In 2017 Mike and Joe Thomas stumbled into a bar near Atlanta (stumbled because they had been drinking) and unbeknownst to them at the time, the bar was powered by self-service technology. They had such a great time as customers that they decided to bring a similar system back to their hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. Adding their own twists on the pay-by-the-ounce method of serving drinks proved to be an immediate hit. After the first month of being open it was clear that the Whistle & Keg offered superior customer satisfaction and a unique, enjoyable atmosphere (powered by an exquisite choice in music...just ask them, they will tell you) that they only logical thing to do was expand—and that dream came true nearly one year after the Youngstown location first opened when location #2 was approved for downtown Cleveland. Where the future leads no one knows, but one thing is certain—there will be plenty of beer for the trip. Cheers
The sounds were everywhere.
Youngstown, in its industrial might, was alive. Blast furnaces breathed fire into the sky, dominating the landscape for as far as the eye could see. The steady roll of the trains hummed across the valley and on to port after port, carrying the local goods that made this place famous. Steel mills produced products sought the world over, and the cityscape was a cacophonous tribute to the continuous flow of creation and superior craftsmanship that was this city’s pride.
The sounds were everywhere.
And on Brier Hill, workers, like the steel they produced, were forged in fire, sweat, and hard work. Generations of Youngstonians made this their life’s work, and took pride in what they did. For hours they labored, until one sound called out, signifying their shift was at an end.
The steam whistle roared at an extraordinary volume in order to be heard above the constant, organized commotion of the mill. For miles it rang out, reaching the ears of those who were too far to hear the sounds of the working factory. The whistle indicated that the work was ongoing; the factory was alive and well, employing the people and maintaining the heart of the local economy. The sound reverberated throughout the valley, becoming the soundtrack of the city itself.
And the sound was everywhere.
Then, like the ominous aftermath of a hurricane, there was silence. The factory was shut down, its people without work, and a city in turmoil. The whistle sat atop the once great structure, no longer bellowing out its predictable instructions. There were no more shift changes, and no longer a need for the whistle. The city grew silent. The city was thrown into despair.
And that sound was everywhere.
For a long time, the city struggled, unsure of how to rebound and transition to a post-industrial economy. But those outsiders who believed that Youngstown was dead, well, they don’t know the people who make this city their home. These people were forged in fire, after all, and do not easily capitulate, whatever the odds.
And now, Youngstown is making a comeback.
A downtown that was all but abandoned a decade ago is seeing a renaissance built upon diversified small businesses. There’s life in the city again; there’s sound coming from the streets and buildings that draw hundreds of people each day. And now, a sound once thought lost forever has made its return.
At 12:00PM and 4:00PM each day, the original shift change whistle from Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Brier Hill Works can be heard echoing throughout the city from one of these small businesses breathing new life into Youngstown—the Whistle & Keg. The whistle serves as a reminder of where this town has been, of the men and women who labored to make this city a player on the international market, and as an indicator of the rebirth that is happening right before our eyes. This whistle blows to let the world know that Youngstown isn’t only back, but that it never went away in the first place.
The whistle doesn’t blow as loudly as it used to, but still it’s presence is heard amongst the throngs of people throughout downtown. It mixes in with the sounds of a vibrant people busy with their work, their errands, and their leisurely pleasures. That sound is being carried across the valley and back onto the national stage.
The sound is, once again, everywhere.
Can you hear it?