I always thought of The Brown Cow as an ice cream parlor, not a concert venue, until I learned that people played the piano there on Tuesday nights.
My manager urged me to take the gig. My music career had been in a tailspin since I split with The Lemurs. A concert would put me back in the limelight. Plus, he wanted 10 percent of my free sundae.
My concert was set for Oct. 12. I was nervous walking up there, still suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome from my piano recital in River Forest. I wondered if I could overcome my stage fright.
Not too worry. The piano faced the wall, so I couldn’t see any concertgoers. I felt as comfortable as I did practicing at home, with one key difference – the piano was in tune. I played an hour of songs, accompanied by Tim on the mixer.
When I finally turned around, I was astonished to see four bucks in my tip trough. I also recalled one person clapping – I think it was Connie. I was floating on air during my walk home.
I also began to see The Brown Cow in a new light. It’s about the only evening alternative to taverns and restaurants in town. That’s why Connie and Matt opened it. They wanted a place where friends and neighbors would run into each other in line, a shop where the whole soccer team could go after the game.
To that end, they not only serve ice cream but Blue Max coffee, the “world’s best” hot chocolate and Todd & Holland tea. Along with lattes steamed with ice cream, the shop offers homemade cakes and pies.
As if the sweets and hot beverages aren’t enough of a drawing card, the shop has wireless Internet. Kids are also target customers, and Brown Cow hosts birthday parties where they can dress up like soda jerks and create their own sundaes.
Like I said, there’s much more to the shop than ice cream. Connie said they cater events from here to Galena and host ice cream socials for such personages as Cardinal Francis George.
The music started in 2005 when they purchased the piano from American Music World. A dust covered construction worker named Dustin was the first to tinkle the ivories. Since then, they’ve had kid’s rock bands, a tap dancer from St. Louis and a harpist from South Bend. Connie said that most of the time the music draws in customers but on rare occasions it deters them.
I hope I wasn’t a deterrent because the louder the level of conversation, the better I sound. I’ve already booked my return engagement for Oct. 26. If I’m detracting from your enjoyment of Forest Park’s family friendly hangout that night, five bucks will be enough to make me stop.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.