Yes, he has spent three years and untold amounts of cash turning a century-old Detroit Shoreway neighborhood storefront into an Irish bar that he will call Stone Mad. And, yes, he has even installed a sunken bocce court inside it, but hear him out on this one.
“I just liked the location,” he says, leaning against the handcrafted walnut bar that will be ready for patrons in time for St. Patrick’s Day. “I remember playing soccer down here with my friends when I was a kid.”
Stone Mad is housed in an Old World-type storefront with the kind of large glass windows that seem to beckon passersby to stop in for a pint. The building, a bar for more than 100 years, was built as an Italian club (that’s where Leneghan’s bocce court fits in). A second-story bay window looks out over the front sidewalk, and a lot next door has been transformed into a stone patio (hence, the name).
The outdoor furniture is carved out of reclaimed sandstone. In the middle of the patio is a big fireplace surrounded by benches for crisp fall evenings. The wrought-iron fence contains a portrait of a man and a woman sharing a pint. Below it is a traditional Irish greeting that loosely translates as “good luck.”
But Stone Mad is not pure whimsy. Leneghan is a businessman, and he’s betting on an upswing in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Nine new businesses have opened there in the past 12 months, with five more planning to do so. The investment that’s taking place there, particularly at West 65th Street and Detroit Avenue, is being spurred along by the Gordon Square Arts District, a project that is creating a new streetscape and funding the renovation and construction of three theaters — Cleveland Public Theatre, Near West Theatre and the Capitol Theatre, the West Side’s first independent movie house.
The idea is to build a destination similar to the Tremont neighborhood’s Professor Avenue, and Leneghan knows plenty about that. He and his brother, Tom, opened the Tree House in the late ’90s. It has since become a neighborhood landmark. Leneghan’s career has also included stints running a horse-and-carriage business for 18 years in New York City and rehabbing houses, but the pub business is in his blood. His dad owned Pride of Erin in the West Park neighborhood.
Leneghan says the money he is sinking into Stone Mad is his own. Though he declines to disclose exact figures, word in the neighborhood is his investment is in the millions.
And while Stone Mad’s outward appearance is historic, the inside is where you can see Leneghan’s investment. The front room houses a walnut bar that has been rubbed with boiled linseed oil half a dozen times. In the middle of the pub is a comfortable lounge filled with Leneghan’s collection of paintings, including one depicting the history of West 65th Street. The restaurant in the back boasts a hand-painted ceiling in the majolica style, a type of richly decorated, painted earthenware native to Tuscany.
Then there’s the sunken bocce court. Maybe it’s an odd thing for an Irish pub to have. Perhaps it’s further evidence that Leneghan is a bit eccentric. But what better way to celebrate the mix of ethnic groups that call the neighborhood home than sipping Guinness while playing a game of bocce?
“This is my legacy bar,” Leneghan says, while workers scuttle about, putting on the finishing touches. He gestures toward the bar — scheduled to receive a few more coats of linseed oil before the grand opening — “Stop by anytime for a pint.”