What type of establishment are you and how long have you been in business?
“I am the proprietor of an Irish pub, which has the old Irish pub theme. I’ve owned it for 8 1/2 years. I bought it from a gentleman named Jack Stokes, which is what the bar used to be called. I worked here prior to that, since I was 18 years old. I’m 46 now. When he was getting ready to retire, I got the opportunity to purchase the place from him.”
How did all of that come about?
“There was a bartender here named Mary Ellen. She and I were friendly and started dating. We dated for a long time, got engaged, and our dream was always to purchase this bar. At the time, it wasn’t for sale, Jack wasn’t ready to retire, it just wasn’t available. This was the place we wanted because we both worked there for such a long time. We got married, I continued to work there and another job, the bar was just a part time thing (for her and I). Unfortunately, back in 2003, Mary Ellen passed away. I had the opportunity, in 2007, to purchase the place from Jack. I figured there’d be no better way to honor her than that.”
I’m so sorry. So that is where the name “O’Mare’s” came from?
“Yes. I would always come home late and I would just say “Oh Mare, you just don’t understand….”. So the name O’Mare’s came from that. It was originally gonna be called “Morton’s Barrel Inn” because my father had a back room bar in our house. He named it that, but one day I woke up and said “the name’s gonna be O’Mare’s”.
So, I purchased it with Jack’s help and I’ve been running it ever since (October of 2007).”
I would imagine Jack probably loved having his predecessor be someone that had such a history with the bar.
“Absolutely. We had one strong, common bond between us…his wife died young, as did mine. I wouldn’t say he necessarily took me under his wing, but he definitely gave me a grand opportunity.”
What exactly makes O’Mare’s a “true Irish pub”?
“A true Irish pub has to have the more Irish feel and look, which I feel we have. We don’t necessarily have all the exact Irish pub food, but we have a majority of it. It’s hard in this neighborhood and we try to keep up with the trends and keep it as fresh as possible. We read the Irish papers and try to keep it as authentic as possible.”
Have you ever regretted purchasing the bar?
“The day I regret purchasing the bar, will be the day I sell the bar. I don’t regret one day being here, for 30 hours straight some days…being the bookkeeper, the plumber, the janitor, the bouncer…I don’t regret it. Are there days I’m tired when I’m here? Sure. But there’s never a day that I say “I don’t want to go to work today”. You’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do.
I’ve had two passions in life: to be a fishing boat captain… I became one when I was 18 and to own a bar. I’ve done both. I can definitely scratch those off of my bucket list.”
What challenges do you encounter as a bar owner?
“Trying to keep an upbeat and honest staff, that all get along. It’s very hard to have people from all walks of life that all get along. It’s very hard to unify people. I really try to find people that will work together as one. My turnaround a rate here is very low because I try to keep moral up and be good to my employees.
The guy that owns Virgin Airlines said “if you take good care of your employees, you’ll never have to worry about your customers”. If you’re good to them, they’ll be good to you. I know one thing, this bar’s nothing without the excellent staff that I have. I’m just the guy that writes the checks.
In the beginning, I learned a valuable lesson from my older brother, who owns a business himself. He told me: “one thing you’re gonna learn, when you’re dealing with multiple people, is you criticize/correct in private and praise in public”. I try to stick by that everyday. I had no training. I didn’t go to college or have a business education, I just had 10-15 years here before I bought it. I had no official education.”
I believe experience is sometimes worth a lot more than a college degree.
“It’s funny, I don’t live by quotes or anything, but I live by things I hear that are true to me. I heard Samuel L. Jackson say something a couple of weeks ago on the radio like “be careful of what soul you yell at today, because it’s the ass you might be kissing tomorrow” and I believe that (laughter). I guess I base my life on crazy philosophies, but it seems to have worked so far.”
They doesn’t seem all that crazy to me. It seems like good, common sense. Just treat others the way you want to be treated. Pretty simple thing that would make the world a better place.
“And you’d sleep better at night if you did it.”
You draw a crowd on Thanksgiving morning for the annual Washington/Ryan game and also host a horseshoe tournament a couple times a year. What other specials and events does O’Mare’s have?
“Wednesday and Sunday nights we have all you can eat snow crabs.
Sunday nights we also have karaoke with Harry O.
Thursday nights we have Quizzo.
One night of the weekend, we usually have some form of live entertainment.”
Lastly, what advice would you give to someone that may be considering opening their own restaurant or bar?
“Be prepared to work a lot of hours and to be able to do every job that you give someone. You should be able to do it, and do it well, before you give it to someone else. If you like to sleep a lot, get into another business.”
Find O’Mare’s at:
10253 Bustleton Ave., Philadelphia, Pa 19116
O’Mare’s Irish on Facebook