Shannon Williams is living the dream Downtown. After two decades as an executive and no longer happy with her career path, she decided to take a leap and open a bar. Now, a year after opening, Williams’ Hourglass Pub has become another popular Downtown hangout, featuring beer and coffee in addition to a billiards room, arcade, outdoor patio and more. We recently caught up with Williams to hear her story.
How did the idea come about for Hourglass Pub?
The pub idea began as a steampunk burlesque post apocalyptic (think League of Extraordinary Men meets Mad Max) style biker bar in Mayport right outside the base. It was going to be called “Widow’s Walk” (my biker nickname combined with a very Victorian house accessory). In the process of signing contracts and such, it dawned on me that something named Widow’s Walk right outside of the military base gates might be in poor taste. I changed the name to The Hourglass Pub because our sand will run out one day and, when it does, wouldn’t you rather be enjoying yourself with friends and family over a cold pint?
Then, things fell through, so I took a few months to regroup. I had all but given up on my idea when I was driving Downtown one day and saw a “For Rent” sign at 345 E. Bay St. The building was old and funky, and the price was right. I called the landlord, and signed papers the next day!
How would you describe your business and what it offers?
When telling people about the pub, I get asked: “What clientele do you cater to?” I say: “All people.” We are an everybody place. All walks of life come here to enjoy each other and our activities. Someone recently described the pub as the basement of the coolest kid you knew in school. We have a vintage arcade, pool, darts, fooseball, old school TV’s and game systems, board games and hookah. But, most importantly, we specialize in craft beverages of all sorts – sodas, beers and coffees.
What is your favorite thing about your pub?
My favorite thing is how comfortable it is. How for many it’s a home away from home. There is a lot of love and friendship at the Hourglass.
What are some fun facts about you?
I was born in North Carolina just north of Raleigh and lived all over the South as kid. I vacationed here in 2003 and fell in love with the place. I moved here from Virginia 11 years ago. I was a pretty smart kid and played the piano well enough to be awarded a scholarship to Julliard that I turned down to join the Army. After my separation in 2010, I bought a motorcycle and quickly became part of a biker family, they gave me the name Widow because of my love of black widows and spiders and because, while dating, most men didn’t stand a chance.
Why would you recommend someone open a business Downtown?
Downtown is vibrant and alive. There is a pulse here unlike anywhere else I’ve been in Jacksonville. I love the fellowship that I have with other business owners. We are our own little family. It really is awesome.
What do you love about Downtown personally?
Downtown is old and has a lot of history. There is a spirit here – a current of life I haven’t experienced anywhere else.
Do you plan to host any upcoming or reoccurring events at your pub?
Oh, yes – our monthly cosplay events on the second Saturday, our Annual Zombie Prom on the tail end of Zombie Walk in October, parties for every Jags home game, Force Fest in December, Anniversary Masquerade in June and many more to come. We also host an Art Walk After Dark party every month, where we feature all local artists from media to music to local craft beer. Weekly, we have our standard list of events:
- Tuesday: Game Night – free poker, arcade and fooseball with draught beer purchase; board and card games; and open pool table.
- Wednesday: Ladies Night with Hump Day Karaoke and free poker.
- Thursday: Open Mic Night featuring The Exit Unplugged in the alley from 7-9 p.m.; poetry on the main stage 7-9:30 p.m.; Comedy Hourglass from 9:30-11 p.m.; and Music/Spoken Word from 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.
- Friday: Ladies Night and Bay Street Jam Sessions with an open band jam 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.
- Saturday: Live music and special events!
And, of course, we have to ask, do you have a favorite Hourglass Pub drink? How about arcade game?
I don’t like beer, and I’m not really into video games. I do things cause others love them. My favorite drink is our large double Irish cream latte. Our signature drink is a Black Widow – black cherry cider topped with with chocolate stout. It’s our version of a cherry cordial and a local favorite.
Anything else to add?
I couldn’t have done it without my son, Jonathon, and my partner, Matt, who work beside me every day. Thank you for everything.