Laura Dean Bennett
Danny Flores has worn a lot of hats in his life – he’s a baseball player, a baseball trainer, a workout coach, a manager in the hospitality industry and now a small business owner.
Flores may only be 33 years old, but his philosophy is as old as the hills:
“Just listen –you’ll learn a lot.”
“You are who you hang out with.”
“Find yourself, and do the right thing.”
“You’ll never know unless you try.”
The young man is a natural-born motivator, and he’s made a living with that gift.
Now Flores has turned his enthusiasm in a new direction.
He’s opened Marlinton’s newest Main Street business, the Old Mountain Tavern.
Flores came to Pocahontas County after a successful stint as a food and beverage manager at The Greenbrier and as a personal sports coach and a professional baseball trainer in White Sulphur Springs and Beckley.
After he took a job as Food and Beverage Supervisor for The Greenbrier, he quickly assumed more responsibility as general manager of their FanDuel fantasy sports venture in the casino.
Now, in a divergent direction, Flores has jumped, feet first, into owning a tavern in the town of Marlinton.
He hopes that his tavern will be welcomed by the community.
“I don’t want to change Marlinton,” he said. “I love it here. I just want to add to the spirit of the town and to help it thrive.”
The business is starting out as a family affair, with Flores’ mom, Luz Flores, in attendance every day.
Luz never really thought of herself as the tavern type.
“I don’t drink, and I never thought of Danny opening this kind of business,” she said. “I’d gotten used to Danny living up here in West Virginia – first in Beckley and then in White Sulphur Springs. It was far away from the family in Florida, but he was following his dream.
“But when he told me he was opening a tavern in Pocahontas County, I didn’t know what to say. I was a little worried.
“We’re a pretty religious family and religion has always been a big thing in Danny’s life. I thought this might be a mistake.
“So the first thing I said when he told me about wanting to open a bar was, ‘I’m coming up there to see what’s going on,’” Luz said, laughing.
“Mom flew up here and she took a look around at what I was doing and at the community,” Flores explained.
“When she stepped into the bar, she said, ‘How cute!’”
“So I guess I won her over.”
Flores showed his mom around the county and said she was impressed with its scenery and friendly people.
He took her on a drive up to Droop Mountain last Thursday, and that evening, she was still trying to get over it.
“I’m just not used to these windy roads,” she said. “I was holding on for dear life!”
While Flores tends bar, his mom handles the food orders.
Although she’s living here now, Luz has her “real life” waiting for her back in Wellington, Florida.
Her employer was expecting her back in Wellington this past Monday, but her son needs her at the tavern so she asked for a few more months off.
She plans to return to Florida in January, after the tavern is well-established.
But a tavern is not all Flores has in mind for his new home.
“I want to do baseball camps – youth training,” Flores said.
“I’m hoping to work with Lauren Bennett at the Wellness Center to develop something for the kids. I’ve been a sports coach, and I’d like to do something like that here.”
Flores coached college athletes for the West Virginia Miners, a collegiate summer baseball team located in Beckley from 2009 until this past year.
“I’m proud of what I was able to do with the Beckley Miners Prospect League,” Flores said. “I helped twenty-five guys get to the next level – to single or double AA teams.
“It’s rewarding, but there’s not too much money in it. So it was time to get “a real job with some insurance.”
Born in Chicago, Flores grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida.
He was recruited out of high school to play baseball at Garrett College, a community college in McHenry, Maryland.
He spent two years there as a baseball player then did a couple of years at Virginia Tech before graduating from WVU with a degree in Business and Sports Management.
“I really went into the food and beverage business at The Greenbrier to make enough money so I could keep my private sports coaching business going.
Then, an opportunity presented itself, and Flores made a trek to Marlinton.
“I stayed a few days in town and looked around, asked a lot of questions of the people I met, did some research,” he said. “And I figured out that there might actually be a need for a place like this in downtown Marlinton. I sensed that the town could use a neighborhood tavern here on this corner where there used to be a building called “the old bank.”
Flores had an eye out for the interests of sports enthusiasts, as well.
Sports has always been Flores’ passion and he says that for anyone who loves outdoor sports, Pocahontas County has a lot to offer.
