Name: Tom Yenne
Job: Owner, Huddle Bar and Grill at 1101 Caseyville Road, Suite J, in Caseyville (618-855-8555)
Outlook: "I just want people to give us a chance. Just give it a shot. I promise, you won't be disappointed."
Tom Yenne says his "bar and grill" is not "bar food." The Alton native recently opened his business, located near Collinsville High School, with an eye toward providing a dining experience for everyone. Last week, he talked to business writer Will Buss about his Huddle Bar and Grill:
Q: Why did you open this business?
A: "I was at Fast Eddie's for almost 14 years and just always wanted my own place. I got a really good opportunity with this spot here and just ran with it. I did a lot of renovation and had to tear down the old bar and put up a new bar and tore down a wall that was here. It was just something that I always wanted to do. My partner, Michelle Reichart, actually owns the building. Our sons play baseball together and so with that opportunity and the location, it just all came about."
Q: Is this your first business venture?
A: "This is my first venture and hopefully not my last venture."
Q: Is there a concept with the name "Huddle"?
A: "It's an everything concept. The name "huddle" can mean so many different things. It can mean a gathering, it can be sports, it can just make people more curious than anything. I didn't want to be a sports bar and grill. I just kept the sports out, even though I have the black-and-white pictures of athletes up, it's more for everybody. It's for families. That's my big thing. I want to get families in here, have the kids in here, and later in the night it's for the adults."
Q: What's on the menu?
A: "Definitely not bar food. That's the big thing. It's more like American cuisine. We have steaks, flat breads and fish tacos. Presentation is everything here. When you see it, the first thing you say is 'Wow,' if it's presented right. That's half the battle right there. We do a lot of specials. On Thursday night we have a 14-ounce New York strip with mashed potatoes for $9.99. That brings them in. But our biggest thing is that we're not bar food."
Q: What is your goal for this business?
A: "I definitely want this to be a destination place. I love the Caseyville and Collinsville area, but I want to be more than just that. I want to hit Belleville, O'Fallon, Fairview Heights, Alton, Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Maryville, Troy. I want to be a destination place. I love the locals and we believe the locals are great for us, but I want to think outside the box because we're by everything. We're right on a highway, we're by (Interstate) 64, we have (Interstate) 255 right there and we have (Interstate) 70 nearby. We're only 15 minutes from everybody."
Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?
A: "I just love the reaction on people's faces when they have a good product. I think that's the biggest thing. I know this business really well. So just taking that all in and being the business for 14 years and doing it on your own, like I just said, I just love people knowing that they're going to get a good product, they're going to get good prompt service. It has nothing to do with being able to tell someone to do this or that. It has nothing to do that. It's just nice knowing that with all of these years that I have put in, it's now paying off."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.