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One Monticello Life: Chris Ray

December 20th, 2010 by

Since 1964, the name “Ray” has been well known throughout Monticello and surrounding areas. It all began when C.L. Ray started “Ray’s” restaurant 46 years ago, and the family tradition has carried on since.

C.L. Ray’s grandson, Chris Ray was born February 24, 1974 to Mark and Laurie Ray. Chris grew up here in Monticello, and described it as “a great place to live, and a wonderful place to raise a family.”

Chris attended Monticello schools where he had a lot of friends and loved sports, especially baseball. He was a good student in high school, making A’s and B’s, and he began working when he took a job at “Baseball Cards, Etc.” when he was 15. Being a teen in small town Monticello didn’t bother Chris.

“There was never a lot happening, but it wasn’t too far from anything.”

After graduating from Monticello High School in 1992, Chris went to Hendrix College. He laughed and said, “I did a short stint there, but that didn’t work out. So I came back to Monticello and started at UAM. I started working at Ray’s in 1993 for my dad. I never thought I’d work in the restaurant business.”

While working his way through college, Chris met a young woman named Wendy Huskey. She also worked at Ray’s, and they became good friends. A couple of years later, the two began dating. Chris recalled that it was January 1, 1994 when they went on their first date, and they were married four years later on July 25, 1998.

Wendy Ray is a registered nurse and works at Drew Memorial Home Health and also at The Centers for Youth and Families. Chris said that Wendy has a huge heart and while many people would find this type of work draining, for her, it’s a way she loves to give back to others.

Though a career in the restaurant industry had never appealed to Chris during his youth, as he began watching his father’s success with “Ray’s”, he began seriously considering the possibility of entering the family business.

“In 1996 I started taking over daily operations for my dad, and in 2001 I became co-owner with him. We’re still partners to this day. I run stuff by him and I ask for his advise. I am so grateful for the opportunity he gave me, and am very appreciative of our loyal customers.”

With so much tough competition, MLive asked Chris why he thought Ray’s continued to do so well, even when other businesses are going under.

“What we do is a little different. We’re not the cheapest and fastest, but we’re not expensive and fancy either. Our variety is bigger than most places, as well. If you want a great burger and fries you can get it, and if your dad wants fried fish, he can get that. We really go out of our way to offer as much as we can. The catering is really popular, too. Especially the BBQ and catfish.”

Their hard work was formally appreciated when they became the Chamber of Commerce’s 2008 Business of the Year.

Being co-owner of a restaurant comes with many stresses and challenges, especially the schedule.

“The schedule is tough. You have to work weekends, Sundays, and some holidays. Thankfully we’ve been really blessed with our crew. If I need to take off I know I can, and they’ll keep things running smoothly without me there. You really need that type of support if you’re going to make it in this industry.”

Mr. Ray mentioned several employees by name, such as Reathel Wall and Pearl Jones. “They have worked with my family for decades and they do a great job.”

Also, Amy Forrest, Dana Hughes, Donna Prickett, and Reggie Jones. “They have been with me a long time and do a good job making sure things flow smoothly when I’m not there. Finding dependable labor is very tough. So we appreciate it when we get it.”

When not running one of the most recognizable businesses in Southeast Arkansas, Chris uses almost all of his time off to spend with his family. He and Wendy have two sons, Carson, age 7, and Cameron, age 5. His passion for sports has definitely been shared by his boys, and Chris loves coaching their teams.

“I really love coaching baseball, and this year I helped coach Carson’s flag football team. The kids can really have a lot of fun with sports, and the kids I’ve coached in past years still come up to me and call me coach.”

“I recently took Carson to the World Series game in Dallas, and we’re going to the Sugar Bowl. It’s really neat to share that love of sports with him.”

Chris looks back on how his parents raised him and how it impacts the way he parents his children.

“My parents were model parents. I’m really lucky that they were so great. It’s hard to measure up to how great they were, but I’m definitely trying.”

With the Ray’s dedication to raising a good family, feeding all of our families day after day, and keeping the legacy of “Ray’s” alive and well, it is MonticelloLive’s honor to recognize Chris Ray as this week’s One Monticello Life.

FAVORTIES

TV Show – Sports; Entourage

Actor – Ed Norton

Movie – The Godfather; Goodfellas

Music – 90s Alternative like Pearl Jam and Radio Head

Food – “Cheeseburgers, fries, pizza… all the low fat stuff.” he joked.

Restaurant – “Of course, Ray’s! But, really, it is my favorite.”

9 Responses to “One Monticello Life: Chris Ray”

  1. drew co. citizen says:

    way to go chris. You realy do run a great place there. I hope one day i can bring my grandchirdren in there and let them ejoy that great food. Thank you for a great hometown place to eat.

  2. Diane Davis says:

    I stated my first job at 14 working for Mr. C.L. Ray. He was such a good man and I loved being at Rays, meeting all the customers that came in and the family atmosphere that Rays offered. My youngest son Heath also started to work at Rays when he was 14 and loved it, he worked for Chris and Mark throughout his high school years. He said he couldn’t have asked for better role models than the Rays and it was awesome working for them. Thanks to Mr. C.L. for making my childhood a memorable one. A big thanks to Mark and Chris for caring on the family business. Rays will always be my favorite place to eat when I come home to Monticello.

  3. Marty Baker says:

    Congratulations Chris!! Ray’s is truly a tradition in Monticello and is part of what makes our hometown so special. Thanks Chris for all the ways you serve our community.

  4. Andy Briant says:

    Keep up the good work, Chris! Thanks for continuing this great tradition in Monticello. “Rays” serves great food and truly helps make Monticello special.

  5. Andrew Bentz says:

    Excellent write up and an AWESOME guy!

  6. Sara Marter says:

    Way to go Chris!! Congratulations!! and congrats to Mark & Laurie, ya’ll did good!! :)

  7. Dragonheart says:

    I miss eating at Ray’s. Too many thousands of miles. Congrats. Do you ship your B-B-Que sauce?

  8. Linda Beer says:

    Congrats Chris! We love some Ray’s!! Proud of you and Wendy.

  9. Deb Akin says:

    I have enjoyed Ray’s for the last 40 years or more, in Monticello and Crossett. Mr. Ray, Mark, and Chris knew the importance of paying attention to their market and having consistantly good food. Seriously, where else can you get a fried pie any day of the week…that kinda says it all.

    Congratulations to all of you!

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