Daniel Piacquadio – Harold’s Corral Sports Bar:
First, can you tell readers about how you got involved with Harold’s and when?
I grew up in Pittsburgh and moved here out Arizona in ’87. I graduated from Seton-LaSalle high school.
My dad owned a couple of restaurants (Pasta Too in Bethel Park and Piacquadios in Mt. Lebanon) in Pittsburgh. He started dating a lady that lived in Cave Creek Az. and fell in love with Arizona. He moved out there to the Cave Creek area – at that time, Cave Creek was about a a half-hour to 45 minutes from Phoenix. Later, I went to Arizona State University – I had some friends from Pittsburgh there so it was an easy transition.
My dad bought Harolds in ’87. Before then, my friends and I used to watch Steelers games in the back of bars when I was still in school. After three years of owning the restaurant, we started going and spending time watching the games with my dad at the restaurant. It started off with maybe ten or twelve people. Now, we have over 1,500 in the fan club and over 600-650 people come to see the games, on average.
What makes Harold’s so unique?
There are lots of Steelers sports bars, but this is unique in that a guy from Pittsburgh owns it. I am able to do stuff that maybe other fan clubs can’t. We have the passion for it. We have a 10×11 screen. We know and serve the Pittsburgh food – we put that in there. We give you the full Pittsburgh experience, even though it’s a country western bar with boots hanging from the ceiling.
What are some of the more memorable times/occurrences you’ve had at Harold’s, and what made them so?
We got 3,200 fans for the Seattle Super Bowl, 3,600 for the Arizona Super Bowl and 3,800 for the Green Bay Super Bowl. We’re right next to a Green Bay sports bar and share a parking lot, so during the Green Bay Super Bowl we actually together had over 6,200 fans!
I remember a few years ago I got a phone call from Mel Blount. He was referred to me by the Steelers marketing director Tony Quatrini and Bill Hillgrove. He asked me if I knew who he was and I said of course (laughing). I asked how I could help him, and he said they wanted to come out to Arizona for the Steelers game and expand their fundraising efforts there and wanted our help working with our fan club.
Well, we created events – a golf tournament and fan fest on saturday the day before the game- that brought in over $30,000.
Mel Blount called me again a couple of years later and we threw a huge event and gold tournament. Blount, Mike Wagner, Andy Russell all came and Donnie Iris played. We had over 2,200 people rocking to Donnie Iris. Bill Hillgrove mc’d – it was a great experience.
I actually went to Mel Blount’s boys home ion Washington, PA. I was blown away by his dedication to those boys. He was raised on a farm and now owns acres of land. He has the boys do what he used to do when he was on the farm growing up – taking care of the animals and the farm. He’s an impressive man – he’s still bag and looks like he could still play today!
From caged lions and tigers to frequent visits by celebrities, Harold’s has a rich history. How did that history come about – what made Harold’s such a unique place from it’s beginning?
The Corral started in 1935 – it was started by a guy named Johnny Walker. And that time it was a liquor stand really – that’s all they did. Two dams were being built in the area and the construction workers would come there and buy beer – it was really their one social engagement they had.
Harold bought it in 1955 and did some crazy stuff to bring people to Cave Creek from Phoenix. Live tigers and lions, gunfights….stuff like that.
No live animals today?
(laughing) We inquired with the zoo to see if we could bring in a live tiger to celebrate the anniversary of Harolds, but that didn’t go over. We do live gunfights still – we just use blanks!
We’ve added to it since. One of Harold’s grandsons has become a big Steelers fan. He’s happy to see what we’ve done with it now. It’s now the biggest Steelers bar in the country, I assume. It’s bizarre but a really cool thing.
What’s the most difficult aspect of running a place like Harold’s, and why?
I was flipping pizzas since i was twelve. The restaurant business is in our blood – my grandfather and father both owned restaurants.
It’s rewarding meeting people. We sell season passes for tables, just like they do in the stadium for seats. There are some people who have sat at the same table for fifteen to twenty years. We’ve gone to weddings and made lots of friendships with those people.
The challenges are really just of the every day business. It’s not the easiest business to be in.
What’s next/new for Harold’s in 2012-2013?
We’ll bring in a recently retired Steelers player this year – I can’t say who it is yet. We’re not playing the Cardinals this year in Arizona, so the fan club will do a road trip – probably to Pittsburgh.
As a Steelers fan, what are you looking forward to most from the team this season and why?
I love this year’s team. Cincinnati with their young players will be tough. Baltimore’s always tough. Playing them twice in three weeks – I just hope we survive and don’t have any injuries.
I think Haley will inspire Ben – he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the league today. I think he needed that push Haley will give him. The concern is that we lost veterans like Hoke, Farrior and Hines, but the bond in the locker room overcomes that.
I’m excited. I’m optimistic at this time every year, but I think this is the year. I think this team is better than last year’s.