Saloonkeeper’s Lessons

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John Richard McGuire came to America from County Roscommon in the early 20th Century. He met Winifred Sullivan at a dance. After they married, they moved to “Irish Harlem” in the Bronx.

There, they bottled their own beer and sold it, along with food, to mostly Irish railroad workers. They had three sons. When the youngest was eight, John and Winifred moved to “Irish Town” in Rockaway Beach, where they bought a ten-room hotel and bar.

Hard work was part of the game. In those days, most saloons cleaned their beer pipes twice a year. Not the McGuires.

Every Monday, John, Winifred, and their three sons, John, Dick, and Al cleaned the beer pipes at their saloon. The whole family worked there.

Saloonkeeper Lesson Nr 1: No matter what you want to succeed at, hard work is important.

There were a lot of saloons in Irish Town. The McGuires had to find ways to be different, distinctive, and better.

There were those clean beer pipes. There was innovation. They were the first saloon in the area to have a television. There was service. The McGuires took phone calls for people and cashed their checks.

Saloonkeeper Lesson Nr 2: Winning comes from being distinctive in ways that matter to your customers. This rule works for any business, not just saloonkeepers.

John and Winifred’s son John became a legendary saloonkeeper. He was co-owner of Pep McGuire’s. Jimmy Breslin, one of my writing idols hung out there. Breslin was an Irish New York writer who reminded me of my Irish Philadelphia cop uncle. For me, Pep McGuire’s was the best saloon ever. It was the model for the bar in “Goodfellas.’” John McGuire was one of the characters that made it great

You may have heard of John and Winifred’s other sons. Dick played, coached, and scouted for the Knicks. He’s in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Al is there as a coach and broadcaster. They are the only two brothers who are both in the Hall

Saloonkeeper Lesson Nr 3: Success in business and life comes in many forms.

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