Jared O’Dell stands in front of Donzo’s Bar & Grill. O’Dell reopened the establishment two weeks ago in a step toward Wood River’s downtown revitalization.
WOOD RIVER — Don’t get the wrong impression about Jared O’Dell.
He might call himself “just a local boy” without a college degree, but O’Dell believes core principles for his business venture will make him successful.
Start small and grow. Serve simple, quality food. Treat your employees right and they’ll do right by you.
Two weeks ago, O’Dell, 23, reopened Donzo’s Bar & Grill, a familiar local establishment. He hasn’t promoted its opening but word has spread and business has been steady. He plans a grand opening some time in the summer.
“Wood River people are really loyal; they take care of their own,” he said. “I’m a local boy and people like it when a local boy does well.”
You could call Donzo’s a sports bar — it has seven screens — but to O’Dell, it’s really a “good old neighborhood bar.” A big one, with more than 5,000 square feet of space to house the bar and adjoining restaurant at 8 E. Ferguson Ave.
“It’s something Wood River hasn’t had in a while,” he said. “The only change will be to bring it back to what Donnie used to have, well-established and respected.”
The bar was first owned and operated by O’Dell’s second cousin, Donnie “Donzo” Donohoo, and his wife, Lynda. The couple owned Donzo’s Lounge for 26 years. After Donohoo died of pancreatic cancer in 2008, the bar passed through several owners, then sat vacant for about a year before O’Dell bought it.
O’Dell grew up helping his dad, Donnie O’Dell, run King Louie’s Drive-In and observed his work ethic, attention to detail and how he treated his employees.
Although he knew the ins and outs of working at a restaurant, there was still a lot to learn about running a business, especially a bar. O’Dell spent six months training under his dad.
“I knew I would go into the business,” O’Dell said. “I just didn’t know it would be this soon. But I thought ‘if I’m going to go for it, I might as well go for it now.’ So when an opportunity presented itself, I jumped on it.”
Plans include bringing in bands a couple times a month and expanding his restaurant offerings.
“We’re going to go with simple bar food to start,” O’Dell said. “I know how frantic it can get in the kitchen when you’re busy so I want to make sure it’s quality food — simple, but quality.”
He eventually hopes to add a chicken Caesar salad and rib-eye sandwich to the menu and offer specials such as tacos for Cinco de Mayo.
Wood River is undergoing revitalization of its downtown and Donzo’s reopening is seen as a positive step in that direction.
“I’m a firm believer a bar is an important part of a community. This is where a lot of people gather. It keeps people in a tight-knit group,” O’Dell said. “The city wanted to see this bar come back and they were happy that I invested in it. I’m trying to make downtown better.”
Donzo’s Bar & Grill
8 E. Ferguson, Wood River
11a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday to Thursday
Noon to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Noon to 1 a.m. Sunday
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday
Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday