My copy of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “gin mill” as a slang term for a bar or saloon. Any visitor or resident of Ellicottville will say that “their” Gin Mill is a lot more than that. Like an old, broken-in pair of jeans, it is comfortable and familiar and it’s a great place to eat, drink, listen to live music, meet old and/or new friends, or all of the above.
Ellicottville’s Gin Mill has had many other guises and owners since the building was constructed (of brick and mortar) in 1890 to replace the volatile wooden structures that burned down on most of the block the year before. At first it was a grocery and dry goods store, but after Prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933, there has continually been a liquor license on the premises.
The Gin Mill of today was originated and named by Jim and Janet Tekavec in 1976, who, along with brother-in-law Tom Zerbian, ran it until it was sold to Ed and Jeanne Clarmo in 1995, who in turn sold it to present owners Ed and Maribeth Rick in 2007.
Every owner leaves their mark on a business, large or small, and Ed and Maribeth are no exception. When I use the singular of the word “owner,” I really mean “owners” plural: two people acting as a singular unit; a team, if you will. The Gin Mill has spawned three husband/wife owner/teams since its inception.
Ed and Maribeth were both born and raised in Tonawanda where they married in 1979 and raised two sons, Eddie and Brian. Ed worked for the town of Tonawanda, while Maribeth was a corporate travel manager. They both fell in love with Ellicottville after many day trips and ski trips, and decided to buy property near the village to eventually build a family getaway. Over the years, they came to love going to the Gin Mill, where they befriended then-owners Ed and Jeanne Clarmo. The Clarmos had the foresight to suggest that the Ricks think about buying the business. After a couple of years in the making, that dream came true in August of 2007.
As self-described “low-key” people who lead a somewhat” boring” lifestyle (although they are now first-time grandparents), the Ricks subscribe to the old truism, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and have not let their owner-egos get in the way of keeping intact what works with this EVL mainstay. They prefer behind-the-scenes, subtle tweeks that enhance what is already a great customer experience. This also applies to their love of live music and musicians, exploiting as much local, home-grown talent as possible that fits into their image of consistency, continuity, value and fun.
The Ricks are very family oriented, and that attitude is applied to customers and staff, as well. Their son Eddie’s wife, Jessica, helps out with bookkeeping, often handing new son Gavin over to his proud grandparents, making the Gin Mill a real family affair. They feel so lucky to be a part of such a great town like Ellicottville, and feel very comfortable here. They get involved as often as possible with community projects, and are always there to lend a helping hand for the betterment of this gem known as Ellicottville. With folks like the Ricks here, this town can’t lose!