Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Seeing an Old Friend in a New Place

The Logo for "me & Billy."  Used with permission of the owners

Greetings All:

The other day, I stopped by to see an old friend, Bill Collins.  I met Bill twenty years ago when I was an intern in the Scott County Attorney's Office and he was the proprietor of "Mac's Tap Room," in downtown Davenport.  Mac's was a short distance from the courthouse.  In that magical summer, I had more than a couple of lunches (and a couple of beers) at Mac's.  I referred to it as, "The Fourth Floor of the Courthouse," as a fair amount of cases got...resolved there amongst the local bar association. 

At the center of Mac's, back in the day, was Bill Collins.  Bill was born to be a barkeep.  He's got a personality that lights up the room in a room would cause Scrooge to bust out laughing BEFORE the spirits showed up.  Bill is a professional listener (a rare talent these days) and a grand master story teller.  Most important, he's a friend.

As I quoted in a post a couple weeks' back, there is a season for everything.  Bill's season with Mac's ended and he sold it, moving on to other ventures.  I still like Mac's and has one of the best bar signs around.  Still, for me, it was never the same without Bill Collins.

We moved away from the area in 2000 and when we returned, I saw Bill at one of the local Irish fests.  As an O'Neill on my Mom's side, I try to take my heritage seriously and pass it along to my kids.  We spoke briefly and made plans to get together, which we did a month or so later.  When we did, Bill mentioned that he was thinking about getting back in the business.  As he said it, I saw a gleam, ever slight, in his eyes.  As I mentioned, he was born to do this work.

Fast forward to a few days ago.  I had heard that Bill was indeed back in the business with a new public house in downtown Davenport, "me & Billys."  Except this time, he had the cavalry riding with him.  As the link to the Quad City Times article states, Bill is now in business with his family.  His daughter, Fran Maus, has taken a lead in the project, with sisters Trisha and Sarah also involved.  Bill's wife Mary is also around to help out and exert some "adult supervision."  The article's title, "New Davenport Bar is a Family Affair," is aptly named.  Here's the link to the article:

I was not sure if Bill would be there when I stopped by "me & Billy's" and I could only stay for a brief time.  However, if there was a chance my old friend was going to be there, I wanted to swing by.  He was.

Before the door closed behind me, I heard Bill's big, wonderful voice boom out my name.  There was my friend Bill, behind the bar and holding court,  exactly as he should be.  I congratulated him on the place and he graciously accepted my compliment.  Then, with an inflection that only a dad can have, he shared with me how the lion's share of the credit went to his daughters.  He was beaming with pride at what his family and his kids had done to turn the old United Cigar Company from a vacant building to a thriving, vibrant business.  This anchor for the bar is a magnificent wooden shelving unit that you can see, although it is somewhat obstructed by the two handsome guys in front of it...:).

My friend Bill Collins and I, at "me and Billy's" Photo by Jeno Berta, used with Bill's permission

I do not usually make endorsements with my blog of commercial endeavors and I have yet to eat there (but I will).  I'll make an exception here and say I really do like the place.  It is not a sports bar, it's a place that captures the essence of warm, welcoming place to have a meal and the beverage of your choice.  I have always liked downtown and this place is a welcome addition.  With a nod to the Collins ladies, you have done a great job with it.  I think Mary's comment in the Times article sums it up nicely.

"Our girls are true entrepreneurs," Mary said. "I guess just living with Bill and I has been a great example for them. We have owned different businesses. They also have the drive. It has been great to watch. They all have been very instrumental across the board. If not for them, Bill and I could not have done this."

Still, my main reason for doing this post is to share with you just how happy I am to see my old friend in a new place. I also see a larger message in this "good news" story for all of us.  If you've got a passion for something that you once did, then go back to it.  Maybe you feel that your time has passed.  For some things, that may be true.  For example, if you were an Olympic-caliber gymnast 30 years ago, then perhaps getting back on the rings in time for Rio in '16 is not likely.  However, I think for most of us, our passions, our dreams, do not require elite fitness standards.  In fact, I'd argue few them require anything remotely close to it.

There is the unknown author's quote, "Doubt kills more dreams than fear ever will."  Don't let your doubt and fears filibuster on the senate floor of your dreams.  I'm reminded of the Richard Bach quote, "Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours."

Now that does not mean you should plunge into an endeavor (especially if there is a lot of $$$ involved) without a plan.  As Fran stated, "Things kept evolving with the business plan until we found the right spot."  The important thing is to keep moving forward and not lose sight of your dream.
 A few days ago, I received a great gift of seeing an old friend in a new place.  Downtown Davenport is a better place with "me and Billy's" in it.  It's a class act place run by a class act family.  And "me and Billy's" is a better place for having my friend Bill Collins there, where he belongs. 

Be well my friends,

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