Celebrating a landmark: McCarthy’s Pub in Belchertown turns 40

  • The bar at McCarthy’s Pub in Belchertown with a busy Friday lunch crowd. Carries Racine, who has been coming to the pub for 32 years, said, “Janice does everything for everybody,” referring to longtime owner Janice McCarthy Rogers. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Opened in 1983, McCarthy’s Pub has become a Belchertown landmark located on the north end of the Town Common. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Siobhan Koske, from left, Kim Simons, owner Janice McCarthy Rogers and Catherine West pose for a photo on a recent Friday outside McCarthy’s Pub in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Siobhan Koske, from left, Kim Simons, owner Janice McCarthy Rogers and Catherine West pose for a photo on a recent Friday inside McCarthy’s Pub in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Siobhan Koske, right, serves a beer at the bar for Dave Pare on a recent Friday afternoon at McCarthy’s Pub in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Audrey West serves up a round of entrees for customers on a recent Friday afternoon at McCarthy’s Pub in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Darilynn Gallant waits on customers at McCarthy’s Pub in Belchertown. The Irish-themed restaurant and bar, on the north end of the Town Common, was founded in 1983 by Janice McCarthy Rogers. It turns 40 this month. At top, from left, Siobhan Koske, Kim Simons, owner Janice McCarthy Rogers and Catherine West pose for a photo near the front entrance. STAFF PHOTOS/DAN LITTLE

  • Shaena Gubala serves up a round of entrees for customers at McCarthy’s Pub in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The corned beef rueben sandwich at McCarthy’s Pub in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • McCarthy’s Pub on a Friday afternoon in Belchertown. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

For the Gazette
Published: 8/2/2023 3:04:27 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Janice McCarthy Rogers has never made her way across the pond to behold the beauty of the Emerald Isle.

That, however, hasn’t stopped her from bringing a wee bit of her Irish heritage to western Massachusetts with McCarthy’s Pub every single day since 1983. And this month, she’ll toast to 40 years of serving up beers and embracing the craic.

Over time, the East Walnut Street tavern, located on the north end of the Town Common, has become a landmark in Belchertown, helping to raise money for the Shriners Children’s New England and Big Brothers and Big Sisters as well as hosting a number of events, including the Leprechaun Plunge.

“We’ve had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs over the years,” she said.

‘She saved me’

In the beginning four decades ago, before McCarthy’s took on an Irish theme, the popular eatery and bar was decked out with roses in honor and memory of Andre Richard, McCarthy Rogers’ late fiance.

After dating for three years, McCarthy Rogers and Richard had made plans to get married September 1983, but Richard succumbed to injuries in a car crash that happened the year before.

“He died. On the way to pick me up from work at KB Toys. And I was just not normal (after that),” she said.

At the time, Richard was serving in the U.S. Coast Guard and McCarthy Rogers was working toward her bachelor’s degree at Westfield State College. The painful, life-changing occurrence made her rethink life plans. She had no desire to finish her degree.

“Things kind of fell apart for me. I just didn’t care,” she said. “I hated everything.”

In finding ways to cope with her loss, McCarthy Rogers leaned on Richard’s mother, Patricia Richard, for comfort.

During one of their visits, Richard’s mother posed an idea to go in on a dream that McCarthy Rogers shared with her late fiance: to own a pub. Initially, McCarthy Rogers thought Richard was crazy for even suggesting such a venture, but the more they discussed it, the more McCarthy Rogers was sold on the idea. In carrying on Richard’s legacy, his mother suggested calling the future pub “Andre’s-on-the-Common” and every table will have a rose on it to commemorate all of the roses he sent McCarthy Rogers.

“Suddenly, I felt like I had purpose again,” she said.

With some help from her father, John “Jack” McCarthy, McCarthy Rogers purchased the former Common Pub and transformed the space into Andre’s-on-the-Common.

The business opened with a staff of 10 and decor in Richard’s favorite collars: blue and cranberry.

After one year, McCarthy Rogers says that Patricia Richard let her spread her wings and gave her the chance to move out on her own. At that point, the tavern began doing business as McCarthy’s Pub, but retained its original name of Andre’s-on-the-Common on all the official documentation.

“Pat gave me the chance to be alone and keep his memory going,” McCarthy Rogers said. “Andre will always be in my heart and Pat’s heart. His spirit will always be in this building.”

Lasting legacy

The building where McCarthy’s is located has a rich history, having been built in 1835 as the Belchertown Classical School. It later became home to the Park Lane Inn, extending from where it sits now to where the Belchertown Fire Station is located directly to the north off North Main Street.

According to a short history on the business website, the Park Lane Inn was a welcomed stay for weary travelers making their way to parts past Belchertown. Local lore has it that the building partially burned in a fire in 1928. After the fire, the remaining portions of the inn were assembled to form a smaller building. A stained glass window from the inn was saved and is located on the Main Street side of the Pub.

About four years after the pub opened in 1983, the business underwent some renovations to its floor plan, including moving the bar to the center of the room.

The pub’s current layout was finished about 10 years ago. Along the walls are hand-painted scenes from Ireland, such as Lismore Castle in County Waterford and the Blarney Castle in County Cork. The pub also features a number of Irish proverbs, mile markers to cities like Galway and armor, swords, shields and flags containing the coat of arms for McCarthy and Rogers. Her husband, David Rogers, and her children, Benjamin and Matthew McCullough, and David J., Daniel, and Douglas Rogers, have all helped find baubles and knickknacks to add to the decor over time.

One of the other changes that’s taken place throughout its decades of service include the transition of the venue from feeling like “just a bar” to more of a family restaurant, said Kim Simons, one of McCarthy’s longest tenured employees.

Though people come for some of the pub’s fresh, homemade staples, like corned beef reubens and chicken wings, Simons says they continue to return back time and time again because of McCarthy Rogers and the atmosphere she’s created.

At a time of uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, the pub closed for nearly three months. During that time, Simons says her boss made sure everyone was still getting a paycheck. During the holidays, McCarthy Rogers is generous with gift baskets and treats.

“The day she decides to retire — which is when I will be retiring — there will be some really big shoes to fill. Truly,” said Simons.

McCarthy Rogers shares a similar sentiment of her staff of more than 20. Despite some turbulent times between the pandemic and recessions, much of her staff has remained dedicated and stuck it out throughout her tenure. When she’s not focused on herself, several staff members make a point to remind her when it’s time for her to go to an appointment.

Though there have been some physical changes to the space itself, McCarthy Rogers says the pub’s service and vision remains the same to which she credits to Richard.

“Instead of guests, everyone that walks through the door is family. That’s how it was when we started and how I want it to continue,” she said. “Even if Andre isn’t physically here, I think his spirit has pushed me and kept me going for so long.”

To celebrate the four decades in business, McCarthy’s Pub is hosting an event on Saturday, Aug. 19 that includes bingo and live music by The Willies at 2:30 p.m. The celebration will benefit Shriner’s hospital in Springfield. To reserve a spot, stop into the pub.


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