Times flies when you’re having fun while working hard.
When friends and high school classmates Scott Schmelzel and “Jimbo” Sinovic decided to go into business together, they had a vision to create a restaurant and bar that would not only bring good food and beverages to downtown Belleville, but also wanted to create an atmosphere that would contribute to the community.
They have done that by hosting block parties that coincide with city events as well launching other events that have become annual events. They opened their doors in April 2005 and are now celebrating their 10th anniversary in business.
Business writer Will Buss recently sat down with both at their downtown bar to reflect on their business:
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What lead you to establish a downtown bar and grill in Belleville?
Schmelzel: “Ten years ago, Big Daddy’s was really doing great business in Soulard. I’m from Belleville and Jimbo is from Fairview Heights. I was in corporate America and wanted to get out of it. I knew Jimbo was doing well and was productive in Soulard and I thought that would translate well in downtown Belleville. There was not much to choose from in downtown Belleville 10 years ago. There was a lack of quality places to go in downtown Belleville.”
Sinovic: “A lot of our clientele from Big Daddy’s in Soulard came from Belleville. That was the premise for doing business here. This has just done great in 10 years. Some of the things that Scott is doing now with the street parties and events just proves that the Belleville clientel is here. This Belleville bar has maintained good revenue and is sustainable.”
What has your business brought to the downtown area?
Scott: “We applied the patio fun bar concept from Big Daddy’s in Soulard and brought it to Belleville. There are a lot of folks who went to Soulard because of Jimbo himself and his product.”
Sinovic: “All of this has added up to success. If you’re not taking care of things and the people, this doesn’t happen. This was really like the linchpin and the anchor for the bar district in downtown Belleville.”
How have you achieved that?
Schmelzel: “In the 10 years since we’ve opened, there are now about eight to 12 places within a six-block area. We stay current and we are up-to-date by promoting block parties. ... Fritz Distributing has been a great partner with us in promoting the outdoor events such as the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, the Brew ’n Cue event, the Belleville 200 celebration, which was huge for us. So we’re really grateful to Fritz for their support. We have stayed a step above everybody else by continuing to pursue those events and being a part of the community.”
Sinovic: “And you’ve got to do that stuff in this business. You have to chase down the dollar. Other places do it. Other cities do it. Other venues do it.”
How have you continued to work together in this business?
Schmelzel: “We talk because we are friends and partners in the business. We are 50-50 partners in this business, but we also have other business interests outside this business. But in the end, our top priority is Big Daddy’s.”
Sinovic: “We have remained pretty good friends. Not many business partners can say that. Some partnerships go to hell in a hand basket.”
Schmelzel: “That’s a good point. A lot of partnerships don’t survive in this business or any business. We still talk shop and strategize together. The biggest influence for me to this day is Jimbo. He has the track record.”
Has the business met your expectations?
Schmelzel: “When we first opened up, we envisioned being a part of the Chili Cook-Off, Art on the Square, the Shriner’s Parade, and we knew that we would have a good venue for those events. This year will be our fifth year for the annual Wingfest, one of out biggest events of the year. We planned to be here for 20 years and we’re already at the halfway point.”
Sinovic: “It went pretty fast.”
Schmelzel: “And since we’ve opened in Belleville, two other Big Daddy’s have opened on the Landing and in Edwardsville. So Big Daddy’s has done well. Our longevity speaks for itself.”