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Simple Man Saloon and Grill  - VisitingNewEngland small business partnership

Simple Man Saloon: A Gem of a Restaurant, Bar and Live Music Destination in Clinton, Mass.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 1/24/2019.

Simple Man Saloon and Grill, downtown Clinton, Massachusetts
Simple Man Saloon.

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Jon Paige certainly follows the lyrics, "Oh, be something you love and understand" from the 1973 classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song "Simple Man" as an owner of the Simple Man Saloon in downtown Clinton, Mass.

As huge Skynyrd fans, Paige, 46, and co-owner Mike Casasanto not only named their business after the Skynyrd song when opening in 2010, but also created a local destination that shows a further deep respect and love for the legendary band, live music performances and locals seeking good food, drink, music and conversation.

Straying from Clinton's waning scenario of having too many neighborhood bars, the Simple Man Saloon emphasizes a safe, clean and extremely likable setting for all ages. What's to love: for starters, the genuine saloon look, friendly and welcoming staff and, well, a simple menu that delivers food that people actually like including wings, flatbreads and burgers, fish and fresh salads. The evening crowds that frequent Thursday team trivia, Friday night musical bingo followed by karaoke, and live entertainment on Saturday further paints a picture of a tight community within the close-knit community of Clinton.

"It's a place where everyone can come in and feel welcome, safe and comfortable," said Paige. "We have a great group of customers -- regulars and first-timers -- and an amazing staff. Some of the neighborhood bars in Clinton are similar to each other, but we are more of a mix. We have the live music, make our food fresh, are family-friendly, and see tons of people coming in, and from farther away, too."

Finding Life Beyond Another Day, Another Dollar

(CLINTON, MASS.) - Simple Man Saloon Owner Jon Paige with Annie Perry, sister of Joe Perry (Aerosmith guitarist).
Jon Paige and Annie Perry, sister of Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry, at the Draw the Line (Aerosmith tribute band) concert last year at the Simple Man. Photo credit: Simple Man Saloon.

Paige never set out to become a restaurant owner, but always had a hunger and thirst for helping others. Growing up in Norfolk, N.Y. -- a rural town in the northern extremities not too far from Ontario, Canada -- he graduated from the State University of New York at Canton in 1994 with a degree in criminal justice. Paige soon found himself employed as a police officer in Upstate New York for two years.

Paige also worked in the insulation, sheet metal and asphalt industries in Memphis, Tenn., which eventually led to a better position as a production manager for four years at Isolation Technologies closer to home in Hopedale, Mass. Unfortunately, the company was bought out by a Chicago, Ill., business with operations moving to Cape Cod. Paige decided not to transfer.

Needing a break from the stress, Paige was thinking of his next career move. Casasanto, a co-worker at Isolation Technologies and a Clinton native had looked at a number of Clinton businesses. He and Jon decided to venture into a business together, but, initially, not quite sure of the specifics. For the record, Mike and his wife Janet now live in Maine, but he is still involved with the Simple Man Saloon. He works with Janet to handle the books, the taxes, the accounts payable, "all of the financial stuff," according to Jon.

"I liked the town (Clinton) and the people so we decided to buy the Gael House (restaurant and bar)" said Paige. "We kept it for a few months, changed the menu and layout, and opened as the Simple Man on Memorial Day Weekend of 2010."

It took time for Jon and Mike to figure things out, as neither had owned a restaurant before. One priority: definitely changing the previous image.

"We try to be family-friendly," said Paige. "When we started, we had to contend with drugs, fights and men harassing women. We weren't going to tolerate any of that. We spent many nights dealing with this and in the first year tried hard to get rid of the troublemakers and legally ban people from here. Now it is completely different, a welcoming, safe place for all."

Simple Man Saloon General Manager Chris Ruggieri, a retired corrections officer, can attest, as a woman, to the extreme restaurant makeover.

"It took a while for single and married women to come here," said Ruggieri. "Now it is a very comfortable, safe place. The place has changed a lot and for the better. I love working here. The staff makes a huge difference, they are so great. You meet so many nice, special people here. I have worked at a lot of bars and feel like I've found my home here."

One of those special people that Jon holds very near and dear to his heart: his wife, Kristen. They met at the restaurant in 2010 and married last year in Old Forge, N.Y., a small community within the town of Webb in the Adirondack Mountains.

Extreme Saloon Makeover

A lively scene at the Simple Man Saloon, Clinton, Massachusetts.
Lively scene at the Simple Man Saloon.
Photo source: Simple Man Saloon Facebook fan page.
   
