The first place I ate at when I stepped foot on this beautiful island was Monk’s Rock Coffeehouse and Bookstore.
It was love at first bite.
From its luscious pastries and hearty breakfast burritos to the high-quality proteins on its sandwiches and its classic borscht soup, I never ordered something that I wouldn’t recommend to a friend or order again for myself.
But, as those of you who had the opportunity to sit and savor the experience at Monk’s know, a meal at our island’s most iconic restaurant involved so much more than the food. It truly was a microcosm of everything good that Kodiak has to offer.
My wife and I would be greeted with a smile when we made our way to the counter to place our orders. We would sit at tables with brightly colored tablecloths surrounded by ornate wall hangings.
We sat there on our first day in Kodiak and held hands while we talked about our future — our new adventure. Both times we’ve had family visit a stop at Monk’s has always been on the to-do list.
On yet another visit, my wife and I ordered Monk’s new beef sandwiches. When our counter helper rang up our sale I discovered she only had charged us for one of the sandwiches.
When I told her about it, she said: “Please pay it forward.”
Monk’s was the first time we encountered the enticing kindness of Kodiak residents. It was wholesome. It was beautiful. The people were amazing. It was everything we have come to love about Kodiak.
And now it is gone.
When Father Francis called me late Tuesday morning to share the news that Monk’s Rock would be closing, the intensity of my emotional response surprised me. How could I feel this strongly about a business in a place where I’ve only lived for a little more than a year?
Two days later I still can’t give myself an entirely satisfactory answer. So there’s no way I can explain it to you. But it was real.
And I know by reading the dozens of comments on Facebook that many of you are feeling some sort of the same way.
Part of my emotional response has to do with Father Francis. He and I have not yet had the chance to meet, but he picked up the phone on his sad day because he wanted to let people know the news. Even if it was bad news.
Others might have hung a sign. But not Father Francis. Not Monk’s Rock. With a kind and gentle voice, he told me that finding and keeping the store’s volunteer staff had become too difficult.
Monk’s Rock, as you may know, was a nonprofit run by the Russian Orthodox Church and staffed by young people on a religious mission. They came to the island to learn vocational skills. In the process, their warm hospitality would end up having a profound effect on the hearts of many people who walked into the store long after their meal was gone. Monk’s Rock had been sharing kindness and other delicacies with Kodiak residents and visitors alike for 24 years.
I don’t have any idea what will ever be able to take its spot. Monk’s Rock was therapy for those who might, on occasion, forget that there are still good things in the world.
Now what am I supposed to do?
Kevin Bumgarner is publisher of the Kodiak Daily Mirror print edition and kodiakdailymirror.com. He and his wife, Melanie, have three grown kids and a beagle named Sadie. He can be reached at email@example.com.