Business

No luck needed: Snoqualmie's Finaghty's Irish Pub owners rely on plan, market awareness for success

Finaghty’s co-owners Lisa McCord and Phil Stafford relax at the bar before the lunch crowd arrives. The husband and wife team did their homework before opening the pub, to find out what Snoqualmie residents really wanted in a restaurant. The answer was the family-friendly place  that they have created.  - Carol Ladwig / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Finaghty’s co-owners Lisa McCord and Phil Stafford relax at the bar before the lunch crowd arrives. The husband and wife team did their homework before opening the pub, to find out what Snoqualmie residents really wanted in a restaurant. The answer was the family-friendly place that they have created.
— image credit: Carol Ladwig / Snoqualmie Valley Record

In the already tough restaurant industry, in a multi-year recession, Finaghty’s Irish Pub shines as an example of success.

The Snoqualmie Ridge bar and restaurant opened in February, 2008, expanded nine months later, and has enjoyed steady business growth every year, including a 10 percent jump in 2010.

By day, it’ a family-friendly restaurant with TVs in the booths for kids to watch cartoons on, and after 9 p.m., it transitions to an Irish pub/sports bar hybrid. That ensures the place’s popularity beyond its annual anniversary party, a three-day music festival, and the always filled-to-capacity St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

All of this, according to Finaghty’s co-owner Phil Stafford, is according to the plan.

“We haven’t strayed at all from our original business plan, which was to provide a place for families... a community gathering spot,” he explained from a booth, equipped with its own television.

Everything about Finaghty’s was planned and documented well before Stafford and his wife Lisa McCord opened the doors, including how the doors should look.

“We actually have a brand look-and-feel guideline that we follow,” Stafford said.

That specifies things like the distressed wood floors, the steel-tip-dart boards, and the stained-glass booth accents. Those he had made by an artist he met years ago in Dublin, and he says “They’re the only really Irish thing in here!”

Stafford, who’s half-Irish and named the pub for his mother’s Irish side of the family, acknowledges that the business may not fit some people’s conception of a “real” Irish pub.

He responds that “It’s really Irish-inspired.”

Although the look may not be entirely authentic, the feel genuinely is.

“If you look at a traditional Irish pub over in Ireland, at its core, that’s a community gathering spot where everybody can come,” Stafford said. “Everybody, all ages and demographics, feels comfortable coming in here.”

Stafford and McCord have lived in the Snoqualmie Valley for more than eight years, so they feel that they had a pretty good idea of what the community wanted and needed by the time they opened Finaghty’s. That’s reflected in the community events they sponsor these days, like the St. Patty’s Day 5K.

They also cultivated a relationship with the city of Snoqualmie, something Stafford sees as essential for any new venture.

Since opening, the couple has also built relationships with the surrounding businesses, and Stafford offers free consultations in marketing and branding, his “day job” to the neighboring business.

Marketing and branding, he says, are “a big part of any business, and often overlooked.”

Along with a great staff and manager Brian Meek, the couple says marketing and branding have been the key to their success.

“It starts with the brand, the look and feel in here, what we wanted to accomplish in here,” Stafford said.

“It’s really just staying true to that vision ... I don’t really worry about competition or other businesses, I’m focused on my own business.”

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