Hi my name is Danny Barry…okay now that we’ve got that out of the way. Why should I be writing any kind of a blog and perhaps even more importantly why should you take the time to read it? I don’t think I’m particularly special. There isn’t an amazing skill set that I’ve mastered nor do I have a “PHD” in any field. I’m lucky I can even spell PHD! I do though, have a unique perspective in this world (which we all do by the way). I’m 31 years old, married to an AMAZING woman, father to 3 crazy kiddos, we have a couple pups, a farm house, and own the coolest little Irish Pub in the world. For all this I am VERY fortunate and truly blessed.
My goal is simple, to be an extra voice FOR you. Not the I’m hearing voices in my head kind, but just someone who can help push you forward. Here’s an understatement for you: “It’s a pretty crazy world out there.” We can probably all agree to that, so this is one way I can help. While some of my stories are sure to cause me embarrassment, I do hope my experiences and insights can be of value to you.
1st Entry: “How did you open that Irish Pub?”
First of all let’s not be judgey. Sure I graduated college with an English Degree, but try not to hold the inevitable misspellings and punctuation errors against me. I like to write as though I’m speaking with you in person. So informal is kind of my thing. I will though, try to keep the emoji count to a minimum.
How do you pick the 1st entry of a blog? We own an Irish Pub, that’s probably a good start. Pretty cool that in the year 2017 we can say our occupation revolves around operating the coolest little Irish Pub in the sweetest little village. We’ve been open for about 5 ½ years now which is probably 5 years more than most people would have bet on. I don’t mean that in a rude way, it’s fair. If I’m going to be completely honest we had a negative balance in our bank account the week we opened. I read somewhere that most business last about 6 months to a year…well ours was going to be lucky to make it to 6 days!
I have ALWAYS wanted to own an Irish Pub, since like 5th grade. If you don’t believe me ask my siblings, parents, neighbors, teachers, friends, grocery clerks, bank tellers, anyone who would take the time to listen. In my family we grew up proud of our Irish heritage from an early age, we were practically stamped with the shamrock on our foreheads. (See Picture)
I feel lucky to have been raised by parents who cared about our lineage. Taking the time to teach us the morals, values, and work ethic that go hand in hand with Irish culture. Couple this upbringing with an iconic Grandfather who owned a really cool restaurant, and you get a kid whose heart is set on the “Pub Life.”
I’m 21 years old, just graduated college from SUNY Brockport. Okay, now that school is out of the way, let’s try to open the Pub! I started looking for locations, and even found the perfect spot. Or so I thought. I was convinced this was the time and this was the place. Brought my parents over to walk through with me, had long conversations with the realtor, and even started introducing myself to the would be neighbors. Only one problem…well several problems. I had no money, like none. Remember I just graduated college. Also, and this is probably important, I had no experience. Sure Grandpa owned a restaurant, but I was too young to work there. Umm also, that location would have been terrible. It’s still for sale actually…
Most things in life are time and place. Something my Father has been hammering into me for years, but when you’re 21-sooo difficult to understand. Obviously it didn’t work out, but to my credit I didn’t give up. I wiped a few tears away, and had one of those gut check moments. I told myself: “Danny, you have no money. Get some. You have no experience. Get some. You have fire in your belly. Good, keep that going.”
So now I start going through that all too familiar story, especially in today’s economic climate, I have a degree but no job. Yep, Mom and Dad’s house it is. I LOVE my parents and from what I can gather they feel the same way (insert smiley face emoji here). The Irish guilt in me needs to first let you know that again, I LOVE my parents. But we did clash on the job front… It was their duty to make sure I started off on the right foot, so they urged me to find a career ASAP in a field that paired well with my new shiny degree. Logical. But I’m 21, stubborn, and remember I’ve ALWAYS wanted to open that little Irish Pub. Sooo, I say no. Not gonna do it. “Mom and Dad, I will only work somewhere that puts me in line with the Pub dream.” I have to assume they either respected my stick toitiveness or they were at least amused, but either way they didn’t kick me out. The dream lives on.
So again time and place. My buddy Jeff is working part-time bartending at “GEVA Theatre,” a local well respected theatre company. I would come in every so often to bother him, not always fully understanding the unwritten dress code or affluent atmosphere. But if there’s one thing I’m good at it, it’s connecting with people. I can get along with just about anyone. I don’t have to fake it, I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people and sharing a laugh. Eventually it dawns on me, I’m in here enough, maybe this would be a good place to start bartending. Get the formal experience. A famous nightclub entertainer Joey Lewis said “A friend in need is a pest.” And so in this spirit I hounded Jeff to get me a job there. Every day, “Did you ask your boss, is there a spot?” My persistence and lack of subtle hints paid off, I got an interview. Nailed it, not because I had any experience, but because I was willing to learn and willing to work hard. Or they were desperate, no matter.
