After nearly 34 years, The Ark restaurant in Davie will serve its last buffet customer Saturday night.
“The economy went south on us,” says Jimmy Kleinrichert, who owns The Ark with his brother Jerry. “We do a great buffet, but we haven’t had enough business for more than a year now.”
Known for its prime rib and cold seafood buffet, Kleinrichert says competition from the chains got the best of them. “Customers can go to Chili’s and places like that and have two dinners for $20,” he says. “I don’t blame them. I can’t compete. I’ve got to do volume to make money.”
Five years ago, the 300-seat restaurant often served 500 people on weekend nights. Now, it’s closer to 200 people.
“God’s been good to me for 33 years,” says Kleinrichert. “I’m 73 and my brother is 75. We’re tired.”
The Ark employs more than 60 people, many of whom have worked for the Kleinricherts since their 1978 opening. Some are ready to retire, while the brothers are helping others find work.
“It’s just like losing your family," says Kleinrichert. "I lost my son to cancer 30 years ago and that was the hardest thing I ever did in my life. This is the second hardest thing that’s happened to me.”
The Kleinricherts own the building that houses The Ark and have put it up for sale. They hope a much younger buyer brings in another restaurant.
“I should have retired five years ago,” he says “when the economy was going crazy.”