BERWYN – Rob Pierce grew up with music, starting with piano lessons at age 6.
“I hated it,” Pierce said. “But then at 9 I came upon a drum set, and that was it. I was on those drums every day.”
Pierce got into a band in eighth grade, then relearned piano playing Elton John songs in high school. But it was as a business major in a music theory class at Indiana University that, as Pierce put it, “the light bulb went on.” He moved to Los Angeles after graduation and recorded music with the same band he’s been with for 27 years, Yellowhammers.
Pierce eventually moved back to the Midwest and started playing at the Friendly Tap on Roosevelt Road in Berwyn. Then, 10 years ago, he bought it. The 70-year-old institution is the last of a slew of area bars that once supported factory workers in the sixties and seventies.
Pierce brought a fresh vision to the local pub featuring craft beers, eventually expanding into three businesses, including a coffee house and a school of folk music. The business's logo, designed by Pierce’s friend Curtis Stenger, is a guitar pick, the three sides representing the Friendly Music Community – the music school, live music bar and coffee lounge.
“We’re a family-friendly business,” Pierce said. “And we support the community as much as we can. I want this place to be very inviting and welcoming to all people we’re able to serve.”
The tavern is small and intimate, with seating for 45 people.
“There’s a lot of music,” Pierce said. “It’s very much a local neighborhood tavern with a lot of fun-loving people."
The Friendly School of Folk Music came about three years ago.
“It just kind of developed into a musicians' hangout,” Pierce said. “We’d talk music and instruments all day. I know a lot of instruments and music theory, thanks to IU. We’re all about hanging out and jamming, originality and creativity. We have a non-traditional approach to customizing music learning to the individual and making it fun.”
The school offers private, semi-private and group lessons in piano, drums, ukulele, mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar, voice, hammered dulcimer, trumpet, saxophone and keyboard.
“We just started bluegrass ensembles,” Pierce said.
Two years ago, the Friendly Music Community opened its coffee lounge in a room adjoining the tavern.
“People moving into town were looking for a place to hang out and drink coffee,” Pierce said.
The coffee lounge serves coffee from local vendor Bridgeport Coffee. It features special events where local artisans sell their wares, plus weekly story hours for kids.
It’s a bright, comfortable, retro-style coffee house, PIerce said, where people sit around with laptops and headphones, next to a table where a small group enjoys a tea party, next to a table with a couple of people enjoying their coffee and singing while they watch a guy strumming his guitar.
The lounge also serves internationally renowned Todd & Holland teas sold by a local distributor and locally baked muffins and bagels, burritos and fresh fruit smoothies.
“So we’ve got three doors to choose from outside – the left door is the bar, the right door is the coffee house, and upstairs, the music school,” Pierce said. “I don’t care which one you come through, just as long as you come through one of them.”
If you go
What: Friendly Music Community
Where: 6731-6733 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn
Hours: Coffee lounge: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday; bar: until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday; music school: class times vary
Info: 708-484-9794; friendlymusic.community