When he opened his restaurant and bar in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the age of thirty, Duffy Manahan was quite young to be an entrepreneur in the hospitality business. It was March of 1990. Due to regulatory issues, city planning and inspection tie-ups he was at the end of his financial rope. If his business didn’t pop within a month after he opened he thought he would be the fastest bankruptcy in New Mexico small business history. But to his surprise and satisfaction, in his compliance with Stanley Marcus’s blueprint for success as drilled into his head by his former employer: “Location, Location, Location,” he started repaying his debts within a week and a half.
He had been working at O’Doul’s as a bartender since the age of twenty-one, just three years after graduating high school. O’Doul’s was a typical Irish pub with food and darts that had been in business for twenty years. The pub was in a great location, positioned at the city line on the outbound side of the first main intersection toward the growing, western suburbs. There was a gas station on one corner, a convenience store another, an adult store on the other. O’Doul’s was in the most advantageous spot on the intersection.
Sean O’Doul was a first generation Irishman with an appropriately thick Irish brogue. He was a wily businessman and a good host. Because of young Duffy’s work ethic and native intelligence Sean took an immediate liking to him. He methodically taught Duffy the fine points mixology plus giving him pointers on how to run a pub. Within eight months of hiring Duffy Sean told him, “I have no heirs Son and I’m thinking that someday, when I retire, I’ll offer you the opportunity to buy the place.”
He always bragged to Duffy about O’Doul’s success, about how he found the best location in town for his pub. He kept drilling into Duffy that his main reason for success was the great location that O’Doul’s enjoyed ... that he made the decision to build in that particular place because of a book he read by Stanley Marcus (co-founder of Neiman Marcus) which said that the three most important ingredients for a successful business is, “Location, location, location.” Sean once said, “The only way it could have be better Duffy, would be for the place to be on one corner, with a gas station on another, a motel directly across the street and a Catholic Church nearby.”
When Duffy asked why, he said, “As you know Duff there is lots of boy-and-girling here, both legal and illegal. What would be better for two lovers under the influence of the grape or a professional woman plying her trade to be able to cross the street and scratch itches in a convenient motel.” He added, “Being a good Mick Duffy, you know that Catholic churches are open all hours of the day. Since sinning goes on in a place like this ... and definitely in a motel across the street, the best place for guilty sinners to confess their depravities would be at a church within walking distance. “And the gas station, if somebody spends all their money on booze, sex and tithing one can always buy gas with an oil company credit card.” The only thing that made sense to Duffy was the motel across the street.
In 1988 Sean drew up a plan to sell O’Doul’s to Duffy. He said that he wanted to retire and start traveling with his wife. Duffy was thrilled to be taking over and being given the opportunity for ownership. He was planning to start making payments in six months. After Duffy would Sean regularly for two years 50% of the business would be turned over to him. After two years he planned on making accelerated payments which would enable him to satisfy his debt within eight years. O’Doul’s would be entirely Duffy’s business at the end of that time. To Duffy it seemed extremely generous, it was a no brainer.
As the evening bartender and manager of O’Doul’s Duffy became friendly with a number of the steady patrons. Craig Firestone, Cary Middleditch and Ralph Edmondson were regulars who often came in for lunch during the day and many evenings for drinks after work. Craig, who lived closer to O’Doul’s than the other two men, would also come in frequently for dinner with his wife Ellen. Ellen, though about ten years older than Duffy, was extremely pretty and always extremely nice to him. He definitely had a crush on Ellen. She often seemed to be flirting with him as well. He thought she was the classiest woman in the world with whom he developed an obsessive lust.
One evening when the Firestones came in Ellen asked Duffy why he was smiling so broadly. He blurted out that Sean O’Doul had made an offer to sell him the pub ... that within ten years he would be the sole owner of O’Doul’s. “It’s a great opportunity for me,” he said. But he got a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach when Ellen was unable to mask a troubled look that she was giving her husband. Craig simply shrugged as if whatever she was suggesting wasn’t anything to concern themselves about. When Duffy went back to the bar he noticed Ellen talking harshly to Craig who looked like he was trying to ignore her.
