When Matt McEntire first immigrated to the United States in 1990, he had $700 to his name.
The Longford, Ireland native had lived in many different countries throughout the world, including France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom, but said America had always intrigued him for two very specific reasons.
“The opportunities you have here are what make this country great,” McEntire said. “They’re just unbelievable. And then the people who have given me support down through the years—you just don’t find that as much in other places.”
A legend among the local pub and tavern patrons along 7th Street and into Downtown Fort Worth for more than three decades, the Irishman is known for his warm personality, friendly demeanor and remarkable work ethic.
McEntire, 71, started a job as a roofer when he first arrived in the United States more than 30 years ago and eventually saved enough to open his first pub, the Shamrock Tavern.
The Shamrock originally operated as a beer joint, with no wine or liquor sales, and McEntire ran it entirely by himself from 10 a.m. until midnight, Monday-Saturday.
But working 14-hour days never bothered him.
“I enjoyed working the long hours, especially meeting and talking to customers,” McEntire said.
Eventually, he was able to open a few more pubs and hire bartenders and servers to staff them.
McEntire shared an amusing anecdote about a customer who claimed to understand why he was so successful with his venture.
“A guy told me that the only reason I have done so well with the bars is because of the all the Irish people here,” McEntire laughed. “I said, ‘There are hardly any Irish people at all.’”
McEntire still owns and rents out Poag Mahones Irish Pub, the Mad Hatter Pub and the Corner Taproom, but is devoting much more of his time to charity work these days, some of which he has been doing since the last century.
The Fort Worth man has delivered for Meals on Wheels for 25 years, volunteers with the Humane Society of Fort Worth and Pet Smart, and drives for Road to Recovery, an organization affiliated with the American Cancer Society that provides rides to medical appointments for cancer patients who have transportation issues.
McEntire said the reason he does these things is quite simple.
“When you come to this country and you’re very successful, I think the most important thing is that you give back,” McEntire said.
Perhaps the only thing more important for McEntire is his faith.
The Longford native attends Mass weekly, gives generously to church-related charities and causes and personifies the Golden Rule of do unto others.
“I think that if you don’t have faith, you’ve got nothing at all,” McEntire said. “That’s what I believe.”
McEntire is now in the real estate business, and has acquired his first rental property.
Unfortunately, his first tenant was a hoarder who left the house so messy it required 65 garbage bags to clean up.
McEntire tried to take the whole episode in stride.
“I just said to myself, ‘What the heck can you do?’” McEntire said. “You just have to move on.”
One place from which McEntire will never move on is his adopted country, as the Irish-American has found his home and has no desire to live anywhere else.
“The way that people treat you is such an important thing,” McEntire said. “Americans provide a great example of how people should treat each other.”