Lasting memories of the iconic owner of The Barn Door
Perhaps it was best to hear of Art Callahan’s passing through the electronic grapevine. Few details. For days, no information regarding an official service.
That means my lasting image of Art will be him strolling from the kitchen of The Barn Door in his food-stained apron, sporting a hearty smile and ready with a joke. Art Callahan’s personality was as big as his waistline—and I say that affectionately.
During the formative years of Out & About Magazine, The Barn Door (845 Tatnall St.) was our hangout. Just doors down from our office at 813 Tatnall, it was our go-to place for lunch, after-work drinks, and—for my staff of moonlighting musicians—live music.
The Barn Door was a signature stop for bands in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, a bustling time for downtown Wilmington’s music scene. What it lacked in square footage it made up for in spirit. You hadn’t arrived as a band if you hadn’t played “The Door.”
However, what I’ll remember most are Art’s big heart for those in a pinch and the engaging conversations he and his longtime GM/bartender Mike Havertine hosted daily. The Barn Door was a popular lunch spot and Happy Hour destination; a seat at its small bar was coveted. The crowd ran the gamut, from businessman to politician to construction worker. And over soup and suds we all weighed in…on politics, music, sports, the city, the world. This Week At The Barn Door, if you will.
Ah, the soup. Despite its reputation for music, The Barn Door’s food was fantastic. That was Art. In fact, so enamored were my wife and I with his soups that we created an Out & About Soup Party and convinced him to share his creations at our home each February. Gordon Ramsay couldn’t have done better.
Art would bring four to five soups and his inimitable chili, then introduce the menu to our guests. It was a performance as much stand-up comedy as it was an explanation of the evening’s fare, often presented in his food-stained apron. The duPhily Soup Parties were a hit—thanks to Art.
Good memories. Seems like only yesterday. But the reality is, I hadn’t seen Art Callahan since both our operations moved from Tatnall Street many years ago. Not sure why.
Fortunately, I’m pretty sure I told Art he was a good man while he was living. And there is one thing I’m 100 percent certain of: I’m telling you that now.