By Shane O’Donnell
When Gerry Timlin partnered with Ed Egan in October 2004 to open The Shanachie in Ambler, it was the culmination of years of dreaming. “I was the manager of Brittingham’s for 10 or 12 years, and I’d worked in bars and restaurants all my life,” says Timlin, “I always wanted my own pub.”
Working in the restaurant business wasn’t the only experience Gerry brought to the partnership. Having played in hundreds of establishments for over 30 years with musical partner Tom Kane also helped. “The stage is a wonderful vantage point in a pub,” explains Gerry, “you get to see the flow of the space, how the employees move and interact with the customers. You hope you can take from the best and avoid the mistakes you’ve seen.”
Over the past six years, The Shanachie has become one of the best, routinely winning reader’s and viewer’s choice awards from the local media. Timlin thinks there’s more to that than just terrific food and drink. “We have no specific clientele, and maybe that’s a mistake, but we’re open to all ages, families, all kinds of people. We’re inclusive rather than exclusive.”
And it doesn’t hurt that Gerry, a musician himself, is committed to bringing quality musical acts to The Shanachie. Mick Moloney, Finbar Furey, Athena Tergis, John Doyle, Tommy Sweeney, Jim Malcolm (of The Old Blind Dogs) have all played at The Shanachie to enthusiastic audiences.
Starting on the Tuesday after Labor Day, The Shanachie’s traditional Irish music session, monthy during the summer, will return to being a weekly session. “We’re always going to have a stage for musicians,” says Gerry, “and I believe in my heart of hearts that we have one of the best traditional sessions in the area — we routinely have 20 or more musicians sitting in.”
Music has always been important to The Shanachie (which means “storyteller”), and was the reason for its name. Gerry explains: “I’m a songwriter, a storyteller, and it was just that easy. Although we’ve had all sorts of pronunciations over the years, so I suppose it’s not that easy to say.” The staff currently wear shirts that say, “The Shanachie — No One Can Pronounce It, But Everyone Loves It.”
In September the entertainment will include Boxty, The McKendy Brothers, Craig Bickhardt, a “Half Way to St. Patrick’s Day Party featuring Doc Freeman and Timlin & Kane, and more.
On the first weekend of October The Shanachie will offer beer tastings as part of Ambler’s Oktoberfest Celebration, which includes three performing areas. The tradition of great music at The Shanachie continues, but there are changes for the Fall, and some of those changes are being driven by the economy.
“Everyone is being affected by the economy,” notes Gerry, “Everyone is suffering. But we view this time as an incredible learning opportunity. How do we lower costs without affecting quality? How do we lower overhead? What can we do for our customers? We’re learning how to do what we do better.” As part of that, The Shanachie will have a new menu starting in September. “We’re keeping some traditional favorites, with some nice new additions, and we’re cutting back on pricing,” says Timlin. Some new beers will also be coming in, both in bottles and on tap.
But the essentials won’t change. It will always be “very like an Irish pub. I want The Shanachie to be a success for everyone — myself, the staff, and the customers,” says Timlin, “and the one thing I’ve always felt very strongly about is customer service. And the clientele have been wonderful, very loyal.” Even if they can’t pronounce “Shanachie.”
For more information on coming events and the new menu, visit shanachiepub.com