UA-8412995-1 The Southport Globe: Moving Forward, Looking Back / In Southport, the 'Shoe fits

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Moving Forward, Looking Back / In Southport, the 'Shoe fits

The Horseshoe Cafe, in its original Southport Village location on Pequot Avenue, is approaching its 80th year of operation. This makes the 'Shoe the elder statesman of town taverns, quite possibly the longest-running in Fairfield history. Even our fabled Sun Tavern, which drew its first tankard of ale in 1761 and claimed George Washington as a customer (well, maybe), could only manage to stay in business a mere half-century.
Having recently made my acquaintance with the Horseshoe Cafe, I was startled to learn that in some quarters it's considered a "dive bar." I therefore rise to its defense -- not that I could find anyone among the owner, staff and cadre of regulars who were particularly interested in being defended. As an institution, the Horseshoe Cafe is quite comfortable in its own skin, but I'm speaking up for it anyway, out of respect for its place in Fairfield's history and in consideration of its loyal clientele.
The Horseshoe Cafe's name comes by way of its original proprietor, Ed Russell, who started a blacksmith shop on the site in 1920, and rebuilt it as Russell's Horse Shoe Tavern in 1934. It was doubtless just a coincidence that Prohibition was established in 1919 and repealed in 1933, and that it was only rumors about what the village smithy might have kept in his stock room besides horseshoes.
In 1957, a milkman named Scotty Fraser decided to try his hand at a different sort of beverage distribution, and took ownership of the Horseshoe from Mr. Russell. Scotty's major and most notable innovation was to bring in a Hammond organ for sing-alongs and dancing. The organ is long gone, however, its fate unclear.
By the time Scotty's son Gordon took over in 1972, the Horseshoe Cafe had settled in as Southport's neighborhood tavern. Such places tend to resist change, but Gordon gradually shook things up: He took down a wall that partitioned the bar area from the booths, moved the original bar away from the wall to make a U-shaped bar, and most drastically, moved the pool table from the front to the back. He also resurrected the long-dormant kitchen with the help of local chef Nancy Connor.
The baton passed to Gordon's son Jim in 2001. Aside from a few tweaks like flat-screen TVs for sporting events and starting "open mike" evenings on Mondays, Jim has otherwise chosen not to impose any further innovation. READ MORE: http://www.fairfieldcitizenonline.com/opinion/article/Moving-Forward-Looking-Back-In-Southport-the-4770368.php#photo-5111691

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