Simple Man Saloon
and Grill/VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories
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.
created on 1/24/2019.
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
As huge Skynyrd fans, Paige, 46, and co-owner Mike Casasanto not only
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
"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
Jon Paige and Annie Perry, sister of Aerosmith lead
guitarist Joe Perry, at the Draw the Line (Aerosmith tribute band)
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
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
It took time for Jon and Mike to figure things out, as neither had
owned a restaurant before. One priority: definitely changing the
"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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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."
The Tony Soul Project. Photo source: Simple Man Saloon Facebook fan page.
Paige often wears his Skynyrd heart on his sleeve, or, more
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
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...
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. 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. 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 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
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,
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
military, the police, first responders and fire. We are very conscious
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
"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: email@example.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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