Business With The Bares

Elizabeth Slagel

Retirement typically means slowing down, kicking up your heels and maybe taking up a few hobbies. Retired Ashland police lieutenant of 23-years Billy Bare did none of this. Instead, he and his life partner turned business partner Christy became local entrepreneurs opening seven local businesses in nine years along with five merchandise stores. That’s right. Billy and Christy have averaged a new launch about every year as they get ready to open an eighth business in 2024.

The beauty of it is most of these businesses are local additions to the Ashland landscape, offering more to the entertainment and dining lineup. With three existing businesses on Carter Avenue, the duo is hopping over to Greenup Avenue and putting a business in the C.R. Thomas building that they purchased in 2020. Making no promises of an exact open date, Jerk Rileys will be an Irish pub located in the former eatery space that has been vacant for a decade. The last restaurant there was D-Rays Montana Grill which opened in 2010. “We believe in Ashland,” Billy says. “I believe we are at the tip of the iceberg.”

There’s no doubt Ashland is seeing its fair share of change, and Billy cites the progressive attitude of the city leading the charge. Being a city employee once, he’s feeling the energy and willingness to make Ashland a friendly place to do business, citing how helpful everyone is. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he and Christy call the Ashland area home and know a lot of people here. Christy, who was a long-time nurse at King’s Daughters Medical Center, left to help with
Billy’s business ventures.

The first Bare business was Bare Arms in Ashland, an indoor gun range where you can become a member, learn more about firearms, or get a concealed carry permit. There’s also merchandise. “It was so popular and the only one around that we had people driving from Charleston, West Virginia, to participate.” This gave the couple the idea of a second location in Huntington, but like all good businesses, they considered what else their patrons might want while visiting Bare Arms. “People and companies would come and make a day of shooting, and
they would want a place to dine as well.” It was seriously happenstance that Billy bought a whole group of 1950’s furniture at an auction and a 50’s diner concept evolved. Bombshells and Ales became an overnight success and still has a steady crowd of nostalgic patrons. Christy, of course, puts her touch on the businesses by running with a theme and pulling the look together. “He is the delegator and I’m the one who leaves our staff meetings with a long list that I do all myself,” Christy explains.

Bombshells and Ales at the Huntington Bare Arms was such a success that they brought the concept to Ashland. Any summer night, this restaurant can be hopping with live music, axe throwing, and an extensive beer garden with the option to have your libation from a Viking mug.

“This area is a breeding ground for musical talent. Why shouldn’t we have smaller venues for these artists to get off the ground?” Billy asked. The Paramount Arts Center works well by sharing smaller acts with the Bare businesses such as Sal’s Speakeasy. Bombshells and Ales frequently has live musicians, and the Union on Carter will as well as the Irish Pub. “Big chain restaurants don’t offer this. Our business is come in and stay and be a part of the community.”
When not working at one or more of their local businesses, Billy and Christy spend time boating at Norris Lake or traveling, particularly to other local spots that provide good local music. “We’ve seen other cities and what they’ve done to change their towns. It’s going to take us to change it.”

Jerk Rileys is slated to open early in 2024 with more of a pub-style flair, complete with pool tables and brews with a modest menu of Irish pub fare. But not to worry, the Bares could easily be accused of being serial entrepreneurs and will have another idea incubating before long.