Article and photos by Ethan Nahté
Jennifer Simmons, general manager at the McDonald’s in Mena, said it was official that on Friday, Jan. 19, it will be the last day the restaurant is open until Wednesday, May 29, following the Memorial Day holiday weekend, assuming there are no major delays due to weather or supplies.
In the meantime, residents will be seeing a lot of construction work going on as the facility, which opened in Mena in 1987, is torn down to the ground and rebuilt.
Simmons said some of the equipment in the 36-year-old facility is original. It still works but could use an update.
Other updates will include a larger walk-in freezer, and a three-window drive-thru. One window will be for payments. The other two will be for food and drink service. Simmons said this should lessen the number of people who have to pull up or over to the side while waiting for their order that is taking a little longer to prepare.
Two of the new McDonald’s in Hot Springs, as well as some of the McDonald’s in Fort Smith and Van Buren have similar drive-thrus.
The additional drive-thru window will result in a couple of less seating areas for dining in. Their self-serve drink station will also be removed, but the restaurant is getting a new automatic drink filling station. According to a 2023 news story, the restaurant chain will be phasing out all of their self-serve soft drink fountains in the U.S. by 2032.
Simmons said the other thing that will be of interest to her is to see the difference in customers placing orders as there will no longer be a menu board.
Simmons said all of the Mena employees will be eligible for collecting unemployment during the four months of rebuilding. All of the employees are invited to return. In addition, Simmons said that they will even be hiring some new employees. Simmons predicted the online job board for Mena will probably be opened back up around the beginning of May. The bigger task will be trying to train new employees as the closest McDonald’s to Mena is in Waldron.
The Mena store will be re-opening in time for the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacations, which is a good thing. Although there’s never really a great time to close for a lengthy period of time, as some holiday or event is always occurring, it will mean one less restaurant for the expected influx of visitors during the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse.
Mena has already seen the closure of a couple of restaurants, a food truck or two, and the selling of another restaurant in the past few months.
When the Mena McDonald’s does open, Simmons said they will be having a grand re-opening, When the original Mena McDonald’s was built here in ‘87, it was a big deal, not only for Mena, but much of Polk County. The franchise was owned by Charlie Brown for several years. Michael Hadley, the current owner, purchased the restaurant from Brown in March 2020.
Odds are when the new and improved McDonald’s re-opens, it will be a big deal once more for the county.