Robert “Don Pooh” Cummins knows a thing to two about making hits.
Not only has he played a huge role in the careers of some of music’s most well-known names, he’s the owner of one of New York City’s exclusive (and celebrity-driven) restaurants, Brooklyn Chop House.
So how does a music industry titan, whose credits include Mary J. Blige, Jay-Z, Nas, and Diddy, up and decide that he wants to get in the restaurant business? With a whole lot of grit and perseverance — that’s how.
“There’s a common thread that the two have,” says Cummins when comparing both the music and restaurant businesses. “Everything you’re going to do is not going to be 100% a hit or you are going to knock it out the park, and you can’t give up. You’ve got to believe in it. And it might not be as big as you think it’s going to be or this record might not… You might think it’s the right record, but ultimately it might be another record. But if you have the talent and the talent has the work ethic, chances are you’re going to come up with a formula or something is going to happen where you have some sort of success.”
And for Cummins, that combination was a recipe for success.
While still working in the music business, Robert decided to diversify his assets, First dipping his toe in the pond through franchise deals, Cummins had the opportunity to develop 16 Papa John stores in New York City. From there, he successfully opened two Checker’s franchises in NYC.
On a role, he later embarked on an ambitious endeavor to make IHOP a community staple in Brooklyn. He accomplished that when he opened the first restaurant in Downtown Brooklyn in 2007. A project that was years in the making, the idea for Brooklyn Chophouse came next.
“Chop House” which stands for “chopsticks” and “chopped steaks” is a steakhouse slash Asian fusion concept that is loved by its patrons. The first establishment, which opened in 2018 in the Financial District of Manhattan, quickly became a hit, dubbed as one of New York City’s hottest new restaurants.
“I just decided just to take a shot at it, because being an executive in the industry, wherever we traveled with our clients, we always went to the usual spots where everyone hung out. And they were high end and we’d spent a lot of money because the executives have the corporate cards. So that’s kind of what made me decide to try it.”
He adds, “Then add my entertainment relationships and background. And the backdrop and the soundtrack of the restaurant is hip hop and R&B, which you don’t normally hear at an upscale steakhouse or restaurants in the city.”
The momentum continued until the restaurant industry — and world — was met with an abrupt halt in March of 2020 by the global pandemic.
Cummins and his business partner David Thomas, of course, were not exempt. “I had just bought a home in January 2020 and I’m thinking, “Oh, we are on a roll. This is hot — this is on fire,” he shares. “And then all of a sudden, everything shut down, collapsed, over. Everyone’s at home, business is over. No one has a job. So, it was scary for the moment, not knowing and not just for us, but all the restaurants.”
But if there’s one thing that makes Cummins special, it’s his willingness to keep trying. And brick by brick — faced with a multitude of challenges and restrictions as the world has returned to some sense of “normalcy” he has landed back on top. A place where he is familiar with sitting quite comfortably.
Not only did the original location exceed its previous numbers, Cummins made history with the latest addition to his extensive portfolio by opening a new lavish establishment last year — the biggest Black-owned restaurant of its kind in NYC, boasting 600 seats, with 150 located on the rooftop under a retractable roof. The Time Square Brooklyn Chop House sits in the middle of the iconic Times Square neighborhood at 253 W. 47th Street.
Not bad for a Black boy from Brooklyn right?
It’s safe to say big things are on the horizon for Cummins, who has plans to expand his portfolio to Vegas, Miami, Atlanta, London and Abu Dhabi within the next couple of years. All we’ll say is, we can’t wait to see what’s next.