Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Buds Brew Chillicothe Institution

by Natalie DeBruin

It’s hard to define the Crosskeys Tavern, Dale Perry says. It’s a combination of a neighborhood bar, a downtown restaurant and an Irish pub. But if there’s one thing that it is, it’s an institution.

Dale and his longtime friend, Tom Burke, opened the Chillicothe tavern in 1972. Tom’s father—Tom Sr.—told them that they could sell it in a few years and make money, or they could “create an institution.”

“You have your choice, right now,” Dale remembers his saying.

An institution, Tom Sr. said, is a place “where the help comes on their night off.” Dale has another definition: a place where a woman can meet her husband after work. She can wait for him and feel safe, and he can know she’s waiting without worrying about “some jackass hitting on his wife.”

The idea for the bar was born—as so many great ideas are—at a bar.

Tom and Dale had had a few drinks (“or ten,” Dale says) when Tom turned to his friend with a proclamation.

“You know what? We oughta open a bar. We could make a million dollars,” he said.

The two are still waiting on that fortune, but the bar is a reality. Dale and Tom stocked the bar not only with whiskey, but with reference books—atlases, dictionaries, the Guinness Book of World Records—in order to settle “discussions.” (“ ‘Argument’ is not a good word in a saloon,” Dale says.)

The Crosskeys is full of personal touches. The “Rogue’s Gallery” is a wall covered in the photos of “friends of the house,” and those who have died are memorialized with black ribbons. The antique bar—from the 1860s—is made from a single piece of wood. The tavern hosts meetings for local organizations as diverse as the Chillicothe Dart League and the St. Anne’s Society of the Episcopal Church. The clientele ranges in age from 21 to 85, from all income groups and lines of work.

“It’s a very informal place,” Tom says.

Even the name of the Tavern is steeped in personal history.

Tom’s father was born and raised in Ireland, where the crosskeys symbol on the sign of a tavern has long meant that travelers can room there. Even today, one sees the crosskeys all over Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Dale says.

In addition, one of the original bars in the Northwest Territory was the Crosskeys in Chillicothe, and the Crosskeys Tavern was meant, in some ways, to resurrect that, Tom says.

“I like to take care of people, make them happy, have a good time,” Tom says.

Tom runs the bar for the most part, now, though he no longer does the late nights (“I can no longer hoot with the owls and soar with the eagles,” he says). Dale lives in Florida, but he comes up several times a year to visit and talk business — appropriately, he’ll be at the Crosskeys for St. Patrick’s Day.

The Crosskeys Tavern is, after all, an institution.

1 comment:

Francis said...

Well I'll agree Tom and Dale do belong in an Institution where animals can eat right out their hands. But I digress, which of course is better than bi-dress which is not as interesting as a 21 year old red aired woman going without a dress. Now I must get back on track..although some people would like to throw me on the tracks when the 7:13 to PUH KIP SEE comes through town. The Keys is AN INSTIUTION. More Characters than a Republic B Western Movie that use to play at the Shooting Gallery on Saturday mornings have come through the doors. Some of the most incredible minds, musicians,intellects, weirdos, 1 guy from outter space, thinkers, dull as wallpaper pasters, comedians, thespians, lesbians, undecidedes have passed through the doors. But all in all, Dale and Tom are the keys to The Keys.
Thanks guys.
Love ya'
Miss ya
Francisco Geyer