The next Monday night Craig came in by himself for a drink. The conversation didn’t go as Duffy expected, Craig was uncomfortable about something. As he got up to leave he handed Duffy his card and said, “I need to talk with you about something Duffy. Give me a call at the office. It’s quite confidential so I suggest you call from home. Whatever you do don’t say anything to Sean about it.” Duffy remembered the look that Ellen had given to Craig when he told them about buying O’Doul’s.
Before going to work the next day he dialed Firestone’s office number. He was due to sign the papers to buy O’Doul’s on the fifteenth of the month. The next day would be the tenth. After a few pleasantries Firestone went into the following litany: “As you know Duffy I’m a member of the city council. Over the past two years we have been having meetings with the Interstate Commerce Commission about building a super highway through town and connecting it to the road going all the way through California to the coast. The ICC has signed a letter of intent to go forward. Because of all the planning that goes on, and the ICC negotiating with other cities down the line our section of the road will won’t start for ten years.”
He stared long and hard to determine if Duffy was following him. Clearing his throat and went on, “If you sign the contract with Sean O’Doul, by the time you have paid off your debt to him—because of Imminent Domain—all of the businesses in that intersection, including O’Doul’s will be torn down to make way for the highway. If you buy O’Doul’s now you will be paid for the loss of the building but at a rate much less than it would otherwise be worth. So, if you sign the deal with Sean O’Doul you will be buying a business that, at the worst case may fail well before the building is torn down. People will be made aware that O’Doul’s is being demolished and will be moving to another location, which most likely will be further away from them. So they’ll probably be looking for a closer watering hole.”
He stopped and stared to make sure Duffy was tuned in. At the moment the young bartender’s face was turning red and his Adam’s apple was actively moving up and down. “The best case you can hope for, thanks to ‘Urban Ecology, ‘ is that you will have to open a new business while losing customers at your current location. This will put a tremendous strain on your finances Duffy.” The lad’s stomach dropped and his knees nearly buckled. “So, my advice to you my friend is, whatever you do don’t sign that contract with Sean.” He added, “I’ve talked about this with Middleditch and Edmonson—Craig Firestone was a real estate broker, Cary Middleditch a lawyer and Frank Edmondson a banker. Each was a member of the city council. We all believe that Sean has created a great business. But the reason for his continued growth over the last couple of years is because of you Duffy ... all of us like you. And I think most of O’Doul’s patrons feel the same way.”
By this time Duffy’s Irish was over the brim. He was boiling mad at how Sean O’Doul was planning on using him to get out of the business before the shit hit the fan. “I’m gonna tear that son of a bitch a new asshole,” he said “I...” Holding up his hand Firestone cut him off.
“I realize Duffy how pissed you must be. Frankly, my Partners Cary Middleditch, Frank Edmonson and I are really shocked that Sean would try to use you in such a cruel manner. I’m glad that you told Ellen and me about it the other night.” He gave Duffy what could be considered as a conciliatory smirk and said, “You can thank Ellen for beating sense into my head on this one.”
Duffy slammed his hand on the desk and yelled, “That COCKSUCKER, I could KILL him!”
Firestone held up his hand again. “Shh, Shh Duffy, there are people in the office. Take a deep breath and get a grip on yourself for Christ’s sake. We have been working on this road project for years Duffy.”
When Duffy opened his mouth to bitch again Craig reached out his hand and squeezed Duffy’s wrist. “Get a grip on yourself GODDAMMIT.” After staring the angry young man down and cajoling him for a full ten minutes more Firestone said, “The best thing you could have done Duffy is spill the beans about the deal that O’Doul was making with you. We’ve been working on a plan that we originally intended coming to Sean O’Doul with. But since he has turned out to be such a heartless asshole we’ve decided to discuss the offer with you instead.”
.... There is more of this story ...