If HGTV visited Clinton, it wouldn't be a stretch to think they would absolutely love the authentic downtown and new look of the Simple Man Saloon. The open-concept restaurant and long, almost front-to-back bar space lends a spacious feel that makes the restaurant feel larger than its modest square footage.

Simple Man Saloon and Grill, downtown Clinton MA.
Spacious dining and bar environment at the Simple Man Saloon.

It's an unpretentious, what-you-see-what-you-get scene that makes visitors feel like part of a family rather than being isolated in smaller rooms. The open space also allows for clearer views of the live music performances. The exposed brick walls, comfortable dark wooden booths and tables, lights on poles, old time piano, popcorn machine and Skynyrd wall pictures offer additional ambiance that feels like an escape from the city. For those who love watching the game, the Simple Man has several flat screen televisions.

Bar at the Simple Man Saloon in Clinton, Mass.
Bar at the Simple Man Saloon.

The Simple Man Saloon reminds me more of a warm and inviting, rustic roadside stop in the rural Upstate New York than a trendy urban eatery. The exterior looks marvelous, too, with its big windows, saloon font-style sign within a restored, historic brick building. The overall look perfectly represents downtown Clinton with its stuck-in-time, turn-of-the-century appearance featuring an indie movie theater and stately brick buildings with stores, restaurants and service-oriented businesses below and offices and apartments up above on a long, wide main street. That look has has more in common with Upstate New York towns like Cortland, Boonville, Homer, Waterloo, Geneva, Seneca Falls and Little Falls than most towns in Massachusetts.

Downtown Clinton, Massachusetts.
Downtown Clinton.

Paige, no doubt, feels a bit of his Upstate New York roots in Clinton.

"There certainly seems to be some strong similarities between Clinton and certain areas of Upstate New York," said Paige. "Very blue collar, tight-knit communities with many families that have lived there for several generations."

High Street, downtown Clinton, Mass.
High St., downtown Clinton.

The entertainment area at the Simple Man Saloon is large, visible and has accommodated, largely, cover bands with significant experience and expertise. Some of the bands that have played here: Draw the Line (Aerosmith), The Peacheaters (Allman Brothers), Let It Bleed (The Rolling Stones), Dirty Deeds (AC/DC), Live Bullet (Bob Seger) and Shot of Poison (Poison). And of course, Vyntyge Skynyrd, a Boston-based tribute band to Ronnie Van Zant's Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as the Artimus Pyle Band. Pyle served as drummer for Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1974 to 1977.

Jimmy Van Zandt played at the Simple Man Saloon in Clinton, Mass., a few times before his passing in 2016.
Jimmie Van Zant performed a few years ago at the Simple Man Saloon.
Photo source: Simple Man Saloon Facebook fan page.

Jimmie Van Zant, cousin of Ronnie and Johnny Van Zant of Skynyrd fame and Donnie Van Zant of 38 Special, played at the Simple Man Saloon and Grill just before his passing in 2016. Annie Perry (Joe Perry's sister) came down to see Draw the Line play last year at the Simple Man. Additionally, comedian Lenny Clarke filmed a scene for a movie at the Simple Man a few years ago. Paige has met several members of the Van Zant family, as well as musicians playing for, and associated with Lynyrd Skynyrd and other southern rock bands. Many other popular local bands play here, also, like the Chris Fitz Band and Tony Soul Project. Thirty to 35 bands play at the Simple Man a year with 70 on the waiting list, according to Paige.

"My wife and I have scouted hundreds of shows in dozens of venues across New England," said Paige. "We wanted to identify bands with followings."

Tony Sould Project playing at the Simple Man Saloon in Clinton, Massachusetts.
The Tony Soul Project.
Photo source: Simple Man Saloon Facebook fan page.

Paige often wears his Skynyrd heart on his sleeve, or, more specifically, in the form of a Skynyrd baseball cap and shirt when at the Simple Man Saloon and Grill.

"I've seen Skynyrd more than 100 times," said Paige. "Mike is a fan, too. We needed a saloon-type name, Over a few beers we traded ideas and Mike said 'Saloon...Simple Man Saloon!' Credit goes to Mike for the name."

In memory of Ronnie Van Zant (late lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd) at the Simple Man Saloon in Clinton MA.
Wall tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd's Ronnie Van Zant at the Simple Man Saloon.

Food and Drink For the Working Man, Woman

Unlike most pubs, the Simple Man features a small menu. Paige would rather do a few things great than a lot of things good.

