Jamestown Native, Restaurateur Running For Pa. Governor
Jason Monn has thrown his hat into the ring.
Monn was born in the former WCA Hospital in Jamestown in 1979. He lived “all over Jamestown.” His early education started at M.J. Fletcher Elementary School, but family moves eventually took him to Celoron and Lakewood.
His mother moved her family to Pennsylvania when the young boy was in fourth grade. Her son went to Sugar Grove Elementary and Eisenhower High and finally to Corry High School where he graduated. He began college, but had to leave after the first semester due to a family situation.
“I like to say your reaction to your life circumstances is what becomes your definition,” Monn said.
He bought a small, failing restaurant in 2004, due to a love of cooking and because he wanted to have his own business. With a lot of hard work, he was able to increase his staff from four or five to 19 or 20. An addition, totaling 1,000 square feet, was added to the kitchen and dining room. The business was sold in 2014 allowing Monn to spend more time with his wife, Janet, and their two children, Max and Enola.
“I always said I had three kids. The first was my restaurant.”
After doing various odd jobs and while he was working for Giant Eagle, he received a call from a friend asking if he knew of anyone that may be interested in buying a restaurant. He learned it was actually the very same building he had sold several years before. Unbeknownst to his wife, he had been missing the restaurant business. When he told her he would like to dive back in, she was all for it and put her support behind him. Shortly thereafter, Fat Monn’s Grub opened at 510 E. Columbus Ave. in Corry.
“It was one of the best decisions to open,” Monn said.
He had always been interested in his community and local politics, therefore he regularly attended city council meetings. In 2011, he made the decision to run for a councilman position and won. The mayor resigned a few years later and Monn was appointed to fill the opening.
Because his family is very important to him, he left politics after it was hit with a devastating incident.
“We don’t live our lives based on what happened to us,” he said, “we base it on our reactions.”
The businessman was determined to keep his restaurant employees during the pandemic and paid them their regular wages.
“My restaurant did phenomenal during COVID,” the 42-year-old said. “I feel sad that so many businesses closed.”
When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced the closing of businesses and schools, Monn and his wife became concerned about children’s lunches. By the next day they had a plan in place to offer $1 meals. Word spread quickly and donations totaling nearly $19,000 came in from all over the U.S. allowing them to give 31,103 free meals to children.
“We were the central point, did the work, but it was a community effort,” he said. “We did it because it was the right thing to do. We also had a prom. A lot of people in town were sad there would be no prom, so we contacted parents to ask for their help. The community stepped up.”
The venue had to changed three times in order to be compliant, but the end result was an outdoor event held on a beautiful night with nearly 190 students attending.
“We followed all of the rules and showed we could do it.”
The day after Wolf closed Pennsylvania’s restaurants for three weeks in December, Monn drove to his state’s capitol in Harrisburg where he sat on the steps of the Capitol building for nine hours waiting to talk to someone. He was interviewed by the news while he waited. When he was ready to leave, he got in his car and drove home and returned to work the next day. During the four and a half hour drive, he decided he would run for governor of Pennsylvania in the November 2022 election. He was able to voice his concerns three days later when a state representative called him.
He discussed his run with his wife and children after he returned home. Had he not had their support, it would not have been a consideration.
“We’re having a good time. Everything Janet and me have ever done is with family and we make decisions together,” Monn said.
He has many reasons for making the run starting with a love of politics and having had a year of going through the judicial system and seeing how it worked.
“There is no equality in our system now. I’d like to see judicial changes and the criminal justice system overhauled, the way we allocate funds for the education system and a zero-balance budget,” he said. “I don’t believe the government should hang onto the people’s money. A surplus does not mean the government has extra money. It means they took too much.”
Watching the way politicians handled COVID was an eye-opener, but he says he doesn’t fault the experts. Improving race relations is important to him.
He knows everything about his restaurant, but if something should come up that he doesn’t know, he hires an expert.
“That is what government is lacking. Everyone thinks they are an expert,” Monn said. “I definitely don’t pretend to know all of the answers. I’m a common guy with common sense.”
“Some people aren’t going to like me. The beauty of America is we are able to make choices that affect us and those choices may have consequences, good or bad, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said. “I’m not naive. I know I can’t change the world. We’re all just people. So many want to be heard. We are standing up for what we believe.”
The following is Mrs. Monn’s Peanut Butter Cheese Ball recipe that she likes to take to holiday dinners and picnics.
Peanut Butter Cheese Ball
8 oz softened cream cheese
1 c powdered sugar
3/4 c creamy peanut butter
3 T brown sugar
3/4 c chocolate chips
3/4 c peanut butter chips
Teddy Grahams or Nilla Wafers
With a blender, mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until well combined. Spoon into a large piece of plastic wrap. Twist into a ball and put in freezer for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from freezer and remove plastic wrap. Roll cheese ball in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Refreeze for an additional 2 hours. Serve with Teddy Grahams or Nilla Wafers.