An Interview with Bar Owner Brian Goins, Southern Illinois

An article I wrote for iluvlocalplaces.com

Looking for something different to do on the Southern Illinois Wine Trail? Trails End Lodge Grill and Saloon, located on a scenic overlook in Cobden, offers an amazing 40-50 mile view of the area and the bluffs. Not only is the view spectacular but you almost feel like you are pulling up to someone’s home when you arrive at the secluded log cabin…. and that’s because you are! There is an expansive deck that overlooks the bluffs and is a great place to watch live entertainment in the warm weather. Inside you are surrounded by a stone fireplace, split cypress bars and table tops and of course a few antlers on the walls. Owner Brian Goins built the cabin over 20 years ago as his family home. It has since expanded into a second phase and become a great place to relax with friends over a drink or bite to eat.

When asked how the modest log cabin and family home morphed into a cool local bar Brian half chuckles. He explains that it is a very long story but the short of it is that he “became a business owner to save this place”. For two years after the economy collapsed he was a furloughed pilot searching for work. In addition to his unexpected unemployment he was also going through a divorce. Brian remarks that those were some dark days but he was lucky to find some contract work. During that time he met some guys flying in Afghanistan and helped one of them pass a flight school exam. He thought nothing of it, just helping a fellow human being out. Months later the guy called him back and helped him get a job as a contract pilot for the Air Force.
In the midst of searching for a job Brian was also thinking about how to save his home. He says, “With the help of some good friends we developed a business plan. The first two years were the worst though”, Brian explains. Just as he would think Trails was saved he’d find that it was sinking in a pile of insurmountable debt. With some staff turnover, school of hard knocks education and sheer persistence Trails End Lodge is doing great. He says, “When I opened this place they said I wouldn’t last six months. Then when I made it six months they said it would last a year. When I hit a year they said it wouldn’t last two years, and here I am four years later and still making it.” He relates his story to the End of the Trail artwork that is pictured in his bar. He says, “I felt like that idiot on the horse – I was going through some tough times. Brian laughs, “everyone told me I was crazy”. Everything about Trails End Lodge has memories for Brian and his children and he didn’t want to let it go. He says, “I love flying but I’m totally addicted to this – when I look around and see all these people it’s great. If I would have built it as a bar I would have messed it up. People feel like they are hanging out in my living room”.

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Notables:
There is a loft and a large deck where you can book a wedding or special party
Trails is offering free rides to the surrounding areas and cabins
Live entertainment from up and coming acts and some super cool contests

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