Christmas. It is the season of giving. The season of hope. The season of love. Every year there are dozens and dozens of opportunities for people to donate, volunteer, and give back. While all of these opportunities are amazing, Angi Kasper knew she wanted to give back in a unique way that still involved and connected the community–thus the Christmas tree project was born. Kasper made a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page with a picture of a small Christmas tree in front of her building. She announced that for every ornament that a member of the community placed on the tree, Kasper’s would donate $10 to two different organizations–the Falcon’s Nest and Clarksville School’s existing balances for students’ lunches.
Kasper humbly set aside time to discuss the Christmas tree project with me, along with the background story of how Kasper’s came to be–along with her culinary knowledge and passion. In order to look more closely at the Christmas tree project, one must look at the beginning of Kasper’s and why it was so important for Angi Kasper to find a way to give back to the Clarksville community.
Ironically, Kasper married into the restaurant industry. Her husband owned Pasta Grill at the time and she came in with a background in healthcare finance and insurance. The plan was for her to come into the restaurant to help manage it. Once their lease ran out, though, they began searching for a new building. After doing research about their current restaurant, what they were doing, and what they should’ve been doing, Kasper was pointed in the direction of less pasta, more steaks, and more up-scale meats/proteins. At this point in her life, Kasper’s knowledge of the culinary world was the meals that she made for her children. It was important to Kasper that her children received home-cooked meals as much as possible and this kind of kick-started her enjoyment of cooking. The idea of Kasper’s coming about shifted how Angi Kasper thought about cooking, though.
“You’re going to laugh but my culinary education came from Youtube. I watched every episode of Hell’s Kitchen, many, many, times. Gordon Ramsey was my mentor along with chefs like Toni Tipton Martin and Erin French. That’s how I cut my teeth and often whose recipes I model my own after,” Kasper said.
Kasper has made it a long way since her beginning days with Youtube and Gordon Ramsey; however, she is still constantly learning, growing, and pushing herself as a business owner and a chef. One of her favorite things to do as a chef is to use fresh ingredients in any way that she can.
Kasper explained, “I go to the local farmer’s market when I can, I use Me and McGee in Little Rock, Drewry Farms in Dover, and just wherever I can find fresh produce to use. If somebody has overstock, I even take that. It doesn’t matter what it is, I can always find something to do with it.”
Outside of the culinary aspects of the restaurant, Kasper has taken the time to invest in her business by being intentional in how she is involved in the Clarksville community. She mentioned how throughout her journey in opening Kasper’s, she and her husband were searching constantly for the “perfect” spot/building for this adventure. Their Clarksville customers tried helping them too by sending them buildings they found and offering encouragement in any way that they could. When they found the building that is now known as Kasper’s in Clarksville, Arkansas, it just felt right.
When asked about opening Kasper's in Clarksville and now being able to serve Clarksville in more ways than one, Angi Kasper said, “This community has supported me so well from even before I was open and all the way through to now, and I need to make sure that I’m doing enough for the community. I need to give back in some way. The tree idea allowed the public to contribute as well in a simple way.”
This brings us back to the Christmas tree project. Kasper shared how the support they received from the community in bringing ornaments by and decorating the Christmas tree out in front of the restaurant was undeniable. Once the project was completed, Kasper brought matching checks of $750 to each of the programs that she had chosen at the beginning of the Christmas season.
While discussing the selection of Clarksville Schools’ Outstanding Lunch Balance Program, Kasper said, “Those kids don’t need to worry about what they’re going to eat for lunch. They don’t need to worry, and their parents don’t need to worry about their child having to eat a peanut butter sandwich that day because they couldn’t afford to pay the bill. I don’t want them to worry about the bill. Let the kid be a kid and take some stress off of them so that they could put that money elsewhere.”
She said that she has been a single mom and understands the stress and the struggle of making sure that your child(ren) has enough money to bring to school for lunch–and everything that comes with that. It is evident that being able to help parents and children feel as little stress when it comes to food insecurity as she can. She is also passionate about helping people feel empowered and independent. Just as she said, “We need to invest in people.”
The second recipient of the matching check is The Falcon's Nest. When talking about them–along with M.A.C. Industries and Forrester-Davis–Kasper said, “You know, I appreciate so much what they are doing over there. They’re helping people stand on their own two feet and helping people stand on their own two feet. Helping people find a way to support themselves is a big thing and it allows those clients to know ‘today I have to go to work’ and that makes you feel good.”
I had a few moments to talk to Joy Wilson, Forrester-Davis Director, about the Falcon’s Nest and about being on the receiving end of Kasper’s donation. The Falcon’s Nest is a program at M.A.C. Industries–which is a branch of Forrester-Davis–that allows for their clients that wish to do so to be trained in many different areas of the restaurant industry. Once they are trained in the area that they choose, they can start working in The Falcon’s Nest restaurant that is open to the public Tuesday through Friday, 11 AM - 1:30 PM.
“My favorite part of having the Falcon’s Nest program is watching our clients because they truly enjoy serving our community, and just getting to watch them grow is truly a blessing,” Wilson said.
Kasper was able to go to M.A.C. Industries to personally present the staff of the Falcon’s Nest with the matching check from the Christmas tree program.
Wilson explained, “Angi knows especially how hard it is to run a restaurant and it’s just an honor to be a recipient of her gracious giving… I just want to say a big ‘thank you to a successful business for reaching out to a business that strives to do the same.”
Acts of kindness and thoughtfulness such as this tend to take on a ripple effect. It is Kasper’s hopeful spirit that anticipates this program to become a Clarksville tradition.
Kasper exclaimed, “I’m very hopeful that by doing this publicly, other entities will pick up on that, and maybe next year we all can have a tree. How fabulous would that be? Then the two organizations that I got to bless this year could become six organizations and then 12 organizations, and so on.”
Small communities and small businesses have the ability to make such a big impact–regardless of their population size–and Kasper’s is a testament to that. For those interested in grabbing a bite to eat at Angi Kasper’s restaurant, they are located at 501 N Johnson St, Clarksville, AR, and their hours are Tuesday - Thursday 11 AM - 2 PM, 5 PM - 8 PM, and Friday - Saturday 11 AM - 2 PM, 5 PM - 9 PM. Visit Kasper’s today and see for yourself the passion and love that goes beyond serving people a good meal.
After her time at the University of the Ozarks, Abby Asencio graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She now works as our Community Relations Director, continuing to connect our community.
As a Main Street America Affiliate™, Clarksville - Johnson County Chamber of Commerce is part of a national network of more than 1,200 neighborhoods and communities who share both a commitment to creating high-quality places and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development.