Memphian to Meet: DJ Naylor

Posted on May 1, 2014

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dj1Article By: Kendra Lyons
Photos Courtesy of DJ Naylor and Celtic Crossing Facebook Page

DJ Naylor, owner of Celtic Crossing in Cooper-Young is the real deal. Originally from Ireland, Naylor graduated from University College Dublin and proceeded to earn a Masters in computer systems fromUniversity of Limerick before moving to America in 1994.
Naylor explains how he ended up in the United States: “I actually came here to visit in 1992 and made the decision that Ireland was too small for me, so in ‘94 they had a Visa allocation from Bruce Morrison, a US Congressman from Connecticut who had a Visa program for Irish citizens, and I was fortunate enough to win the lottery.”

He initially lived in Boston, but after visiting his friend Gareth O’Sullivan, prior soccer coach at Christian Brothers University, Naylor realized he “really enjoyed coming to the south.”

“I enjoyed the hospitality, and coming from Boston that had a pretty significant paradigm shift. Basically, Memphis is more like Ireland than Boston is in the way people treat you. I found the Northeast was more rough and tumble, in your face, take-it-or leave it, sink or swim…I found the south to be much more aligned with Irish values.”

On the origins of Celtic, Naylor says, “Originally it was a collective group that was going to set the world on fire.” After two of the founders relocated and one pursued other opportunities, Naylor inherited Celtic as a sole owner.

Naylor describes Celtic’s neighborhood, Cooper-Young, as “historically hip.”

dj2“We don’t like to feel like we’re in competition with other areas. I love Broadand Overton Square. I like to think that we all help each other. These neighborhoods can actually help balance each other and get ideas from each other. I actually do feel like we’re unique in certain ways that other areas don’t have.”

Naylor is all about creating a genuine Irish experience for his customers. “I really want them to feel like they’re experiencing a piece of Ireland without going there. That was always the goal, and that is still…I get it a lot I mean, I get Irish people walking in here saying, ‘Wow. I feel like I just walked into a place in Lahinch,’ and that was the goal, we’re sticking to it, and I think we’ve been pretty successful in driving that message and theme and I feel like we’ve achieved that and continue to do so. I mean, it’s very authentic. You should feel that there is an Irish owner. You should feel that this place is over and above other Irish bars that don’t have Irish owners. You should feel it from our food, you should feel it from our events. I just want you to feel like instead of getting on a plane, it’s right here.”

I asked Naylor how a savvy customer can identify a genuine Irish pub. Naylor says it comes down to two things, food and whiskey: “I don’t want to in any way be disrespectful to anyone, because there’s nothing stopping anyone…if I want to open an Italian restaurant, I should be able to because…it’s America! But, I feel like when I walk into a place I want to see their menu. I want to see their food. When I look at their food, I’m generally able to decipher the one that’s more genuinely Irish with a strong owner or manager from the one that’s maybe not that Irish, and they’re really in it to make money in liquor and beer. Another one would be Whiskey selection. If there’s a good selection, it’s generally going to be someone from there.”dj3Naylor’s favorite part of his job as Owner is meeting people, from your average Joe to Justin Timberlake. “He came in with his entourage in 2007 and here again in 2009. He just wanted to be left alone. He actually went in that room (points to back), four or five of them, and I was notified Justin Timberlake’s in there and that I should say hello and not make a big deal of him.”

One aspect of the bar scene still gets to Naylor, however: “The one thing we have that’s going against us, is we’re still considered a smoking bar. So that’s..I wish for the day when there is no such thing as a smoking bar so that all bars are non-smoking and Tennessee has caught up with the rest of the country because right now, we’re behind on forty-odd states. It’s something that…I’ve just recently become a dad and my daughter can’t come in here because we’re 21-and-up, and it kind of bothers me.”

Naylor continues to expand and improve Celtic to accommodate its ever-growing customer population. The new outdoor space feels spacious and inviting for summertime gatherings, and is a great spot to check out live music in Midtown. Stay connected and get more information through their Website and Facebook page.

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Posted in: Memphian to Meet