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Farmington Billiards: He's hoping for good pool weather this summer

Dan Rider says he gets about four hours of sleep each night now that he owns Farmington Billiards. He's been busy making changes to attract new customers.

Now that he owns a billiard hall, Dan Rider finds himself in the unusual position of wishing for miserable weather.

When your business depends on people staying inside in Minnesota, the last thing you want is a sunny summer day.

Rider bought Farmington Billiards in January. For him, it's the ultimate expression of passion for a game he started playing in college. It is also, he hopes, a way to keep busy and earn a little extra income when he eventually retires from his full-time job.

In the meantime, Rider is busy trying to make some changes. He's added coin-operated pool tables to go along with the billiard hall's rent-by-the hour tables. The tables he didn't replace have been refurbished. He brought in a fryer and plans to expand food offerings and he's doing everything he can to bring people through the doors.

On April 24 he will hold the "Rider Cup," a combination golf and pool tournament that will start with nine holes of golf at Fountain Valley Golf Course and wrap up with a two-person Scotch doubles eight ball tournament.

Rider has other plans to bring people in, too. He's got 500 fans on his Farmington Billiards Facebook page and he's encouraging a handful of high school students who come in regularly to spread the word among their friends. He said billiards can be a hard sell these days among the younger crowd, many of whom would rather play games on computers or gaming consoles.

It's a lot to keep track of, and Farmington Billiards only takes up part of Rider's day. The Chaska resident still works a full-time job as product planner for McGarvey Coffee in St. Louis Park. He starts that job at 7 a.m., works until 4:30 and drives straight to Farmington, where he works from 5:30 until closing time at 1 a.m. He spends most nights at his daughter's house in Farmington, sleeps from about 1:15 to 5:15 and starts it all over again. About the only time he gets back to Chaska is when he goes back to help at his church.

"I do have four hours free time on Saturday morning. I go to Sam's Club and buy stuff (for Farmington Billiards)," Rider said.

Rider doesn't seem to mind the long hours, though. He fell in love with the game in college. He likes the geometry involved in figuring the best shots, he said. He played in some regional tournaments when he was a student and he's stayed involved with the game over the years by running tournaments and leagues. About a decade ago he was in charge of keeping statistics for leagues at Farmington Billiards. He's run leagues with 62 teams aroud southern Minnesota.

There are a number of leagues in place at Farmington Billiards but Rider hopes to draw more casual players as well.

Billiard halls don't always have a reputation as a family-friendly destination -- "I think it's the old perspective of The Music Man," Rider said. "P rhymes with T and that's like trouble." But Farmington Billiards isn't the kind of smoky, seedy place you might see in movies about pool hustlers. On this particular day Rider's granddaughters are spending time with him until their mother can pick them up. At one point he has to chase the younger girl to retrieve a pool ball she's nabbed from a table.

"It's very family friendly," Rider said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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