Mike Darby’s Story
When I was asked if I would write a Legacy Page for Mike Darby, I was honored. With having been friends with Mike for over 30 years, I thought that it would be easy. He was such a simple, friendly person with a giant smile always on his face. However, when thinking back, I realized that he was much more complex that I had thought. I first meet Mike when he and his business partner Chris Carle quit their management jobs at the Grandfalloon and opened a steakhouse at 103rd & Wornall called the Bum Steer in 1983. At the time, my business was located in the same shopping center just a few doors west. Mike told me that the restaurant just didn’t work but they persevered until June 1984 when Indian Creek flooded the entire shopping center with over 40 inches of water; therefore, putting the Bum Steer out of business. With all of their capital invested in the Bum Steer, Chrissie & Mike painted houses, hung wallpaper, etc. earning money to pay bills while awaiting a response from the government to approve their disaster loan so that they could reopen. The approval took almost a year. Instead of reopening as a steakhouse, they opened as Coach’s, the first sports bar with multiple televisions and satellite channels in Kansas City and the rest is history.
Coach’s was successful for years and Mike took pride in his relationship with his business partner, Chris Carle, and all of his long-term employees. Coach’s had employees with 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, and even 30 years tenure. While Mike gave credit to these employees for being the backbone of their business, he also was a mentor to managers that left to open their own restaurants or to manage other well-known chain restaurants. While hating to see these employees leave Coach’s he maintained relationships with them where he would speak with them almost every week and they all stayed very, very loyal to Mike for his mentorship.
Once, Mike admitted to me he had not been a very good husband; he stated that being a bar owner was not good for that. But, he was a great father, wonderful grandfather, brother, uncle, son, and friend. With family, there were numerous times that Mike would have tickets for a big game for the Chiefs, Royals, or more likely for Mizzou and he would contact a brother, nephew, or childand they would take off for the game creating family memories that are still fresh in everyone’s minds today. Mike wanted to do something different than just a Thanksgiving Dinner every year, so a number of years ago he set up reserved lanes at a bowling alley on Thanksgiving and invited the entire family to have fun bowling that day. It has grown year after year to where they now reserve an entire bowling alley for several hours, have annual “Turkey Bowl” T-shirts, and spend the afternoon having a great family “party.” On another side, once Mike knew that he was becoming a grandfather, he had an outdoor pool installed in his backyard because the grandkids were going to need a place to party, swim, and hang out. Of course, he did, doesn’t every grandfather?
Mike was a very good card player, especially poker. He once won an annual poker league in which he participated, and his prize was to play in the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. While he did not win, he also did not embarrass himself and had a great time. While he really loved competitive poker tournaments; I believe his most fun playing cards was the weekly Tuesday night game with brothers Bob & Bill and other friends. These games have so many variations that they can barely be called poker, but Mike’s fun on Tuesday did not come from him winning or losing, it came from seeing one of his brothers or friends get tricked by one of the other players and losing a hand, or several hands, where there was thought to have been a sure winner. This gave Mike fodder for conversation for weeks to come, all in good fun.
In the early years of Coach’s there was an annual golf tournament fundraiser for one of Mike & Chrissie’s friend’s charities. It was a full day event with golf, drinks, a band and dinner after golf. Except for the actual golf, all events were held at Coach’s and in their parking lot. The other tenants generally had to sacrifice parking space for the day, but the event raised several thousand dollars each year for charity. This was just the beginning of Mike’s philanthropy. He worked every year with several charity foundations with fundraising, either by hosting a Texas hold ‘em tournament, riding a century ride on his bicycle, or working directly with the foundation board. He began long distance bike riding when he started with the Lymphoma Leukemia Society Team in Training event and invited many of his friends to join him. He and his friends have participated in this program for 10 years, with Mike having participated in century rides in many states. He set a goal to ride a century ride in every state and was well on his way. A couple of years ago, Mike and Keith Steiniger, established the Tour de Hope bicycle ride in Kansas City, which offers rides of several distances to encourage anyone to be able to ride. It has become a success in a relatively short time and raises money for several charities in the greater Kansas City area.
Many of the things mentioned in this legacy page were done with friends he met whilea member of Prospector’s Club, the oldest business networking club in Overland Park. I am very proud to have invited Mike to become a member of this club about 15 years ago. It is strange I delayed inviting him for quite some time because I knew that he had a very committed morning routine of getting to Coach’s early and walking his Black Labs. I could not see him giving that up to make a weekly 7:00AM meeting with Prospectors. Finally, one day while eating lunch at Coach’s I asked him he would come as my guest and to see if he might like to join. He thought for a moment and said yes that he should probably do this. This membership fit Mike like a glove. He was the epitome of a networker and used every member’s services whenever he could. If there were planned social events, i.e. T-Bones games, etc. Mike would always volunteer, and many times not even invoice the club to host the tailgating before the game. During his membership in Prospectors, he made many lifelong friendships. He frequently chided me as he loved to do by saying, “so if you had invited me earlier, I could have belonged to the club longer.” That, of course, was Mike’s way of thanking me and I knew that. Mike’s son, Brian, who was at that time part of the Coach’s company, called the club Dad’s Dork Club. Mike told me that and said that Brian was making fun of the club. But over the years Brian saw how many friends and how much fun his dad gained from membership and he thought that he should show the club more respect and not callit the Dork Club. But, of course, Mike would not let Brian do that, it was still Dad’s Dork Club.
Brian, Allison, and Jennifer, I hope that I have not missed anything and hope that I have not embarrassed you. I have tried to give my thoughts about your dad and all of the great times and such that I have spent with him in my 30 plus years of friendship. My personal favorite times spent with your dad were times just one on one when he would brag about his children and grandchildren and he would allow me to do the same about mine. I cherish those personal times and miss your dad every day. Thank you for allowing me to share with legacy page for Mike Darby.