Before Rich O's Public House (1990) lurched into existence … before I became a part of the business in 1992 … and long before the New Albanian Brewing Company began brewing (the company was first incorporated in 1994, and craft beer production commenced in 2002), there was Sportstime Pizza, occupying the strip mall space that previously had been a Noble Roman pizza franchise.
Rich O’Connell -- eventual namesake of the Public House, husband of Sharon and father of current co-owners Amy and Kate -- took over the Noble Roman operation in the summer of 1987. He correctly pronounced it hopeless, began reshuffling the deck, severed the franchise agreement and soon changed the name to Sportstime Pizza.
Around that time I began drinking (mostly bad) beer there with my friends and eating the first of several thousand pizzas. Shortly thereafter, through sheer coincidence, Rich added bottled Pilsner Urquell to the menu and contracted to buy the whole building.
My drinking habits began to inch upward.
In 1990, two of his cronies opened Rich O’s BBQ, which passed to Amy’s control within weeks when they became bored with trite and outdated notions of honest labor and consistent effort. In 1992 my tenure at what became the Public House began, and then Amy and I were married, and then her parents were divorced … and in 1994 we formed the New Albanian Brewing Company with Kate, who later married Jeff. In 2002 brewing began, the following year Amy and I were divorced, and if this whole story sounds like something lifted from the pages of the afternoon soaps, I can assure you that all of it is quite factual, if hazy in spots.
Through these many roller-coaster plot twists, Sportstime has endured, and while lately we’ve made a conscious decision to market the NABC name as a means of increasing the brewery’s visibility and establishing brand name equity for the house beers, it’s obvious that the Sportstime legend isn’t going away and retains an enduring appeal for several generations of customers. For this, we’re quite grateful – whichever name one chooses to call us.
On Saturday, July 14, we’ll devote the day to a birthday party in Prost beginning at 3:00 p.m., with business as usual being conducted elsewhere in the building. Old photos and accounts are being collected, and if readers have any that they’d be willing to share just for the day, please bring them along. Were you one of the few, the proud and the many hundreds who worked for us at any point during the past two decades? If so, and assuming there are no lawsuits pending, we'd like to see you, too. There’ll be beer and food specials and a few surprises, although my effort to engage 1980’s pop culture icons Def Leppard, Pat Riley and Ginger Lynn for the day just didn’t work out.
However, we hear that Roz Tate might strum a bit. Let’s hope that it comes to pass.
Remember, this one’s about the venerable Sportstime dining area, which often gets short shrift compared to the cachet of Rich O’s and the brewery. But we've not forgotten our upbringings, and July 14th will be a loving observance of our roots. Both old-timers and newbies are invited to poke their heads into Prost (anyone remember when Strandz ‘n’ Threadz was there?) and glimpse the way most things have changed and some have stayed the same.
It’s still a work in Progress.