And so I do this bartending thing for a year, even got pretty good at it. Oh by the way, I’m doing “landscaping” out of my used pick-up truck on the side with my girlfriend/eventual wife Jessica. I put “landscaping” in quotes because we had no idea what the hell we were doing, but we had a blast. We were our own boss and got to work together. “Danny Boy’s Landscaping” we called ourselves, maybe you were one of the thousand mailboxes we put a flyer on. Anyways…back to GEVA, and bartending. One day my boss, TC, let’s me know there is going to be a full time job opening up in the Front of House department. The responsibilities will include helping run the bar & café, organizing special events, scheduling, ordering, payroll etc.… My response “Oh that’s nice, someone will be really lucky to get that job.” Again not picking up on the subtle hints life offers. Wake up Danny, this guy is trying to see if you’re interested! We get talking a bit, and settle on an interview. I show up, shirt and tie style. Surprisingly I’m not that nervous. Mostly because I didn’t think I had a chance. If I were to somehow get this job, I would be the youngest full-time employee at the theatre by about 20 years. The interview is going well, and then they get to the question about longevity. “If you were to get the position, how long would you see yourself working here?” Easy question, I knew they wanted me to say for the foreseeable future. The last person in this spot was great, but they left earlier than the theatre had hoped. Stupidly, however, I answered them very honestly. My response: “Until I get enough knowledge and resources to open up my own little Irish Pub.” I think TC was surprised by the answer, but also I think he appreciated the straight forwardness. He saw the passion, he knew I was driven. Somehow, as fate would have it, I got the job. My first full time job, a steady paycheck, and most importantly I’m in line with the Pub dream.
A great thing happens to me here at GEVA, I gained a mentor. Someone who owed me nothing and yet gave me so much. Someone who believed in me and went out of their way to make sure I was striving towards my goals. TC knew what I wanted to do in life, and took it upon himself to teach me the ropes. Not just what I would need to know for my job running the front of house, but what I would need to know in order to open that Irish pub of mine. His only request: “when you get your chance, make sure to help the next person.” Whatever success we have enjoyed here at “Barry’s Old School Irish” GEVA, and TC in particular, are directly responsible.
See one of the cool things about my job at GEVA was the intensity. I came from an athletic background, absolutely NO knowledge of the theatre. But in time I began to see the similarities. In sports you practice practice practice until game time. Then you give it your all, and leave it on the field. Learn from your mistakes and continue to explore your strengths. In theatre it seemed to be the same way. Practice practice practice and then, show time! Learn, tinker, and repeat. It was great, especially for my creative side, to be around so many talented people. Now with my job, we were based around the performances. We had 2 stages which could seat audiences of up to nearly 1,000 people. So you had crowds coming in before the show, a HUGE rush at intermission, and then the more relaxed moments after the show let out. Great practice for me, and probably the reason I can handle all the different waves at the Pub. Those 20 minutes you had to serve everyone at intermission were scary but definitely prepared me for St. Paddy’s Day here at Barry’s!
Okay so now I’m 23, I’ve gained some experience, not a ton, but maybe enough to get something started. The key here is Jessica. She too, knew I always wanted to open up this little Irish Pub. And guess what? She actually believed in me! Kind of crazy, but she’s the type of soul mate everyone’s shooting for. The kind of person that can give you confidence that you didn’t know you had, and gives you the encouragement needed to push forward. We’ll get to her whole influence on me some other time, but I do have to add here…she IS the difference maker. We got married while I was working at GEVA, and I just couldn’t stand not seeing her (still feel that way). I never understood the modern marriage concept as it related to work life: get married, get a 9-5 job. Wake up early, fight morning traffic, get through the day working somewhere you’d probably not like to be, fight more traffic on your way home, then arrive feeling exhausted, and now… go to sleep. Not for me! Luckily not for her either. So we basically decide we’re going to do this Pub thing together. We’ll get to work side by side, bring out each other’s creativity, and no matter how hard it gets at least we’ll be in the trenches together.
