My 50th birthday looms next week and while some might find that a daunting number, I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of celebrating with friends at my old stomping ground, the Roanoke Park Place Tavern.
Thirty years ago I was looking for a job and met a terrific man named Terry Dudley who was trying to open a tavern on 10th and Miller. With most of his funds gone, he was sleeping there at night, working on construction during the day and pulling beer handles in between. A good pal, Willy Jenkins and I stopped by for a beer and popcorn and I asked Terry if he needed an employee (it was clear he needed help). He just grinned and said that he did but there wasn’t any funding; would I work for tips? With no hope of a job since I was under 21, that seemed like a great offer. So, that’s where it began; it grew into a full time job of 16-hour days, 7 days per week, making cheeseburgers, roasting oysters over the fireplace, steaming clams and tasting new wines. I also had a car, which Terry didn’t have, so deliveries and pick up orders became my responsibilities.
New clients ask me all the time “how did you get in the PR business?” It was truly by default, the need to self-promote in order to get customers in the door so they would buy beer and we could pay the rent seemed like the only solution. Great customers who worked at KING TV and the Seattle Times, PI and KOMO TV brought their cameras and their pens and found the little tavern and it’s hard working partners to be charming hosts. On my 21 birthday, Terry gave me 25 percent equity in the business and later, Willy Jenkins came back and bought Terry’s shares and gave me another 25 percent. So these humble beginnings–cardboard soles in my penny loafers, a 1972 Ford Gran Torino, Levis and whatever free beer T-Shirts was the look of the day–are a far cry from what clients see now.
I could celebrate at any of the amazing fine dining restaurants that I have and have had the privilege to work with the last 25 years, but it’s Roanoke for me on October 23. Hope you can swing by and hoist a beer with old friends and new. -T
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