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Meet Amy and Clodagh Lawless of The Dearborn Tavern in Loop

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy andClodagh Lawless.

Amy and Clodagh, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
We grew up in Ireland where our parents owned numerous pubs/restaurants/small hotel over the years. So we were literally brought up in the restaurant/hospitality industry. You could say that it is in our blood and DNA! From an early age, we had always worked for our parents in their restaurants.

Clodagh left Ireland in 1997 to work in America for a year with the intention of returning to Ireland to pursue a career in Sales & Marketing. She graduated Suma Cum Laude with a degree in the above.

Amy received a scholarship to go to Boston University in January of 1998 for rowing. She accepted happily. Now both sisters were living in the USA and unknown to themselves at the time, the roots of their future success were beginning to sprout.

Our parents also had a small desire to move to the United States and set up a business. With the 2 daughters already here, they decided to go for it. They sold their last restaurant and moved to the US in January of 1998. Billy Lawless SNR bought an establishment in Wrigleyville and transformed it into The Irish Oak. With Clodagh’s business degree and her love and knowledge of the restaurant business, it was a natural progression for her to take over running the family business stateside, so that is what she did.

When Amy finished her degree in BU, she moved back to Chicago to assist in the operations of the family business. The Irish Oak proved to be a very successful Irish Pub in the heart of Wrigleyville and just a ½ block south of Wrigley Field. This first business of theirs set their family on the path to many future successful restaurants in Chicago.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Only three years apart in age, Clodagh and Amy forged a close professional bond through a uniquely camaraderous approach. They attribute their strong professional bond to complete honesty and shared the vision.

At the beginning of their business relationship, each addressed respective strengths and weaknesses, sensitivities, and areas where the other excels. They designed a unique approach based on a strong division of responsibilities that matched their personalities and contributions.

Amy remarks that “My sister is my best friend and my business partner. I cannot imagine working with anyone else. As with every good relationship, the secret is trust and balance.”

The Dearborn Tavern – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We’re most proud of our deep-rooted love of genuine Irish hospitality. This extends to every guest that walks into the doors of The Dearborn. Amy remarks, “It is an honor to serve every guest that walks in our front door. I get a thrill whenever I enter our restaurant, see them and feel such an overwhelming sense of appreciation. This is what genuine Irish hospitality means to me.”

Besides serving guests, we place a great amount of value on our staff.

Clodagh remarks, “Every day I am guided by the passion and purpose of the people that work for us. It is inspiring. From chef to GM to bartender to our bussers to all those far more talented than me, it’s humbling,”

Finally, being female business owners requires thoughtfulness and planning. As entrepreneurs, our shared goal is to expand our restaurant portfolio to a few more intimate neighborhood spots, where we can apply everything we learned from Ireland, The Irish Oak, and the popularity of The Dearborn in downtown Chicago.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Our proudest moment has been opening our first restaurant venture together, The Dearborn.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Neil Burger

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