If you’re ever at McGinty’s on a Friday night, ask bartender Kim English to do the Kimmy Shimmy. She may give you nothing more than a look, but then again, she might just oblige you.
Whether you’re in Manhattan, New York or Manhattan, Kan., you are likely to be able to pick out the true, neighborhood bar. It’s a loose designation, but that doesn’t change the fact that you know you’re in one the moment you enter.
Part of that is the bartender. At McGinty’s on Old 63 near its intersection with Stadium, that bartender would be Kim English, 45, who has been serving drinks to three generations of customers for over 22 years.
“I started back in 1988 when it was Skip’s Place,” recalls English, dressed in jeans, a colorful plaid shirt and hoop earrings. “Over the years I’ve worked almost every different shift. I only work Fridays now.”
It’s just after 7 p.m. on a Friday, and there’s a lull at the bar between waves of customers. That gives English a few minutes to talk about the history of the place.
Skip Bromstead opened Skip’s Place in 1988 and died in 2002. Since then the bar has had several owners, including English’s parents, Kim and Ron Mattingly, who bought the business to preserve an identity they and the customers had grown to adore.
“My folks went out on a limb,” English says. “The clientele that was here — it was like a second home to them. Mom and dad wanted to preserve that. My mom was a freshly retired executive. I kid her now that she had a mid-life crisis.”
The Mattinglys were fortunate in their timing: They sold the business to Steve McGinty in 2005 when the business climate was still promising. They figured McGinty would carry on the tradition put in place by Bromstead.
English smiles and says: “Back when Skip was here, we had every type of customer you could imagine: bankers, laborers, doctors, bikers.”
She looks around the bar, which hasn’t been remodeled. “It’s pretty much the same, otherwise,” she says. “The only thing that’s changed is the crowd.”
The front door opens and a handful of people roll in on a wave of noisy conversation. It’s the crest of the second Friday night wave of customers. “These are my peeps,” English says. “They’re kinda foul-mouthed but you’ll learn a lot.. like their own life stories, or, like, if you forgot what you did the night before, they’ll fill you in.”
English heads to the other side of the horseshoe shaped bar to say hello and takes a string of drink orders she already knows by heart.
A customer from way back
“Skip,” says a man with a pint of beer in front of him from down the bar. “I heard you talking about Skip.”
He takes a swallow of his beer. “I don’t have a lot of friends, but he was a friend.”
Mike Johnson, 53, is in town visiting his grandkids before heading back to St. Charles. “I stop in whenever I’m in Columbia and have two beers before heading home,” he says without a hint of concern.
Johnson started coming to the bar in 1994 when Skip was still a fixture, still smoking his Winstons and untouched by the throat cancer that would kill him eight years later.
“This was truly a Cheers type-a-place,” Johnson says, alluding to the Boston bar of sitcom fame. He points above the bar: “There were mugs with the regulars’ names on them hanging on those hooks up there. It’s a nostalgia thing for me now. I come back every five or six months.”
A woman who has come from a table outside pokes her head in and hollers to be heard above the bar chatter: “Kim, we can’t hear the jukebox on the patio. Can you turn it up?”
English picks up a remote by the cash register and points it toward the jukebox, just as the Black Crowes get rolling on “She Talks to Angels.”
Another woman, who came in with English’s regulars, picks up the song in a surprisingly good falsetto. With their drinks now in hand, her friends join in.
English shakes her head at them and turns around. “Shake what your mama gave ya,” one of them shouts as she walks away. English looks back at them and laughs.
“You can get a story from anyone in here,” English says. “The younger crowd starts to come in about 10 o’clock or so. Depending on their mood, these guys,” she jerks a thumb back toward her regulars, “could stay right here with them till we close at 1:30.”
English pours a Jameson’s for another customer, sighs and says: “Sometimes I feel fully behind the times. I kinda like think of myself as not being hip anymore. Everyone here thinks of me as a mom.”
Someone shouts: “Give us the Kimmy Shimmy.”
English sets the Jameson down in mid-pour, turns and plants her hands firmly on her hips. “That retired a long time ago,” she says.
When she turns back around with a certain smile on her face, it’s clear that’s just not true at all.