It was four years ago that Mel and Walter Belville opened their Irish pub and cafe in downtown Rochester.
In April 2008, the Belvilles purchased the building at 50 North Main St., the former location of Harvey’s Bakery, during a foreclosure auction on their last bid.
“Right after we bought it the economy tanked,” said Mel on Tuesday.
Nevertheless, the couple lucked out, by having cashed in some of their stocks before the collapse of the economy, said Mel, and after months of renovating the building, Mel Flanagan’s Irish Pub and Cafe was open for business in August 2008.
This week, Mel Flanagan’s is celebrating its fourth anniversary with specials and giveaways.
Until Friday, each customer gets a free raffle ticket, with a chance to win a variety of prizes, including a mountain bicycle, and items donated by Guinness, including bottle openers and T-shirts. The drawing will take place Friday night.
Patrons can also treat themselves to traditional Irish meals, such as the boiled dinner, served with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and Irish bread.
The pub’s motto, “Come as strangers, leave as friends, return as family,” reflects the family-friendly atmosphere the owners strive to achieve at Mel Flanagan’s, said Mel.
What distinguishes a bar from a pub, she said, is that a pub is more of a hub for the community, and is kid-friendly. In Ireland, pubs are a common place to get information, and for children to spend time after school, with parents looking out for each other’s children.
At Mel Flanagan’s, too, children can sometimes be found waiting at the pub for their parents after dance or karate lessons, she said.
“We made it as kid-friendly as we can,” said Mel, who noted that toys and books are available at the pub and cafe.
Mel, whose Irish heritage comes from Hanegan and Flanagan families of Ireland, has been visiting Ireland with her husband since 1997. She said she loves that country’s clean air, great food, and its people.
The idea behind Mel Flanagan’s was inspired by two businesses in Killarney Village, Ireland, that the Belvilles enjoy visiting, said Mel. She said before opening the pub and cafe, the couple, who has been together for 36 years, have owned two businesses — Mel’s Drive-In in Somersworth and Jimmy Jones’ Locker in Dover.
While the previous two businesses operated in a leased building, Mel said the Belvilles, who live in Somersworth, wanted to own the building, and therefore purchased the downtown Rochester property four years ago.
“I think we finally are where we wanted to be,” said Mel. “We are here to stay.”
Source: LIZ MARKHLEVSKAYA, fosters.com