“The sky’s the limit here for people who love outdoor sports,” Flores said.
“You can ski, snowboard, hike, fish, hunt, go rock climbing, rafting – it’s a paradise for that.”
Flores’ best friend, Matt Morris, is a health and fitness trainer at The Greenbrier.
Morris decided to build a hunting camp on Rt. 92 just as Flores was considering opening up his business in Marlinton.
“It turned out to be great timing,” Flores said. “He needed help with the cabin just when I needed a hand with things over here.”
But there is more to Flores than sports and a business.
“Religion is at the forefront of my life” he said. “You could say I’m faith driven.”
That is one reason his mother was a little skeptical about her son owning a tavern.
“At first I wasn’t too sure it was the right thing,” Luz said. “But now that I’ve been here and seen what Danny is doing, I feel a lot better about it – and I’ve met so many really nice people here,” she said, smiling.
“Danny is a really friendly person. I think he is going to be good for Marlinton, and Marlinton will be good for him,” she added.
“Some people might ask if there’s not a contradiction in owning a tavern – selling drinks – and being a Christian,” Flores mused. “I don’t see it that way.
“I want to have a good business here, something that I can be proud of and something that the town can be proud of, too.
“The Old Mountain Tavern is a place for friends to get together.
“It’s about adding something to the community – a nice place for people to gather after work or on game day or before a show at the Opera House,” he explained.
“It’s always going to be a nice place where nice people can enjoy socializing.
“Since I started working at The Greenbrier, I’ve learned a lot about hospitality and what it takes to make people want to come back to an establishment again and again.
“That’s what I’m building here – a place where people can relax and disconnect from life for a couple of hours.
“My customers are people who want to watch the West Virginia games, they want to enjoy some great entertainment, some good music, some dancing.
“They want to talk and laugh.
“I don’t see that as incompatible with my faith.
“I think you just always know if you’re doing the right thing,” he added.
His earnestness, friendliness and enthusiasm are contagious – and obviously he has good friends and people who believe in him.
“Even Cristin Walton, my beautiful girlfriend, is helping tend bar for me,” he said. “Cristin works full-time at The Greenbrier. She gets two days a week off and she’s spending them here in Marlinton, helping out at the tavern.
“I’m pretty lucky to have my mom and Cristin helping me out,” he added.
Flores keeps up a steady stream of good natured teasing and friendly banter with his customers and truly seems to enjoy them.
He says one of the most important things is to “listen to what people are saying to you.”
“I was the baby of the family, with two sisters and five half sisters,” Flores said.
“They trained me well – how to be a gentleman and they taught me to be a good listener.
“It was important in coaching and in the hospitality business, and it’s really going to come in handy here.”
Being so steeped in sports culture, as soon as Flores moved to Marlinton, he gravitated to the Wellness Center.
He works out there several days a week.
And he takes his mom along to work out there, too.
Flores’ sports career is reflected in his extensive collection of college and professional sports pennants which line the wall in the Old Mountain Tavern.
There are four flat screen TVs tuned to the game that’s of the most interest to his customers, “Outside TV” or a country music TV channel.
There’s a gas fireplace in a cozy back corner. There are 10 seats at the bar and several small tables line the walls – and they have hooks underneath to hold women’s pocketbooks.
Patrons can order from the Alfredo’s menu and have their food delivered to the tavern.
“If you’re going to serve drinks, it’s important to serve food,” Flores said.
We have our own kitchenette, so we can serve our own food after 10 p.m.
Live music is also on the menu.
This Thursday, the Old Mountain Tavern will welcome former Pocahontas County resident Johnny Compton, who will be playing from 6 to 10 p.m.
Compton plays classic rock, country and some of his own songs from his album, Last Man Standing.
There’ll be a cover charge of $2.
“I hope everyone will come out and enjoy it,” Flores said. “I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and being a good neighbor to everybody.
“I’m a first-time business owner, and I’m giving it my all.
“Like I’ve always told the athletes I was coaching, ‘you’ll never know how far you can go until you give it a try,’” Flores said. “You have to want it badly enough to work really hard, but if you give it your best shot, you can always be proud that you gave it your all.
“That’s what I’m going to do.”