Let’s all hoist a pint to Matt McSweeny, one of the truly good guys.
After 19 years running Arcadia’s most welcoming restaurant and Cheers-like watering hole where everyone knows your name, Matt has sold Matt Denny’s Ale House Restaurant to a man he knows will keep it going strong. New owner John Nguyen from Los Angeles, who has 10 years of restaurant management experience, promises to keep the eatery’s popular appeal with Matt’s part-time help during the transition. So, while introducing yourself to John Nguyen, combine your next dinner with a celebration and salute to Matt and the legacy he’s left.
Beyond his business skills, Matt is a generous giver and supporter. He lives in the heart of Arcadia where he cares for his mother while his son Jake is away at college where his daughter Shannon is heading soon. He was honored by the Arcadia Chapter of the American Red Cross as a hometown hero in 2009 for his support of many local organizations and his multiple selfless contributions to the community. He hosted a Gala Dinner in 2015 for dozens of Special Olympics World Games athletes and coaches from other countries as part of the Host Town Arcadia community support of the Games. One of my last official acts before leaving the Chamber of Commerce in 2016 was leading the Chamber’s designation of Matt Denny as the Corporate Community Contributor of the year.
Matt was one of the first people I interviewed on video for my community news service Arcadia’s Best in June 2007 – I didn’t even know him then, I just knew he was the local owner of a really good restaurant in town I had only recently discovered at that time, so I walked in unannounced one afternoon and asked to speak to the owner. He came right out with his head shaved from another of his recent annual St. Baldrick’s Day charity fundraisers, and even though he had no clue who I was, and had not heard of Arcadia’s Best, he happily agreed to do the video interview, which included a pop quiz on camera about Arcadia. Shortly thereafter Matt became one of the early advertisers on the site and e-newsletter even though I couldn’t provide data that it was being read by more than a few hundred people at that point. Over the years I produced many more videos showcasing Matt Denny’s many events for St. Baldrick’s, St. Patrick’s Day, weekly live music, and even an instructional video of him creating the perfect pour for “the perfect pint” of Guinness beer. (Highlights in video above.) During the subsequent decade, Matt supported everything I did in town, not because it helped him much, but just because he’s that kind of guy – from hosting a breakfast for Tournament of Roses Parade Princesses from Arcadia for our first Arcadia’s Best Patriotic Festival in 2011 to calling his wife Pam and son Jack into duty to staff a booth at our first couple of Arcadia’s Best Christmas Markets on First Avenue in 2013 and 2014. We served together on the Chamber board of directors and he supported me as I became CEO there and faithfully showed up at the Chamber’s labor-intensive Taste of Arcadia every year, even being a guinea pig anchor for new untested areas of the sprawling annual outdoor eating event. He also showed up pre-dawn for a live TV promotion in the dark where he wound up doing a foot shuffle of towels across a portable dance floor that got inadvertently soaked by a water sprinkler. Matt and I were also founding members of the Downtown Arcadia Improvement Association, for which he was the first President.
Matt and his friend, Dennis Hartman, opened the restaurant called by their first names, Matt Denny’s Ale House Restaurant, in 1999. Matt soon took over sole management.
For the past 17 years, Matt and partner Del Sol salon’s annual St. Baldrick’s Day event raised well more than half a million dollars for children’s cancer research with the support of Arcadia Police and Fire Departments, Monrovia Police and Fire Department, kids groups, corporate leaders and city officials. His annual “Bob Mac Classic” Golf Tournament raised tens of thousands of dollars over more than a decade to help support the American Red Cross Arcadia Chapter, Foothill Unity Center, Special Olympics, St. Baldrick’s Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project. Matt has also continually supported groups such as the Arcadia Seniors, Arcadia Republicans, Arcadia Chinese Association, Arcadia Police and Fire Department, Arcadia Performing Arts Foundation and donated gift certificates to many charities around the San Gabriel Valley. He even supplied Arcadia High School sports uniforms and a new scoreboard for the baseball field, and sponsored the Santa Anita Little League, Arcadia American Little League, Arcadia National Little League, and AYSO Region 2.
It wasn’t just work-related things that Matt supported – he headed up his Holy Angels church’s annual fiesta fundraiser for many years, volunteering countless hours year-round to plan and manage the event, and donated food from his restaurant. He also coached football and basketball at Holy Angels.
Matt is now embarking on a new wholesale venture in Southern California for which he has already set up a corporation with a 26 year-old partner who has been one of his best employees at Matt Denny’s. Matt should have no trouble making new friends and customers – it’s what he’s done so well for nearly two decades. “Meeting so many great people over the years has been one of the best parts of my job,” McSweeny said not long ago.
And meeting Matt has been one of the best parts of our lives as well.
– by Scott Hettrick