CLEARFIELD – Two local bars, Legends, owned by Mike “Nerd” Morrison, and Buster’s, owned by Greg Hallstrom, are celebrating 20 years of business under current ownership, and each staff is planning anniversary events, along with a separate, joint event with the two bars.
Today there will be a 20th anniversary celebration at Legends. The festivities will include food and specials, as well as a tailgate party starting at 8 p.m. for the Penn State game.
The following weekend will be for the joint event for both bars. They are only a block apart and with 20th anniversaries falling so close, a shared event seemed only natural.
Hallstrom says they are very excited about the anniversary events. “I’ve got in-house specials, he’s got in-house specials … we’re both going to do wings at a particular price … we’re going to reduce some of our beer pricing…”
Buster’s anniversary falls on Oct. 9, and Hallstrom has a multi-day plan, which includes Saturday, Oct. 6, Monday, Oct. 8 and Tuesday, Oct. 9.
Hallstrom says he’ll feature specials every day, but he doesn’t want to reveal them too soon.
One thing he does not mind sharing is how the bar owners have a history of helping each other out on occasion, and they will certainly continue to do so.
“He’ll run out of wings, he’ll give me a call. I get him a case of wings. I run out of something, I give him a call, make sure it’s down there … and we have done that since we opened.”
Hallstrom says they have always tried to work together.
“Him and I have never been competitors … we’ve always worked together focused on trying to get the business up into East End.”
Morrison also says they have been helpful to each other, and aren’t trying to compete.
“We’ve helped each other out over the years … it’s not a rivalry or anything. It’s like he has his niche, I have mine. You know … we just get along quite well.”
Both bars share anniversaries within a few weeks of each other, and both places have been long-time Clearfield fixtures, even though they have passed through a few different owners over the decades.
History may be a part of success, and Hallstrom definitely credits that as a big part of the appeal of his bar.
“There’s a lot of history in there … you know, I’ve got the board on the wall where all the Steelers and Pirates and Penn State graduates have come in and signed, there’s Super Bowl champions that have come in and signed that board, there are World Series champions that have signed that board… “
“…It’s just kinda neat for ya know being Busters …in a neighborhood like we’re in … we’re out of the traffic flow, it’s just a little place – a backyard neighborhood bar.”
Hallstrom also credits much of the appeal to the bar’s connection local history.
He says that Buster’s was the very first liquor license issued in 1934 in Pennsylvania after prohibition and that it was originally called The East End Athletic Club. It stood in the exact same place where Buster’s is now.
“Since 1934, there has only ever been three families that owned it. The Desalvo’s owned it and they actually owned it for 50 years. And then the Spingola’s bought it in 1984 … and I bought it in 1998.”
Hallstrom says that when Buster’s became available, the Spingola’s approached him about purchasing it.
“I immediately jumped on it and I started the routine, or whatever you want to call it, of getting everything in place to purchase it…at the same time Bernie’s Dugout became available … and that’s when Nerd bought it and started the process…”
Though Hallstrom says the two bars had various things affecting how fast they got through the process of getting licensed, they ended up getting liquor licenses not too far apart and shared advice about the process.
“The kind of unique thing with Legends and (I) … Nerd and I have known each other for a long time. We actually worked together at Buster’s.”
That bartending experience and the local connection also allowed Morrison to be in the right place at the right time, leading him to open up his own local bar.
“I’ve been tending bar off and on my whole adult life … I just had a chance to buy one, so it happened.”
At the funeral of the bar’s former owner, Morrison asked the owner’s wife if she needed any help, and offered up his bartending services.
At the time, he was a part-time bartender at Buster’s. The owner’s wife ended up needing help about two weeks later, and Morrison began helping out shortly thereafter, sometime around June. By September he says, he was opening up his own place, with about eight staff to start.
Jumping in to lend support at a local establishment helped jumpstart Morrison’s business, and now at his own bar, staff support is a huge part of his success and longevity.
“I’ve just had great loyal employees for 20 years … I mean I have four that have been with me since I opened. And, I haven’t had much of a turnover …We’re like a family here – dysfunctional – but we’re a family.”
All joking aside, he is very grateful for his current staff.
“I just want to thank all my employees over the years. Really my employees make me … I have four that have been here since day one …. Chris, Linda, Cindy and Brian.”
According to Morrison, Brian used to tend bar with him, and when he bought the bar, he asked Brian to come along.
“He said … I’ll help you (get started) and he’s still here 20 years later. He’s here every Friday night.”
He also points out that many employees current and past have helped make Legend’s a success.
“All my current employees and Josh and Shawn (who) are no longer here, but they were very instrumental, and Karen, (too). Sheri and Elaine, those were the people who were here when I first opened.”
And perhaps most important, he has a great deal of support from his wife, Jackie. He says that together, he and his wife Jackie really want to thank everybody.
Other than great staff and great support, he really feels the bars longevity is due to great food. “It was originally beer and maybe 35 percent food, now it’s 70 percent food, 35 percent booze.”
When the bar became non-smoking, he says things definitely were a challenge, and “…the first year almost broke me…”
Luckily for Clearfield, Morrison and Hallstrom have been able to keep their respective bars open to the public for 20 years.