Published December 29, 2017
Tom Foley is the owner of The Holiday Lounge, which is located at 7846 Dodge St.
Q1: Where are you originally from?
Mr. Foley has lived in Omaha his entire life. He was born and raised in the Holy Name parish and lived in the St. Roberts area during his high school years.
Q2: Could you briefly explain the history of how The Holiday Lounge came about?
The Holiday Lounge is located in the Beverly Hills Plaza. The plaza was built in 1956 by a local construction company. The company decided that they needed to have a bar in the plaza, and thus, The Holiday Lounge was born. A little less than a decade later, in 1965, the bar was sold to Tom’s parents. Tom went into detail about how Omaha has been transformed since then and how The Holiday Lounge appears to be frozen in time since it has outlived many other businesses that have come and gone in the area.
Q3: How did you know you were passionate about what you were doing?
After college, Tom Foley joined the family business. Not too long after he started working with his parents, he realized that running your own business was not only fun, but could also be prosperous and rewarding.
Q4: What was your goal when you took over the family business?
Mr. Foley’s main goal was to prove people wrong. He explained that many people thought his family would not be able to make the bar profitable. This made him determined to be successful, keep the bar around, and stay in business.
Q5: Since you have fulfilled your initial goal, what is your new goal for The Holiday Lounge?
Tom told me that staying in business is his new goal that he is constantly working on. He elaborated on how cultural and demographical shifts, including smoking bans and smaller families, have impacted his business and forced him to adapt throughout the years. Tom stressed that it is most important to take care of your current customers and then you can build upon that framework. “It’s the regulars that help keep you in business,” he stated.
Q6: Have you developed any key partners along the way?
The most important “partners” that Mr. Foley has are the professionals that he has hired. He told me that it is especially crucial for small businesses to have a good attorney, accountant, banker, insurance guy, etc. He then went on to describe how these professionals that he has hired help his business grow in a way that would not be possible if he was doing all of the work by himself. Mr. Foley told me that since these people help you and your business in very close ways and even in tough circumstances, it is necessary to pick good ones that you can trust and stick with them for the long run.
Q7: Were there any other businesses or individuals you looked up to or aspired to be like when you took over the business?
When Tom’s father passed the business down, he told Tom that it is important to find other businesses that were similar to The Holiday Lounge that Tom could look at for examples of how to do different things. He told me that it was very important to talk to other business owners that operated similar kind of businesses, make friends with the owners, and share ideas. Specifically, Mr. Foley looked up to and took advice from Jessie at The Green Onion and Annie at The Interlude, two other local Omaha bars. He would frequently go over and talk to them about business related topics such as insurance and strategy. Tom told me that when he gets together with other owners of local bars, they share ideas and different practices that helped each other grow. He explained how, in Omaha, this is very common. Instead of small businesses trying to put each other out of business, they often come together as a “sort of club” to help each other and grow their businesses together.
Q8: What has been the greatest challenge you have faced in business so far?
Tom believes that the greatest challenge that every business faces is handling employees. “Employees are your key,” he stated, “you’re only as good as your worst employee. According to Mr. Foley, the employees are the ones who are running a large amount of the day-to-day operations, so it is crucial that you hire ones you can trust and who are hard workers. He told me that, as a business owner, it is very important that he treats his employees fair and is nice to them. Tom does not believe in running his business like a dictator, and is empathetic to the fact that everyone makes mistakes and is also dealing with problems of their own outside of work. When it comes to speaking with his employees, he is a firm believer that honesty is always the best policy, and it is a two way street. He knows that he should always be upfront when talking to his employees, and expects the same of them when they talk to him.
Q9: What products do you offer?
The Holiday Lounge is your standard lounge that exclusively serves drinks. Because of this, Tom said that people will often bring in food from nearby restaurants, which he is ok with…as long as they buy a drink! The lounge also has a jukebox, dartboard, and free Wi-Fi for all the guests.
Q10: What makes The Holiday Lounge stand out from other bars in town?
What really makes The Holiday Lounge unique is how long it has been around. The business has never gone through any rebranding or name changes, and has been run by the same family since 1965. The family-owned aspect really draws local families to the lounge and Tom was explaining how he has seen certain families develop a tradition of coming to the lounge. He told me how humbling it was to have seen young couples come to the lounge with their parents, and are now bringing their children with them. “That’s our uniqueness,” Tom explained, “three generations have come in here and had fun.”
Q11: As a small business, how do you determine the best way to spend your money?
Mr. Foley admitted that there were a lot of things that he could add to his business. He told me that he could technically put in new carpet every other year, upgrade his televisions whenever new models come out, etc. He told me that when he does make an improvement, it ends up getting broken or ruined in a couple of years anyways. At a bar, new carpet will always get spilled on, countertops will always get scratched, and new chairs will always end up getting ripped, so he makes sure to be smart with his money and only fix things that are really bad.
Q12: How do you advertise your business?
Tom said he does a little bit of running print ads, but mainly does word-of-mouth. He has never run an ad on TV or on the radio. He believes that the best form advertising is physically being at your business. When the face of the company is there, it gives him a chance to share the story of the business with his customers who come in. Ultimately, Tom told me that, “The more time you spend here, the better off you are.”
Q13: Describe your business’ relationship with the Omaha community.
Tom says that The Holiday Lounge donates to places around the city, and he personally gives money to the church. He also mentioned how The Holiday Lounge has sponsored gift cards for events in the past, as well as purchased raffle tickets for Creighton Prep’s fundraising events.
Q14: What is your favorite part about doing business in the city of Omaha?
In the words of Mr. Foley, “We have a strong neighborhood vibe in the city of Omaha.” He went on to tell me that he thinks, “It’s unusual that you’re known by where you grew up in Omaha more so than other communities.” Mr. Foley made it clear that he is a huge fan of Omaha’s tight-knit community feeling.
Q15: What’s your current view of Omaha and where do you see the city headed in the next several years?
Tom said he has definitely recognized that the city of Omaha is growing quickly. He believes Omaha will continue to expand west, but that the city will also see a resurgence of certain areas around the city. He thinks that more people will move to areas like the Cathedral, Holy Name, South Omaha, Blackstone, and Benson. As he mentioned earlier in the interview, he has noticed that families are getting smaller and couples are not having as many children as they used to. Because of the smaller family sizes in Omaha, he believes smaller houses in these areas of town will become increasingly popular. Tom believes that within the next 20 years, Omaha’s inner city will do better than it ever has, especially with all of the redevelopment that is going on.
Q16: Why should someone from New York, LA, or Chicago move to Omaha?
Fifteen minute commute times. Low prices. Not as busy. Plus, there are still many opportunities to make money. Overall, Mr. Foley believes that people in Omaha get to have a little more time to spend on themselves than people in bigger cities do.