.
Additionally, he says you must always be open to opportunities. After turning the Hattiesburg American down six times, he finally agreed to write a weekly column for the paper. His column now appears in 30-plus newspapers. Former Rotarian Frances Carnes, a loyal Purple Parrot customer, suggested that he put a recipe book together on several occasions. He finally did write the book along with artist Wyatt Waters. He self-published the book and sold the first 10,000 copies in three weeks. He has since authored ten more books. He recently began a television project with Mississippi Public Broadcasting, again taking advantage of opportunities that come his way. “Taking advantage of your opportunities and following your passion will always lead to your success,” says Robert St. John.
Mark thanked our speaker and then adjourned the meeting with our motto, “Service Above Self.”