Patrick Reilly and DJ Naylor have beaten the odds. Ten years ago, each started a restaurant, and today, they're going like gangbusters. Reilly is the owner and chef at the Majestic Grille on South Main. Naylor founded Celtic Crossing Irish Pub in Cooper-Young.
As it turns out, these two men share a lot more than an anniversary. Both grew up in Ireland, about two hours apart, and each is the 10th child in his large, Irish-Catholic family. Both came to Memphis by way of Boston and Orlando. Both married Americans, and today their kids are in the same class at school.
More to the point, each signed a second 10-year lease for their respective restuarants.
The Flyer recently caught up with them to talk about crossing the pond, tricycle-friendly dining, and why restaurants fail.
Reilly: It's funny how our lives are kind of parallel. Do you remember how we met?
Naylor: Well, back in the day I consumed a fair amount of Guinness at Dan McGuinness, which is where we met. You would drift in at about 10:30 p.m. for a quick one. During your shift, I might add — isn't that right?
Reilly: (Laughing) That's very true. I used to have an old Nextel phone, and it never did work at Dan McGuinness. So if they were trying to get a hold of me, they would call John Moyles behind the bar.
Naylor: And here we are, 10 years later, and your son Seamus is riding his tricycle around the restaurant.
Reilly: (Laughing) I never thought I'd run a tricycle-friendly restaurant, but I do. (Pause) So how do you think you made it to 10 years?
Naylor: My thought — and this is where I fell out with some of my partners — was that we needed to take a portion of what we made and put it back in the restaurant. This idea that you always take the money out — I think a lot of restaurants fail because of that.
Reilly: That's what people don't realize. The bulk of restaurants don't fail because they aren't making good food. They fail because they don't have enough cash. The truth is, there are months when, for whatever reason, you don't make any money. And you can't live through that if you don't have cash reserves.
Naylor: If I were to ask you to look out over the next 10 years, what do you see?
Reilly: I've fielded offers to run other restaurants, but I'm reluctant. If I do another project, it has to be a step up. I've spent so much time and energy and emotion on the Majestic. If I did something new, it'd have to be just right. How about yourself?
Naylor: We're looking to become more family-oriented. More of a restaurant, a place where families can come for lunch or brunch. Maybe not as reliant on that business that comes in after 11 p.m. on a Friday or a Saturday night. We're also looking to become a better neighbor.
Reilly: That's what I like about running a restaurant: It never gets old. It's always changing, the parts are always moving.
Naylor: And when the day's over, it's over. You can have a big night, and it's busy, it's crazy. But at the end of the night, everybody goes home, everybody gets fed. And then the next day, you start all over again. It's a blank canvas. It's a new opportunity.