Buying the family farm prompted the move to Missouri
ST. CLEMENT—Greg Cissell and his wife, Carolyn Bailey, would often travel to Missouri to see Greg’s grandparents on the farm that has been in the family since the late 1800s.
“My grandparents grew up here and got married here,” Greg said. His mom, as well as his aunts and uncles grew up in the area. “Most of the them are still in Missouri. I grew up in Springfield.”
The couple had been living in Colorado in what Greg described as their forever home when the opportunity to buy the farm came up. Greg said he and Carolyn decided to call it their early retirement—make that semi-retirement. The market was right to sell their home, so they up and left Winter Park, Colo., to move to Missouri. He was a custom home builder and she is a designer. They each owned their own businesses. Carolyn also ran an art gallery.
During their frequent trips to the old Missouri homestead, they would talk about moving back, buying the old farm and buying the local bar. The couple is still fairly young, so they wanted to buy Johnny Diamond’s Sport Bar and Grill to give them something to do. Greg and Carolyn did what they said they would do, and now they have the time to concentrate their efforts at newly named Harry’s Tavern. Harry was Greg’s grandfather’s name.
“We thought we’d pay homage to my grandpa and keep his name and the family name alive a little longer,” Greg said.
“We wanted something we could do together,” he added. “And it’s close by.” The family farm is just 2 miles down the road.
“It’s a good way for us to meet a lot of people,” he added. “We’re more or less related to most of the county in one form or another.”
Carolyn said she always joked about putting a big family tree on the bar’s wall and let the patron’s put their names where they belong.
“It’s been fun, and we’re enjoying it,” Greg said. “People are really positive.”
Carolyn said because they had never owned a bar and grill before it was a real learning experience. Luckily, they were able to keep on all the long-time employees who had worked there over the years. Still, they are learning as they go.
“We’re both business people, so we know how to handle the business side of things,” she said. “As far as everything else, it’s going to happen organically, and we’re going to have to live through it.”
When they first bought the bar, they wanted to open right away, but Greg said they had to go through the licensing process, and that gave them time to do some more remodel work.
“And it gave us time to wrap our brain around everything we were getting ready to do,” he said.
Besides some of the minor changes they made to the décor inside, the biggest change was making the bar non-smoking.
Because of that change, food sales have gone up by 50%, said Carolyn.
“We’ve more than doubled sales from the previous owner,” Greg said, “without doing a whole lot.”
They did a lot painting and cleaning, as well as adding new chairs. A lot of the changes have been behind the scenes. This spring they are going to put in a new septic system. But now that summer is rolling in, they are also looking to fix up the deck so they can include outdoor dining. They’ve even considered paving the parking lot to make it easier for people to park. They want better signage, as well. There are horseshoe pits in the back for tournaments. As part of the expansion to more outdoor activity, they are planning on fencing in the back area.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Carolyn said.
Greg had some of the video games removed so they could fit in another pool table. They host pool tournaments during the week. The tournaments are held Wednesdays and Sundays.
“We’ve just rolled out Charitable Tuesdays; where we invite non-profit organizations to be included. We’ll pick one organization a week,” Carolyn said, “and donate 10% of our proceeds from our daily sales to them.”
Thursdays they want to have Lady’s Night. They occasionally will have bands come in, too—something different almost every night.
“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback,” Greg said.
The couple have seen a lot of positive changes in Bowling Green and noticed all the development going on.
“I feel as though there is a lot of opportunity in Bowling Green,” Carolyn said. Had this opportunity happened somewhere else they probably would not have made the move and bought a business. The bar has been in St. Clement for a really long time, Greg said. And it has a loyal following. The place can seat just about 70 people.
With Bowling Green being between Hannibal and St. Louis, Greg explained it has a lot of potential. He’s witnessed the changes over the years he’s been coming here to visit his grandparents.
The more opportunity there is for people the better things can become, he added.
They lease their farmland to the neighbors to grow beans and corn. Their neighbors even pasture some of their cows on the farm.
Greg said his grandmother is still alive.
“She’s 101, and is the oldest living person who attends St. Clement Catholic Parish,” he said. She currently resides in Lynn’s Heritage House in Louisiana. His grandparents were big supporters of the church, and Harry was a member of the local Knights of Columbus.