"Our three main categories are burgers, chicken wings and flatbreads," said Paige. "We had a much bigger menu at one time. We figured out what was most popular and then condensed the menu. We want to keep things simpler with fewer selections done better. Yes, it is unusual for a pub to have a smaller menu."

Everything is done fresh here with no short cuts taken. The Angus beef burger is living proof of this commitment to the food. Here, a delicious burger called The Western is accompanied with lettuce, tomato, fried onion rings, queso sauce, crispy bacon, barbecue sauce and a side of waffle fries topped with cheese sauce and bacon...

Burger with bacon, onion rings and waffle fries from the Simple Man Saloon in Clinton, Massachusetts.
The Western Burger from the Simple Man Saloon.

The buffalo wings have remained popular at the Simple Man Saloon from virtually the beginning of the business...

Buffalo wings from the Simple Man Saloon in Clinton, Mass.
Buffalo Wings from the Simple Man Saloon.
Photo credit: Simple Man Saloon.

The flatbreads serve as an excellent alternative to pizza, jam packed with cheese, tomato and toppings...

Broccoli Chicken Alfredo Flatbread from the Simple Man Saloon in downtown Clinton, Massachusetts.
Broccoli Chicken Alfredo Flatbread.
Photo credit: Simple Man Saloon.

The Simple Man Saloon also offers a nice variety of appetizers including homemade chili, nachos, potato skins, fried mozzarella sticks, cheese quesadillas, onion rings, broccoli and cheddar bits, zucchini fries, poutine, soft pretzels and regular, waffle and sweet potato fries. In addition, they serve chicken wraps and sandwiches, marinated steak tips, fish and chips and mac and cheese, Salad options include the Saloon Salad with red onion, tomato, cucumber and olives, as well as Caesar, Cobb and Dude Ranch (tomato, red onion, fried chicken, bacon, Monterey jack, and ranch drizzle topped with a crushed tortilla. Also, the Simple Man offers a kids menu with chicken tenders, hot dogs, mac and cheese, burgers, pasta with butter or marinara and grilled cheese.

While the Simple Man Saloon knows drinks are an important part of a restaurant, bar and entertainment venue, they stick to just a few crafts beers (Sam Adams, Wachusett, Wormtown, etc.) and seasonal drafts, as well as the basic beers (like Guinness, Miller, Bud, Coors). The Simple Man also serves wine and signature cocktails.

A glass of Guinness at the Simple Man Saloon in Clinton, Massachusetts.
A cold brew at the Simple Man Saloon.

"We are not a hipster, microbrew type of place," said Paige. "People seem to like what we offer, though."

In Business For All The Right Reasons

The Simple Man Saloon makes it a priority to give back to the community. In July, the Simple Man raises thousands of dollars through a motorcycle run for Wounded Warriors. They have also contributed to autism awareness and breast cancer and partnered with WHEAT Community Connections in Clinton to serve "50 or so meals" for free on Thanksgiving to local people in need.

"Some people aren't as fortunate as others," said Paige. "One woman came in with three or four kids and thanked us. The elderly -- sometimes, they have no place to go for a meal. We serve it all: turkey, mashed potatoes, squash...."

There's no doubt Paige's heart is always in the right place. Before the end of the interview, he stressed something very important in regards to his personal beliefs.

"See this menu?" asked Paige. "It is red, white and blue (in colors). That menu reflects our belief in patriotism, and supporting our military, the police, first responders and fire. We are very conscious of that."

Logo from the Simple Man Saloon in downtown Clinton, Mass.

Simplicity is Key

Paige's life often reflects the "Simple Man" lyrics. Along the way to becoming satisfied with his career choice, Paige took his time to find his calling, stayed away from lusting for rich man's gold and found true love with a woman and his job, en route to many sunny days. Finding simplicity within life's complexities paved Paige's journey to his professional destination.

He's not about to make things too simple, though, for himself and staff at the Simple Man Saloon.

"I want it to be simple for our patrons, not us," said Paige. "We have a job to do."

 The Simple Man Saloon and Grill is located at 119 High St., Clinton MA. Tel. 508-365-1949. email address: simplemansaloon@hotmail.com. Opens at 11:30 every day. Web site: http://www.simplemansaloon.com/. Menu: http://www.simplemansaloon.com/menu. Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/SimpleManSaloon/.


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The Simple Man Saloon in downtown Clinton, Mass., is a fabulous restaurant, bar and live music venue..


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