A block party will celebrate the bar’s anniversary on July 29
For 30 years the distinctive sign for Comegys Pub has hung above the door to the family-owned bar on the 200 block of N. Union Street. You may have never stopped in, but most likely you’ve seen the sign.
The three cartoon blind mice on the sign represent the three brothers who founded the pub. As you might have guessed, it’s also symbolic of the owners’ self-effacing sense of humor.
“Despite ourselves, we’ve succeeded in this industry,” says Randy Comegys, sitting next to the bar that he and his brothers, Fred and Mark, bought and refurbished three decades ago. The previous establishment required a lot of love and hard work in order to reopen under its current name.
They put their homes up for collateral to make the dream happen. Each took night shifts after their day jobs to keep it running. Somehow, over the years, the three blind mice managed to build a little train-that-could, and it’s still running today as well as it ever has.
“The bankers and other bar owners said we wouldn’t last a year,” says Fred, whose reputation in Wilmington as an award-winning News Journal photographer preceded his modest fame as a bar owner. He says that from the start, critics pointed at the address as a potential problem because many thought a bar couldn’t survive on Union Street south of 4th Street. Then there was the fact that none of the three brothers had any experience in the bar business.
“Oddly enough, we still don’t know anything about the bar business,” Fred says. One thing he does know is that the pub reached this milestone thanks largely to help from the family.
“The women really run the bar now; if it hadn’t been for them, we wouldn’t still be here,” Fred says, pointing to his daughter, Candace Ryan—who has bartended at the pub since she was 21—and referencing his wife, Terry, and Randy’s wife, Patty, who also put in plenty of hours.
“We’re really a neighborhood bar,” Ryan says. “Everybody gets along, and we get all types. And if anyone ever causes a problem, the place kind of polices itself. The people who come here care about this place.”
Perhaps that egalitarian approach has something to do with the pub’s longevity. Other factors, according to the owners, include the shuffleboard table in the back—a rarity in these parts—and, on the walls, Fred’s one-of-a-kind photographs from his long, distinguished career.
Then there’s the vibe. Christmas lights glow upon the dark, wooden racks of liquor bottles behind the bar. Dozens of varied state license plates nailed to the wooden ceiling beams tell stories of faraway places. Indeed, the bar exudes the charm typically reserved for well-worn bars in tourist towns or on distant islands—places that thrived some years and simply survived others. Places that for some reason or another, attract a loyal following.
“We’re all family and we like everyone,” Fred says. “I like coming in and seeing the people.”
As with the three blind mice in the nursery rhyme, the Comegys brothers and their family have certainly taken their bumps and bruises over the course of 30 years, but they are still running the business, and finding their way.
“We’ve proven that you don’t have to follow everyone else’s pattern,” Randy says. “We’ve followed our own path.”
Comegys Pub will host a 30th Anniversary Block Party on Sunday, July 29, 2-10pm. The party will feature DJ music, a food truck, giveaway, and most likely, some wonderful photo ops.