A good friend once told me that the only thing more overrated then grandma’s apple pie was owning your own business. I often think of his wisdom as I lay in water under a broken dishwasher or when entering in the morning to a steamy smell of water pouring out of a faulty hot water tank conveniently located above the newly renovated washrooms. Fortunately those days are the exception and for every catastrophe I could tell you 10 stories of triumph, ok maybe 5.
Billy’s was originally opened in 1996 under the name Billy Boston Billiard and Beverage Company. The building had previously been used as a farm supply store, Goodyear Garage and Lafferty’s Garage. Billy’s was conceived as a billiard hall with 6 billiard tables and a full size Dale Earnhardt Trans Am hanging from the rafters. The concept was a moderate success entertaining a mostly younger crowd primarily on Thursday nights. The food was an uninspiring combination of microwaved frozen pizza, pita wraps and nacho’s. Things were about to change.
I had just finished my B.Ed. at the University of Windsor and was planning on teaching in New Zealand with some friends when the owner offered to sell me the bar. I had worked at Billy Boston’s since its inception but had no plans to ever own a bar. In debt with student loans and no collateral the prospects seemed grim but the owner was willing to accommodate a much longer pay back period than originally planned. On the morning of February 29, 1998 I unlocked the front door for the first time as the new owner of Billy Boston’s
There are many qualities one needs to be successful in business but as I look back on those first few years I have to admit that sheer ignorance was my guiding trait. At 23, my unofficial business plan would have been summed up as “trial and error”. I quickly learned that when you’re working without a net you have no choice but to hang on. It became apparent to me early on that I didn’t want to own a pool hall so the billiard tables were put on the top of my hit list. Small renovations turned into large scale projects and slowly the business began to take shape. It was time for some help and in 2001 my wife, Jenn, quit her job and jumped in with both feet. Things began to change quickly and as the last of the pool tables were removed it was apparent that a name change was needed. To our regulars we were simply known as Billy’s so the leap to Billy’s Pub and Grill was a short one.
A lot has changed since the early days at Billy’s. There is still trial and error but with 25 employees it is more of a group effort. We are now known more for our food then our fights and daily trips to the beer store have turned into weekly deliveries. To all those who have stuck with us we are extremely grateful. I can’t predict the future of Billy’s but I do know there is a long list of ideas Jenn and I have yet to try. I’ll keep you posted.
Doug Kalapos
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