By Dan Werle | CNA Media Team
Mike and Brian McMenamin grew up in neighboring Alameda, attended The Madeleine School in Irvington and Jesuit High School in Beaverton before graduating from Oregon State University with degrees in political science.
Since then, they have helped establish or re-invigorate more than 55 pubs, restaurants, hotels and concert venues throughout Oregon and Washington – including the iconic Kennedy School in Concordia.
During their Alameda days, their mom, Pat, stayed home taking care of them and sisters Maureen and Nancy. Their dad, Robert, was an attorney, and he wrote a column for The Oregonian. As kids, their parents and grandparents exposed them to a variety of music, art and history.
Mike, the elder of the two, won a football scholarship but, in his second year, left the football program and began working at Togo’s sandwich shop. There he enjoyed the work better than football.
In 1974, Mike purchased Produce Row Café on southeast Oak Street and their dad purchased the building. Brian later worked at Produce Row before 1978 when they sold it to the employees. In 1983, The Barley Mill on Southeast Hawthorne Street opened its doors and became the brothers’ first joint venture.
Since then, the business has expanded to include such popular venues as the Crystal Ballroom downtown, Edgefield in Troutdale and, of course, Kennedy School.
Students had begun attending classes there in a one-room building in 1913. Two years later the full school opened and, in 1975, the building was shuttered due to decreasing student enrollment and a crumbling infrastructure.
Thanks to former students, local community members and the Portland Development Commission (now Prosper Portland), the building was spared the wrecking ball.
In 1980 Portland Public Schools abandoned the building, and it remained vacant until 1995 when Mike and Brian proposed renovation. The original bell of the school principal rang Oct. 22, 1997, at 7 a.m. to mark McMenamins Kennedy School’s first day “in session.”
Four of the brothers’ children are involved in McMenamins Inc., and Mike’s 12-year-old granddaughter is already providing advice for potential future pursuits.
Brian admits he and Mike began buying and restoring old taverns because, “They were cheap to start out with.” Both confess a penchant for older, high-quality structures, and they enjoy sharing information with the communities in which their businesses operate.
“We like to leave the property in better shape than we found it,” Mike explained.
Brian agreed, “We like to try to do the right thing and hopefully become a positive force in the community.”
Dan Werle lives in Concordia with his wife, Anna, and their dogs.