Meet Your Merchant: Creating a neighborhood destination
For Robert Williams, the owner of Tommy’s Neighborhood Bar, recasting the long-time Carson City watering hole has been a priority since he bought the business in 2009.
Williams, 59, started working at the bar in 2004 as a part-time bartender to help learn the basics of the bartending business.
Today, Williams said he and his wife, Kathy, who also co-owns the bar, want to make the bar a neighborhood destination.
“We’re converting this place to a place where people feel comfortable and it’s run professionally,” he said.
The location of Tommy’s on West Winnie Lane has been a bar for more than 30 years. It offers the usual mix of domestic drafts and cocktails, but also offers a couple microbrews, pool tables, a pinball machine and weekly specials such as Cinco de Mayo, which is today.
After he bought it, Williams said he installed a ventilation system to help clear the bar of smoke, added new bar stools and flat-screen televisions.
On Tuesdays, the bar now offers all-day happy hour prices with free pool – Williams calls it “neighborhood day” – and on Saturday the bar hosts a karaoke night. He plans on hosting theme nights every day of the week.
“The biggest lesson to run a successful bar is you need to run it as a business,” Williams said. “A lot of people buy bars and they think, now I own a bar and I can just sit there all day and drink and do anything I want. But you can’t.”
It takes dedication, he said.
While Tommy’s is Williams’ first bar, it’s not his first business. After moving to Reno in 1978, Williams opened a business that serviced laundry and dry cleaning shops.
“And then I started opening my own dry cleaning stores and then I sold all that stuff,” said Williams, who spent most of his career working as a stationary engineer, which is someone who operates heavy machinery in factory settings. He spent most of his career working in hospitals until he retired in 2010, freeing him up to focus on his new venture.
“It’s tough to run a bar like this without being here every day and living here, basically,” he said. “You have to dedicate yourself 100 percent in order to make it successful.”
Williams’ work ethic inspired Paul Garcia to work as the bar’s general manager.
“There’s not a harder working man than this,” Garcia, 62, said of Williams. “That’s the only reason why I’m here. If your owner doesn’t care then you don’t care. But if he cares it just inspires you to work harder.”
For now, Williams’ said his goals are simple.
“When people come into this bar they feel comfortable and when they leave they feel that they’ve had a good time and they’re going to invite friends to come back,” he said.
If you go
Tommy’s Neighborhood Bar
Where: 260 W. Winnie Lane
Hours: Noon-1 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. (or later) Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-12 a.m. Sunday.