If you happen to find yourself in and around Washington, DC, you’re likely to come across a person or two from the western New York area. In fact, there is a healthy population of Buffalo “transplants” that now call Washington DC/northern Virginia their home.
Among those who have moved on from the Queen City is Jimmy Cirrito, the proprietor of Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern in Herndon, Virginia. Oddly enough, I learned about Jimmy’s from the gentleman who installed my cable when I moved down here last year. He noticed the Bills and Sabres jerseys on my wall and recommended that I check out a bar in Herndon that shows all the Buffalo games on TV.
I scoped it out one night and quickly found a 2nd home here in northern Virginia. Now, after frequenting Jimmy’s on a weekly basis, it’s not hard to understand why he is a legend in the community. His outgoing personality, charitable nature and love of all things Buffalo make him a household name in and around Herndon.
Jimmy was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about his life, his bar, and why he feels it is so important to support the Buffalo Sabres from wherever you are in the world:
Question: How long did you live in the Buffalo area for and when did you make your way down to Washington, DC/northern Virginia?
Jimmy: I was born at Springville Hospital by Dr. McMahon who brought a million people into the world. I lived in Arcade, Delevan and Machias until I was 18-years old. When I graduated from Pioneer, I actually moved out to Los Angeles, California where I have a lot of family. Now, my father lived in Buffalo during the Sabres season; worked for the team during the regular season and playoffs (when applicable) for 16 years, and when the season would come to a close, he would drive back out to north Hollywood to live with his parents. So, I ended up spending 4 years in Los Angeles and then moved back to the east coast to northern Virginia where my mother lived and have lived here ever since.
Question: What was your motivation to open a restaurant in northern Virginia that has such a strong connection to the Buffalo area?
Jimmy: Since I was a boy, I have always been a DJ, or bartender, or restaurant manager, and when I came to northern Virginia, I found myself doing all those different jobs in different bars and restaurants. So wherever I worked, I always promoted the Bills and Sabres. The problem was that the bars that I worked at weren’t always super friendly with that idea since were in ‘Skins and Caps country ya know? So I decided that I need to open my own place and make it a Buffalo bar.
Question: How did people down here take to the whole idea of a bar completely dedicated to a blue collar city in western New York?
Jimmy: It spread like wild fire! We showed our first Buffalo Bills game in 1997, about a year after we opened, and at first business was a little slow, but by the end of the season, word had gotten out and we were supporting the Bills and Sabres and our popularity skyrocketed.
Question: What have you been able to accomplish with the bar with respect to guest appearances, outings, charitable events?
Jimmy: How much time do you have? As far as the outings go, it started out with a small group of us going to see the Sabres play the Capitals at the arena in Washington. As the popularity of the event grew, we had to switch to a full on bus to get all the people from Herndon to Washington safely. I claim that I have season tickets to the Sabres at the Capitals; 2 games per year. We sit in the same seats in the same section; 114 in the lower corner of the Verizon Center.
As far as fundraisers go, during the lockout, we were hungry for hockey, and I sponsor local hockey teams that play in Ashburn and Reston. The captain of the team in Reston is John Pursinger who owns American Lumber Hockey Equipment, and he is from Angola, New York. Now, he was able to hook me up with Fred Stanfield, Larry Playfair and Steve Carlson from Slapshot, and we decided to have a game where they all came here and play at Ashburn Ice House for charity. We ended up having 12 players in all; 11 players plus Steve Carlson. We had Rick Martin, Larry Playfair, Fred Stanfield, Ric Seiling, Grant Ledyard, Mike Boland, Morris Titanic, Richie Dunn; the list goes on. We flew them all down, got sponsors to help cover the cost of everything. It was great. I actually got to play as well. I got the unofficial star of the game for scoring the winning goal. It may have been kicked in; I really can’t discuss such a controversial topic. The money that we raised went to the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Scholarship Foundation. Also, last year, we had Rob Ray here to do a book signing; that was a charity event too. The Hanson Brothers have come in to raise money for charity as well!
Question: What do you miss most about Buffalo?
Jimmy: I loved playing street hockey. All my friends who are still back in Buffalo all belong to these competitive street hockey leagues for adults. We have our own rink in Arcade Park, so that’s pretty cool. I miss family. I miss the Aud. I miss turning on the television and finding out what’s going on with the Sabres and the Bills.
Question: What is your most memorable hockey moment?
Jimmy: I think the most memorable hockey moment in my life was when we did the Nickel City Sunday event. That’s when all the Sabres came down to play and I absolutely star struck being able to meet all the people I grew up watching. So we were at the Icehouse that night and I was not planning on playing in the game and one of the local guys playing in the game asked “aren’t you playing?” And I told him that there was no way I could keep up with everyone, and that I’d rather just hang out, have fun and goof around. So he says to me “Jimmy, how many times are you going to be able to play ice hockey with Rob Ray, Rick Martin and Larry Playfair? Look around this room. This could be your only chance.” So next thing I know, I’m tying up my laces; Ric Seiling gave me some pointers and the next thing I knew, I was playing hockey with the Buffalo Sabres, baby!
Question: It’s a tough question but it needs to be asked. Who is your favorite Sabre of all-time? How about the past 20 years?
Jimmy: I gotta pick one? C’mon man! You can’t do that to me! I would have to say, when we’re talking all-time Sabres, my favorite would have to be Gilbert Perreault. Since 1990? I have to admit that I’m a huge Max fan. I love that guy! I’m also a huge Goose fan too. I love the way Gaustad plays the game and he’s a really nice guy on top of that.
Question: The last question I have involves a friend of yours. Can you tell me what the deal is the goose?
Jimmy: So there was this nice lady that I know from Dayton, Ohio who loves Jimmy’s and doesn’t get to come here very often, and she thought the goose would be a nice gift for the bar. So she UPS’d us this big plastic goose with different outfits for it to wear. We thought it was kind of silly in the beginning but my mother, when she worked here, made it her goal to keep that goose dressed and in uniform for all of our promotions. We carry that tradition on to this day. Then Paul Gaustad shows up on the team; “the Goose.” It all seemed to work itself out. So we started taking the goose with us to charity events, Jimmy Buffet concerts and so on, so it’s became a sort of symbol for the bar. It’s funny, as you can see, the goose is now chained to the cabinet over there because people have tried to steal him. So now if you want the goose, you have to take the whole cabinet with you. The best thing about the goose, though, is when we started taking the goose to the Sabres games, it because a big hit with just about everyone; fans, VS, CSN and even Gaustad himself. It’s been a lot of fun!
So if you’re a Buffalonian living elsewhere in the country, there’s a good chance that there’s someone in your hometown sharing your passion for Buffalo sports, Buffalo food and an overall simplistic way of life. There’s bound to be a “Jimmy’s” in your neighborhood that will hopefully provide you with the same hospitality and authenticity that Jimmy’s in Herndon does.
If you’re not sure if your town or city has a Buffalo hang out, check out this map of Buffalo Backer Bars in the United States and around the world. Get out, meet people and enjoy the sport of hockey with new friends this fall.