On a Thursday afternoon, Charley's Sports Grill is humming with activity. A number of barstools are occupied, the off-track betting counters are getting a lot of attention, and a few late lunchers pick at the rest of their fries. Sole owner Lynn Clemens sits in the front room of the 125-seat sports bar and restaurant. It’s kind of like a foyer compared to the bar and back betting area. Though there’s a flatscreen teeming with sports news, it’s muted, and there’s a fireplace. It’s also where Clemens can see all incoming patrons — most of whom she greets by their first name.
Charley’s Sports Grill is tucked away in the back of a plaza on the west side of Loop 101 and Union Hills Drive, near Arrowhead Towne Center in the northwest Valley. It serves as a local bar, lunch counter, and, for some, a go-to spot for off-track betting. But it’s a bar that almost wasn’t; a series of events in Clemens’ life led her to open Charley’s not even a year ago.
The Glendale sports pub was established in November 2018, just over a year after Clemens had a stroke. At the time, she was a global director at Avnet Inc. — one of the world’s largest distributors of electronic components and related services. She was in the corporate world for more than 25 years till her stroke in summer 2017 at 58 years old. She took an offer for early retirement, and spent a year in recovery.
But she was far from idle, and used that time to plan her next move — bar and restaurant owner.
“It’s just a little neighborhood pub,” Clemens says. “We have great food, and we have really good customers.” She says she talks a little slower and has issues with memory, but that seemingly hasn’t kept her from reinventing herself now that she's turned 60.
So that’s the trifecta — a good background story, good food, and good customers — of Charley's.
“Back when I was a normal person,” Clemens starts, laughing, “I was going 100 miles per hour. And then I had a stroke, and everything stops. I just had to figure out what else I could do, because I can’t just stop.” And, she adds, “I’m too social to just stay home.”
After hospital and rehab, Clemens says she decided what she really likes is people. “I like talking to them, I like going to happy hour, I like to go to friendly places,” she says. “I had this great idea: I need to be in the hospitality business. So, that’s what I did.”
She, in fact, had no experience in the food and beverage industry. This is her first shot at it, as she puts it.
Clemens says she wanted to open a place near where she lives, a change from her old life of fighting rush hour traffic en route to the east Valley. Now she’s just five minutes away — if she hits all the lights.
As for food, the Charley’s grill turns out pub fare like big pretzels and fried veggies for starters. Then, think multiple flavors of chicken wings and ballpark food and drinks like hot dogs, burgers, and beers. But the menu also lists salads, charcuterie boards, and wine.
The location itself feeds her customer base, as Charley’s neighbors Sun City but also nearby colleges like ASU West, NAU North Valley, and the GCC North Campus. “It’s all age groups, and they all talk, they all intermingle,” Clemens says. “It’s a good feeling.”
And less than a year in, people have come over to Clemens to say they met here, and are now dating. “That’s the kind of thing I want,” she says.
Charley’s customers are usually sports fans, happy hour seekers, but there’s one more demographic Clemens was after, one of the things she really wanted to do when she opened a pub.
Clemens describes herself as an older, single woman who has flown around the world for work. “So when I travel, I usually have to go someplace by myself to get a glass of wine or go to a happy hour,” she says. That’s one of the customers she enjoys seeing the most. “This is a friendly environment where women can feel as comfortable as men do,” she says. “And women are just as passionate about sports, I’m finding out, as men are.”
And who’s Charley?
Charley is Clemens’ ex-husband. In fact, Clemens wanted to name the place Good Time Charley’s, but that was already taken, so she just added “sports grill.”
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Clemens says running Charley’s is a lot more fun, though a lot more difficult, than she anticipated. “It’s a lot of work, especially when you’re by yourself,” she says, which may speak to why she has no plans to expand.
"I just want to stay small; this is more of a fun time,” she says. Because that’s what this chapter is about. Slowing down, having fun. It’s a sentiment she wears well, but there's still a lot of energy in this new business owner.
“There is life after a stroke, there is life after 60,” she says. “Maybe not the life you knew, but there is life.”
Charley's Sports Grill.
8110 West Union Hills Drive, #350, Glendale; 623-233-6853
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday