‘Where you’re a stranger here but once’
By Dawn Pearson
Green drinks, with a side of beef and cabbage – The Friendly Tavern has it all for St. Patrick’s Day. The history of the old tavern, along with the longtime patrons will make this year’s Irish celebration bigger than ever.
A History of The Friendly
Built in 1875, The Friendly Tavern building located at 290 North Main Street has greeted guests and housed different businesses for 139 years.
Marcellus S. Anderson arrived in Zionsville in 1863 from Germantown, according to records from the SullivanMunce Museum. He was a business owner for more than 30 years, creating the Zionsville Carriage and Wagon Works Factory at the corner on North Main.
One of the old Friendly Tavern menus states: “Originally the building was a carriage factory with a dirt floor used to forge the iron hardware necessary to manufacture the carriages. The carriages were finished on the second floor and rolled down a ramp to a loading dock for railroad shipping. The arched opening on the second floor rear wall can still be detected.”
When the factory became extinct, another long-time town resident and well-known plumber purchased the building for his shop in 1936.
“Charles Russell purchased the building and turned it into Russell and Son,” said his grandson, Jim Russell. “His sons Hearn and Earl were involved in the business with him. Before his grandfather purchased it, he said it was Redman Lodge, a buggy shop where they forged iron right where the bar sits today.”
In 1958, Hearn decided to start a tavern and carryout liquor store. That is when the old carriage factory and plumbing shop became The Friendly Tavern.
After 56 years, The Friendly Tavern has been a staple in Zionsville and is on its sixth owner.
The tavern’s motto is: “You are a stranger here but once,” which has proved to be true for the longtime customers.
Mike and Grace Pratt have been patronizing The Friendly for 40 years and they love it because a new conversation is sparked every time they visit.
“We love this place, it’s unpretentious with no agenda and the locals always have something great to say,” Mike Pratt said.
St. Patrick’s Tradition
Scott Barnes and his company, South Main Holdings, have owned the tavern for 12 years. Barnes is now preparing for the tavern’s busiest day of the year: St. Patrick’s Day.
According to Barnes, the first year he purchased the tavern, he was told by everyone in town that he had to continue throwing a big bash for the infamous Irish holiday.
“When I first bought the place everyone, and I mean everyone, said to me, ‘you are going to have St. Patty’s Day right?’ So, I scrambled and asked everyone what was so special and what did I need to do,” Barnes’s said.
This year, the side parking lot will be covered by a tent to accommodate extra seating the restaurant will need for the big party.
Barnes said that he is expecting to cook 1,150 pounds of corned beef, 350 pounds of potatoes, and 350 pounds of cabbage.
The band, Second Fiddle, will also be playing.
“Our St. Patty’s Day party can signal of the end of winter, beginning of spring, and it brings out people,” Barnes said. “The residents are like ‘Let’s get out in the neighborhood, party.’”
Steve and Debbie Bluestein have been regulars for years, and said that they are looking forward to the St. Patrick’s Day event at the tavern.
“We love the consistency, and the people that work here,” Steve Bluestein said. “It’s great to meet new people as well, and the food is very good.”
Barnes said that The Friendly Tavern will always be here, in spite of Zionsville’s growth.
“You don’t come to Zionsville without going to The Friendly, and into the future, I don’t see that changing,” he said.
Barnes said that when he bought the business 12 years ago the development that Zionsville is experiencing wasn’t there.
“Anson, the Michigan corridor wasn’t even built and even with all the new restaurants I only see growth for us,” Barnes said.
He added that he has seen increased sales every year as well.
“My philosophy is that I can’t worry about them, I only worry about these four walls,” he said. “Restaurants will come and go, me and my employees put out the best product we can.”
The Friendly Tavern St. Patrick’s Day Feast.
When: March 17.
Where: The Friendly Tavern, located at 290 South Main Street in Zionsville.
What: Irish specialties of beef and cabbage, potatoes, green beer and Guiness will be served outside in a tent. There will also be live music.
For more information call (317) 873-5772.