Duluth bar brings Irish tradition and family memories

By Abigail Schoenecker Eddie Gleeson talks about his cousin Agnes. Listen

Flags hang from the ceiling representing Ireland, Australia, Veterans, and other various and diverse organizations and countries. Irish jigs and ballads are on constant replay in the background. The rest of the space is filled up with lively conversation as Eddie Gleeson sits in his pub next to his son, Michael. Among the many events that occur at Carmody’s Irish Pub, tonight is one full of history. The first night in a series of six called “History in a Pint” is about to start in a few hours and Gleeson, the owner of Carmody’s, is greeting friends that come through the door and making sure everything is set for the evening.

The pub is approaching its sixth anniversary, which will be celebrated April 30 along with the official grand opening of their brewery. Even though the establishment is relatively new, 52-year-old Gleeson has a rich Duluth background. Carmody’s is named after Gleeson’s grandmother and cousin, Margaret and Agnes respectively. Both women lived in Duluth and contributed to the city. Gleeson especially looked up to Agnes who passed away in 1978.

Tonight he reminisces about the woman he admired, “Her soul lives on through the charity of the people who come through the door.”

He continues the spirit of giving back to the community by supporting the GBLT and the theatre community. In fact, it was the theatre that helped Gleeson purchase his pub.

While a traveling salesman, Gleeson wrote a play that would eventually lead him to where he is today. His first play, which has been performed off Broadway, is about his experiences growing up in the West End of Duluth. The second play he wrote is what he took to the bank. It got the money to buy the building for his pub.

At that time, the pub was a fly fishing shop. After the owner realized that he actually had to work and not fish, he was anxious to sell and get back in the water. That’s when Gleeson entered the scene.

Gleeson knew from his experience as a traveling salesman, that he wanted to open a pub “as a meeting house for the odds and ends” he met at the Norshore Theater. He spent almost a year and a half working on the place and acquiring the license. Finally, after a lot of hard work, Carmody’s was ready to be opened.

At first, Gleeson thought that what he was going to open was going to be an Irish Heritage center, but it became a “community center for the dispossessed.” Like many businesses, the first year was tough. Being an ex-cop helped Gleeson as the rougher elements of society started pushing their way in. He pushed back. Because of this, Carmody’s is a safe place with a watchful and warm owner.

Even though Gleeson’s building didn’t end up being an Irish Heritage center it still boasts an Irish feel, including his slight but still recognizable Irish lilt.

“It’s fáilte, “Gleeson says referencing the popular Gaelic word synonymous with well-known Irish hospitality. “It’s welcome.” Along with his wife, Liz, Eddie Gleeson isn’t done doing new things with his pub.

They started brewing their own beer this past November. They have four beers on tap, and he hopes to add a fifth soon. The operation is still a small one being done completely in the basement of the building. Another edition to the local brewery scene is being greeted with cheers.

“It’s almost incestuous,” he says of the relationship with places like Fitger’s Brewhouse and the Thirsty Pagan Brewing Company.

Master Brewer, Dave Hoops, from Fitger’s Brewhouse thinks that it’s great that Carmody’s is starting to brew their own beer.

“The more breweries we have in Duluth churning out beer, the more the community will embrace it,” Hoops said.

Carmody’s, on this Tuesday, is filled to the brim with people drinking that house beer. They have come to hear Joseph Gomer talk about being a Tuskegee Airman in World War II. Gleeson has his hands full directing the people bringing in food for the event, shaking hands with friends old and new, and making sure everything goes smoothly. Irish paraphernalia adorns the walls. Some of the pictures are generic Irish advertisements or maps. Other pictures are personal such as the picture of Agnes that Gleeson himself took when they ventured to the south of France together. Adding to the feel of Irish hospitality is a warm fire by a couch and a large bookshelf that occupy the back area. If you look up, you can see an old Irish tradition that is alive and well. Dollar bills are attached to the ceiling. Each one has a personal message on it. Gleeson doesn’t know how they get up there.

“My bartenders won’t let me know how they do it.”

Gleeson may not know how his bartenders are so tricky but on this cold Duluth night that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Gleeson is at home with so many of his close friends and family at a pub that holds so much history. Many of it his own.

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