New pub is a family affair for Liberty grad

May 6, 2011

By Rachel Solomon

Like a lot of students, Joel Stedman worked his way through college, waiting tables and bartending to pay for school. He loved being around people, and he loved the atmosphere of restaurants and pubs.

But when he graduated from Western Washington University in 2007 with a degree in economics, Stedman didn’t want to go straight to a cubicle job, as many of his peers did. Instead, he began working at The Parlor, a billiards bar in Bellevue.

“I fell in love with it,” Stedman said. “It made me want to do it on my own.”

Liberty High School alumnus Joel Stedman (right) opened Magnolia Village Pub in Seattle in December. Shannon Brock (left) is one of the pub’s 15 servers. By Greg Farrar

A few years later, Stedman did exactly that. The 2003 alumnus of Liberty High School bought a sports bar in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood in December. The Magnolia Village pub, a cozy joint specializing in microbrews and burgers, sits in the heart of Magnolia Village, which Stedman said reminds him of Issaquah’s Gilman Village.

“On a busy day when everyone is out and about, we’re right there,” said Stedman, who’s now 26 and lives in Eastgate.

After working at The Parlor, Stedman was in charge of food and beverages for a cluster of retirement homes on the Eastside. It gave him a foundation to understand how to handle a staff.

When he decided he wanted to own his own bar, Stedman said he looked at 30 or 40 different places. He knew exactly what square footage and which neighborhoods he wanted, and eventually landed in Magnolia.
“We realized it has a lot of potential and room for growth,” he said.

As a sports bar, the pub’s sheer number of TVs can’t be matched: 28 in all, including giant screens mounted on walls and personal-sized televisions for most of the tables, guaranteeing that when almost any game is on — from football to basketball to hockey — the customer will be able to watch it. Stedman said he plans to open an Eastside location in a couple of years.

Stedman, who said he’s pinched every penny since graduating from high school, bought the pub with his dad, Larry, the vice president of a group of retirement homes. It’s a true family effort: Stedman’s two younger brothers, both of whom also graduated from Liberty, work there. And one of his good friends from high school, Justin Sauvageau, is a bartender there. Sauvageau double-majored in finance and accounting at Seattle University, so he’s also on hand to help Stedman with the books.

“I like being able to work with someone I know,” Sauvageau said.

Stedman and Sauvageau said the whole staff already knows a lot of customers’ names. Anne Herkenrath is one of the regulars. She lives in Magnolia and said she stops by for a beer and some grub every week.

“It’s easygoing, sort of relaxed but fun at the same time,” Herkenrath said. “I love coming in and seeing tables crowded with kids and families.”

And it can get crowded. The pub was packed for the Super Bowl, with football fans standing shoulder-to-shoulder. Forbes.com crowned it one of the best bars in the country to watch the big game — the only place in Seattle to claim the honor.

But it can be nonstop work when trying to get a business off the ground. Stedman said he clocks more than 100 hours per week, often in 10- or 12-hour shifts. But he said it’s worth it, and he still can’t believe his good fortune: that his college job has become his career.

“I wake up every day and I think, ‘I really can’t believe this is what I do,’” he said. “I feel really privileged to be in this position.”

Rachel Solomon is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory. Comment at www.newcastle-news.com.

 

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One Response to “New pub is a family affair for Liberty grad”

  1. Lela Bryan on May 8th, 2011 12:04 pm

    What an informative, well written article! Thanks for sharing this!

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