Great, decision made! But first we should probably go on a honeymoon, we did just get married after all. Where to go? Only one place for these love birds, Ireland! Makes sense. We haven’t been there before, but both had always wanted to. Plus we’ll get some great ideas and we’ll be that much more prepared to open up Barry’s. One of the best choices we ever made. This trip and the craziness that occurred is worth its own blog, so I will try to keep this short. We had a GREAT time! So much fun, met so many wonderful people, visited the coolest pubs, ate a whole bunch, and most importantly made memories that will last us a life time. Everything you could hope for in a honeymoon, plus ours was probably going to be a write off.
When we got back home, we needed to find the perfect location for our dream pub. After visiting Ireland we knew our place had to be in a Village setting, the closest you can get to the Irish country side that we fell so in love with. Where people could make us part of their day and where we could immerse ourselves in the community with which we would serve. Again time and place, friends of ours just bought their 1st house in the Village of Webster. Although I had only grown up about 25 minutes away, I must admit I didn’t know the Village of Webster even existed. I mean I knew the town, just didn’t know they had a Village. The couple says “You and Jess ought to try and look for a spot here, the pub would do well. This Village is up and coming and the people are really friendly.” My response, “Hmm maybe I’ll check it out.” See, there’s always these signs and sometimes we don’t see them. Even when they’re right freaking in front of us. But luckily for me, I have the secret weapon. Jessica. See she heard the same thing, but instead of saying “hmm” she acted on the information. That night she turned to the all mighty “Google” and within minutes found a spot right on Main Street! Before, I could give her any excuses, she had already contacted the realtor for the property and set up an appointment for us to visit.
Well the big man upstairs was looking out for us because 2 West Main Street in the Village of Webster was and remains to this day perfect for us. It took us no more than 5 minutes to know that this was the right spot. I mean that’s kind of odd because I had never heard of this place. There was nothing inside, just white walls and a concrete floor. But we could see the potential. We could visualize where everything would go. John, the realtor, gave us a minute to ourselves, and so we stood by the big bay windows holding hands. We saw couples walking with their dogs, kids on bikes, families waving as the strolled by. It was perfect, we had found a little piece of Ireland in our own back yard.
Oh, but now we must talk about money (enter frown face emoji here). Yeah…we still didn’t have any of that. Very, very frustrating because we were ready. But the landlord was not going to give us a contract without at least some financial security, and the bank was not going to just give us leftovers for equipment and what not. But boy are Jess and I lucky. We both had families that believed in us. They knew we just needed the opportunity and we’d make good on it. Not only did they lend us what was needed to open the doors, but they also put in the man hours. I’ll never forget Jessica’s grandparents coming over to help paint. My parents helping hang pictures, testing recipe ideas, and allowing me to talk their ears off with our growing concerns no matter the time of day. My Mother in law (whose like a rock star) building seating, putting in flooring, working on plumbing, and doing just about everything else that I don’t know how to do. Side note, most people have a “Honey Do List” I have a “Mother-In-Law Do List.” Yeah I lucked out in the Mother in law department.
And now at ages 20 & 24, we’re going to open a Pub I guess…I’ll never forget that feeling the day we opened the doors. There may be nothing more humbling than putting your name on a sign, and saying “this is who I am, what do you think?”
For the grand opening we were expecting maybe a dozen people. Perhaps some family members would have pity on us, and some strangers would accidentally walk through our door. Well…the night went differently. It was awesome. The place was packed. The community, which at that time had no idea who we were, decided to embrace us and give us a chance. For that, and their continued support, we are eternally grateful. The grand opening is a story in itself. Irish dancers performed, unexpected music broke out, friendships were made, pints were flowing, and smiles in abundance. Perhaps one of my favorite moments that night came from our Parish Priest, whom we had asked earlier in the week to perform a blessing. The deal was he was going to do a private blessing in the back with Jess, our families, and myself. Well Father Tim asked MY Mother to get everyone ready for the blessing. And she did. The whole place, with that loud Mom whistle she has. The place stands still at attention. Father Tim, the great showman that he is, yells out “We’re going to need some more holy water!” He sips some whiskey and then proceeds to walk around the entire Pub, blessing everyone in sight.
I promise not all my entries will be this long, bordering on novel territory, but I think this one was important. Maybe you’ll have a better idea of who you’re choosing to engage with. A humble Irish Pub owner. A man whom many have helped, and someone who wants to make good on those good deeds. Passing on any help I can to the next person.
Oh by the way…we found out we were pregnant with our 1st kid on the way…the day after our grand opening…(insert freaked out emoji here)