The people of Kodiak cried out Tuesday when they heard that one of their most beloved establishments, Monk’s Rock Coffeehouse and Bookstore, had made the decision to shut its doors for good.
“It will be missed greatly, one of our favorite places,” Mary Beth said on a Friends of Kodiak Facebook post shortly after KDM broke the news on Tuesday. Hers was one of 107 comments posted by 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Similar sentiment was found on the Open Friends of Kodiak Facebook page, where Rebecca Farrar responded to the news this way: “[I’m] not going to lie, I cried when I read this. We love [Monk’s] so much, it’s just a special place.”
After 24 years in business in its prominent downtown location, Monk’s Rock closed not because of COVID or slow sales, according to Manager Herman Hill, but because of the difficulty of finding and retaining the volunteers who prepared and served at the deli.
A large portion of the volunteer staff is leaving Kodiak, and many of them are traveling to the Lower 48 to be with their families, according to Hill. He said they were leaving for reasons not related to COVID.
Hill, who has been with Monk’s Rock off and on for the past seven years, is one of those who will be leaving the island. He plans to go to the East Coast with his wife and kids, he said.
Monk’s Rock was a nonprofit run by the Russian Orthodox Church and staffed by young adults on a religious mission. They came to the island to work at the restaurant and bookstore to learn vocational skills, according to Hill. They also tried to serve the surrounding community.
“At its core, Monk’s Rock made an effort to inspire the town of Kodiak,” Hill said. “You can see that work coming out in a well-made pastry, well-sourced ingredients, (or) just a smile at the check out desk.”
It was through their efforts that Hill believed they were “spreading the gospel of Christ.” This message resonated strongly with at least one person: On the Humans of Kodiak Facebook group’s page, Candice Torrey wrote that it was her family’s introduction to Orthodoxy.
As for the community at large, people openly mourned the loss of the restaurant when they heard the news. On Facebook, people wrote about their love of Monk’s Nutella donuts and fish and chips. They also shared experiences they had at the restaurant.
“[I] went there the morning after my son was born to get breakfast for the new mother,” wrote Jason Waggoner.. “They gave it to me for free. That is how they always were, giving of their time and talents.”
“My daughter and son from Ireland were most blessed with an [impromptu] version of [“Danny Boy”] by the [Monk’s] Rock choir,” DebraJane McDermott posted. “[It was] an unforgettable memory.”
In a statement given to the Kodiak Daily Mirror, the business stated that they enjoyed the relationship they had with their customers.
“Really the sentiment coming from Monk’s Rock is one of heartache,” Hill said. “These young people have really labored with a lot of love for Kodiak and to see such an establishment closing is very hard for us and the community.”